Differences between JDK, JRE and JVM

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Differences between JDK, JRE and JVM
Differences between JDK, JRE and JVM

In the realm of Java development, three acronyms frequently surface: JDK, JRE, and JVM. While they might initially appear synonymous, each plays a unique role within the Java ecosystem. To grasp how Java applications are developed and executed, it’s vital to comprehend the distinctions between these three components.

JDK – Java Development Kit

The JDK, or Java Development Kit, serves as the cornerstone of Java development. It encompasses an extensive software package that equips developers with the essential tools for crafting, compiling, and running Java applications. Let’s delve into its key constituents:

1. Compiler (javac)

The JDK incorporates the Java Compiler, commonly referred to as “javac.” This tool assumes the responsibility of translating human-readable Java source code into bytecode—a platform-agnostic binary format that can execute on any system housing a compatible JVM.

// Example: HelloWorld.java

public class HelloWorld {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        System.out.println("Hello, World!");

To compile a program using javac, one would execute the following command:

javac HelloWorld.java

2. Java API (Application Programming Interface)

The Java API constitutes an extensive library replete with pre-built classes and methods at a developer’s disposal. These classes encompass a broad spectrum of functionalities, from rudimentary data structures to intricate utilities. The JDK bundles this API to expedite the Java program development process.

import java.util.ArrayList;

public class ArrayListExample {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        ArrayList<String> list = new ArrayList<>();

3. Development Tools

The JDK features a suite of development tools encompassing debuggers, profilers, and documentation generators (e.g., javadoc). These tools prove invaluable for debugging, optimizing, and documenting Java applications.

4. JRE (Java Runtime Environment)

The JDK includes a copy of the JRE, affording developers the capability to run and test Java applications on their local machines during development. This practice ensures that the code behaves as anticipated within a Java runtime environment.

5. Source Code (src.zip)

The JDK further supplies the source code of Java libraries. This provision allows developers to reference the source code for comprehension of how Java classes are constructed or for troubleshooting purposes.

In summation, the JDK constitutes an all-inclusive package for Java development, encompassing a compiler, an extensive library of classes, development tools, and a runtime environment for testing.

JRE – Java Runtime Environment

The JRE, or Java Runtime Environment, empowers end-users to execute Java applications on their respective systems. It incorporates the essential components for bytecode execution but omits the development tools found within the JDK. Below, we explore the components integral to the JRE:

1. JVM (Java Virtual Machine)

At the heart of the JRE resides the JVM, responsible for the interpretation and execution of Java bytecode. It secures platform independence by furnishing an environment in which Java applications can run uniformly on systems equipped with a compatible JVM.

2. Java Standard Library

The JRE encompasses a subset of the Java Standard Library, housing fundamental classes necessary for Java application execution. Unlike the JDK, it does not comprise development tools or the complete Java API.

3. Runtime Dependencies

Additionally, the JRE comprises runtime dependencies, such as dynamic link libraries (DLLs) or shared objects (SOs). These dependencies facilitate the interaction between Java applications and the underlying operating system.

In essence, the JRE equips systems with the requisite components to execute Java applications. It does not provide the tools requisite for code creation or compilation but supplies the runtime environment for executing Java applications.

JVM – Java Virtual Machine

The JVM, or Java Virtual Machine, functions as the runtime engine entrusted with the execution of Java bytecode. It serves as the intermediary between compiled Java code (bytecode) and the underlying hardware and operating system. The following elucidates the core functions of the JVM:

1. Class Loader

The JVM’s class loader assumes the responsibility of loading Java classes as the need arises during runtime. It identifies and loads class files, resolves dependencies, and ensures the correct sequence of class loading.

2. Bytecode Verifier

Before bytecode execution commences, the JVM’s bytecode verifier diligently scrutinizes the code for potential security vulnerabilities or violations of Java language specifications. This vetting process bolsters the integrity and security of the runtime environment.

3. Just-In-Time (JIT) Compiler

The JVM boasts a JIT compiler that dynamically translates bytecode into native machine code during runtime. This compilation step augments execution speed compared to direct bytecode interpretation.

4. Execution Engine

The JVM’s execution engine undertakes the execution of native machine code generated by the JIT compiler. It governs memory management, threading, and other runtime elements vital to the operation of Java applications.

5. Garbage Collector

Given that Java applications generate objects dynamically, the JVM features an automatic garbage collector. This component reclaims memory occupied by objects that are no longer in use, simplifying memory management for developers.

In summary, the JVM stands at the core of Java’s “Write Once, Run Anywhere” ethos. It assures that Java applications can operate seamlessly on diverse hardware and operating systems by either interpreting or compiling bytecode and overseeing the runtime environment.

Recapitulation of Distinctions

In summary, here’s a succinct juxtaposition of JDK, JRE, and JVM:

JDK (Java Development Kit)

  • Encompasses the Java Compiler (javac) for code compilation.
  • Bundles the Java API and development tools.
  • Incorporates a copy of the JRE for developmental testing.
  • Provides access to the source code for Java libraries.
  • JRE (Java Runtime Environment):
  • Houses the JVM for Java bytecode execution.
  • Contains a subset of the Java Standard Library for runtime operation.
  • Omits development tools and source code.
  • JVM (Java Virtual Machine):
  • Executes Java bytecode.
  • Manages memory, threading, and runtime components.
  • Includes a JIT compiler for bytecode optimization.
  • In essence, the JDK serves Java development needs, the JRE enables Java application execution, and the JVM functions as the runtime engine facilitating it all.


Acquiring an understanding of the nuances separating the JDK, JRE, and JVM proves indispensable for both Java developers and end-users. Developers rely on the JDK for crafting Java applications, while end-users necessitate the JRE for their execution. At the heart of the JRE, the JVM ensures that Java’s promise of platform independence remains a reality. Armed with this knowledge, one can navigate the Java ecosystem adeptly, making informed decisions when it comes to developing or running Java applications.

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