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C and C++


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Difference Between C and C++

Posted in C, C++
Difference Between C and C++

C and C++ (also known as C plus plus or Cpp) are two of the oldest surviving programming languages. C++ is directly derived from C, but flaunts more efficiency and productivity. Of course, both programming languages have advantages and drawbacks.

To provide you with an overview of C vs C++, C++ is an enhanced version of the C programming language with the additional feature of being object-oriented. C has been the motivation behind the birth of not only C++ but a multitude of presently popular high-level programming languages, the likes of Java, PHP, and Python.

Now: Should you learn C or C++? Let’s dive into the main difference between C and Cpp.

What is the Difference between C and C++?

Before going in-depth into the difference between C and C plus plus, let’s first briefly look at both languages. The main difference between C and C++ is that C++ is a younger, more abstract language.

  • C and C++ are both general-purpose languages with a solid community.
  • C is a lightweight procedural language without a lot of abstraction.
  • C++ is an object-oriented language that provides more abstraction and higher-level features.
  • You can use both languages for just about anything — but C++ is generally considered more modernized.

What is C?

Popularly known as the Father of Modern Programming, C made its first appearance in 1972. It was developed by Dennis Ritchie while working at Bells Labs. Though originally created for making utilities capable of running on the Unix platform, it is now one of the world’s most widely used programming languages.

C is a procedural programming language that works on the lowest level of abstraction, making it a systems programming language. It is compiled, lightweight, and offers manual memory management.

The strength of the C programming language lies in performance. Programmers and developers can use C to code on various platforms. Bottom line? You can use C to code almost anything.

These days, we have more specialized and varied programming languages to pick from; however, C’s level of versatility was unmatchable during its younger years.

Pros of C

  • An extremely lightweight language
  • Support for both low-level and high-level programming
  • Procedural and system-level programming structure

Cons of C

  • Not object-oriented
  • Lacking in many quality-of-life features, such as exception handling
  • A low level of abstraction, making it harder to read and program

What is C++?

Designed by Bjarne Stroustrup, C++ first appeared in 1985 and was considered the best prodigy of C. Bjarne started working on the programming language at Bell Labs in 1979. He wanted to develop a more efficient and flexible extension to the C programming language.

C++ provides support for object-oriented programming. It offers a low level of abstraction and requires manual memory management. C++ is comparable to C; lightweight and compiled. You can also use C++ to develop apps for a diverse range of platforms.

The C++ programming language offers almost everything that C has but better. Like its original inspiration, the C programming language, C++ continues to influence high-level programming languages like C# and Java.

Pros of C++

  • An extremely portable and versatile language
  • Quality-of-life features such as memory management
  • Community support
  • Compatibility with C

Cons of C++

  • Pointers can make code difficult to write and read
  • Some security issues
  • Lacking some modern features like garbage collection

Comparison Between C++ vs C

Now, let’s get into our comparison. Keep in mind: To make the most of our C versus C++ assessment, you should have at least an intermediate skill level in C and C++. If not, consider reading our list of the best C and C++ books to build your knowledge.

Application Development Area

C is a good option for embedded devices and system-level code. In contrast, C++ is a top choice for developing gaming, networking, and server-side applications. It is also a great option to develop device drivers.

Another C and CPP difference lies in performance and speed. Though C also offers both these qualities, C++ takes it a step further.

Learn more about applications, features, and uses of C++.

Approach

Being a procedure-oriented (structure-oriented) programming language, C follows a top-down approach. It begins with a high-level design and ends with a low-level design.

In the top-down approach, the main() function is written at first and all sub-functions are called from the main() function. Thereafter, sub-functions are written as per the requirements.

C++ is opposite to C in this aspect as, like all object-oriented programming languages, it follows a bottom-up approach.

The bottom-up approach starts with the low-level design and finishes with the high-level design. The code is developed for modules, later integrated with the main() function.

Both approaches are involved in software development and not in program execution. Currently, software design includes the combination of both approaches to get the best of both worlds.

Compatibility With Each Other

C is a subset of C++. Hence, C++ is a superset of C. While C++ can run most C code, the C compiler isn’t able to execute the C++ code.

Compatibility With Other Programming Languages

The C++ programming language provides compatibility with other generic programming languages. However, no such feature is offered by the C programming language.

Data Security, Encapsulation, and Information Hiding

Data and functions are treated as distinct entities in the C programming language, so there is no encapsulation support. The C++ code binds data and functions together in an object and, hence, supports encapsulation, which, in turn, offers information hiding.

Another major distinction between C and C++ programming languages is the basis of data security. Data is not as secure in C.

Variables

By being an object-oriented programming language, C++ can hide variables in a class while offering only a function interface. You can use modifiers for class members to make the data inaccessible to external users.

No such concept exists in the C programming language. Consequently, all variables are open and vulnerable to access by malicious code.

