What is the Difference Between Machine Code and Assembly Language? with Proper Definition and Brief Explanation

The main difference between machine code and assembly language is that the machine code is a language that consists of binaries that can be executed directly by a computer whereas an assembly language is a low-level programming language that requires software called assembler to convert it into machine code.

Programmers write computer programs using programming languages. A program is a set of instructions to perform a specific task. Mainly, there are three categories of programming languages ​​like high-level programming languages, assembly language, and machine code. Here, humans can easily understand high-level languages ​​while computers can easily understand machine code. On the other hand, assembly language is a language between them.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is machine code?
      – Definition, Functionality
2. What is assembly language?
     – Definition, Functionality
3. What is the difference between machine code and assembly language?
     – Comparison of key differences

Key terms

Assembler, assembly language, machine code, programming languages

What is machine code?

A programmer writes computer programs using high-level programming languages. These languages ​​have a simple and easily understandable syntax, similar to the English language. C, C++, Python, Java are some examples of high level programming languages. However, the CPU does not understand these programs or the source codes. Therefore, it is necessary to convert these high-level programs into machine-understandable machine code. The compiler or an interpreter performs this conversion.

                                                             Figure 1: Machine code

We also call machine code as Machine Language . It is made up of binary digits, which are zeros and ones. The “one” indicates the true state while the “zero” indicates the false state.

What is assembly language?

Assembly language is an intermediate language between them. It is one level above machine code and one level below high-level languages. Also, it has a syntax similar to English, but it is more difficult than high-level programming languages.

                                                     Figure 2: Assembly Language

Assembly language is closer to the hardware level. Therefore, it is considered a low-level language. In this, the programmer must have a good understanding of computer architecture and register structure to write assembly programs. An assembler then converts the assembly language program into machine code. Therefore, this language is more useful for building real-time embedded systems.

Key Differences


Machine code is a computer program written in machine language instructions that can be executed directly by the central processing unit (CPU) of a computer. In contrast, assembly language is a low-level programming language in which there is a strong correspondence between the declarations of the program and the machine code instructions of the architecture. Thus, this is the fundamental difference between them.


Machine code consists of binaries, which are zeros and ones. Assembly language, on the other hand, follows a syntax similar to that of the English language. Therefore, this is an important difference between them.


Only the CPU understands the machine code; However, the programmer understands assembly language.


Another difference between them is that machine code is platform or operating system dependent. But, assembly language consists of a set of standard instructions.


Considering the usage, the CPU can directly execute the machine code to perform the tasks defined in the computer program. On the other hand, real-time systems and microcontroller-based embedded systems are some examples of applications that use assembly language.


In short, assembly language is one level ahead of machine code. The main difference between them is that machine code is a language that consists of binaries that can be directly executed by a computer, while an assembly language is a low-level programming language that requires a computer. software called assembler to convert it to machine code.


1. “Machine code.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, September 24, 2018, Available here.
2. “Assembly language.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, October 4, 2018, Available here.

Courtesy image:

1. “2372130” (CC0) via Pixabay
2. “Motorola 6800 Assembly Language” By Swtpc6800 at: User:Swtpc6800 Michael Holley – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

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