Enumerations

It’s possible to declare enumerations in C. However, the declared enumeration constants are of the integer type. In that sense, an enumeration declaration is similar to declaring a number of integer constants. Plus, there is no additional type of safety.

In the C++ programming language, an enumeration is a distinct type. This means that it’s impossible to assign a value of integer type to a variable of an enumeration type unless an explicit conversion is used.

Nonetheless, it is possible to assign a value of an enumeration type to some variable of the integer type. This is because enumeration types allow implicit conversion through integral promotion. A static checker can easily detect this implicit conversion and provide a warning if needed.

Use of Strings

Another important distinction between the security measures offered by C and C++ lies in the use of strings.

The char represents string literals in C. When passed to some external function, the function may likely modify the original string. To make things worse, there is no way to prevent this modification.

On the contrary, C++ has an immutable variable type called string. It can’t be changed at the original location.

Data Types

C supports inbuilt and primitive data types. On the contrary, C++ provides support for user-defined data types in addition to primitive and built-in data types. Moreover, C++ has Boolean and String as built-in data types. No such inbuilt data types exist in the C programming language.

Default Header File

C uses stdio.h as the default header file, while C++ uses the iostream.h as the default header file.

Ease of Coding

C is described as a hands-on programming language. Hence, it is essential to tell the program everything that needs to be done. As an extension of C, C++ allows for highly controlled object-oriented code. Simply, if C is easy, then C++ is easier.

Exception Handling a.k.a. Error Handling

C++ offers an easy way of exception handling through Try and Catch blocks. Exceptions are meant to spot “hard” errors, which can result in incorrect code.

Unlike C++, C doesn’t provide support for exception handling. So, exception handling in C needs to be managed by using other functions.

Conventionally, a programmer coding in C must prevent errors from occurring beforehand. They must test return values from functions. In the worst case, where the error is inevitable, the programmer must log the error and terminate the program gracefully.

File Extension

Any C program is saved with a .c extension, while a typical C++ program is saved with a .cpp extension.

Function Overloading

One of the powerful features brought to the table by C++ is function overloading, a form of polymorphism. It enables a function with the same name to be defined for varying purposes. Overloaded functions have the same name, albeit with different parameters.

For instance, the function add() can be defined in two ways. While one can calculate the sum of integer values, the other version can concatenate two (or more) strings. Unlike C++, the C programming language doesn’t provide support for function overloading.

Functions with Default Arguments

C++ allows using a function with default arguments – C does not. If such a function is called by passing argument(s), then the function uses those argument(s).

GUI Programming

For enabling GUI (Graphical User Interface) programming, C has the GTK tool. C++ supports Qt tools for achieving the same.

Inheritance

Inheritance is the ability of a class to derive properties and characteristics from some other class. As it is one of the important properties of OOPS, no such feature is available in the C programming language.

The class that inherits properties from another class is called the child class. It might also be known as derived or subclass. The class whose properties are inherited by the subclass is known as the base class. It is also referred to as the parent or superclass.

Inline Functions

C uses the Macro function as an optimization technique, especially for reducing overall execution time. C++ uses inline functions instead to optimize written code.

Functions instructed as inline functions to the compiler allow it to replace their function definition wherever they are being called. The C++ compiler replaces the definition of the inline functions at compile time instead of referring to their function definition at runtime.

One important thing to note about inlining in C++ is that it is a kind of suggestion made to the compiler. If the function is too big, the compiler can ignore the inline request and execute them as normal functions.

Input and Output Operations

The C programming language uses scanf() and printf() for input and output, in the respective order, operations. In contrast, C++ has cin for performing input operations and cout for performing output-related operations.

Keyword Count

C++ has 52 reserved keywords; C has only 32.

Mapping

The C programming language has a complicated mapping between data and function. In C++, the mapping between data and function can be easily established with classes and objects.

Memory Management

C and C++ require manual memory management, albeit in different ways. C offers calloc() and malloc() functions for dynamic memory allocation and the free() function for memory deallocation.

In C++, the new operator is used for dynamic memory allocation while the delete operator accomplishes memory deallocation.

Namespace

Namespaces grant the ability to group named entities into a narrower scope, called the namespace scope. Without namespaces, these named entities would have a global scope. In other words, a namespace is a declarative region providing scope to the identifiers inside it.

The simple reason for using namespaces is to organize the elements of the program into distinct logical scopes referred to by names. While C++ supports the feature, the feature is unavailable from the C programming language.

C++ allows several namespace blocks to share the same name. All declarations made within such blocks are declared in the named scope. Any namespace definition starts with the namespace keyword followed by the namespace’s name. The general syntax is:

namespace some_name




{

 // code goes here

}

 

Some important points to remember about using namespaces in C++ are:

  • A namespace declaration can’t have access specifiers.
  • It is possible to nest namespace declarations within another namespace declaration.
  • Namespace declarations can be made only at the global scope.
  • The definition of a namespace can be fragmented into several units.
  • There is no need to add a semicolon (;) after the closing brace of the definition of the namespace.

Operator Overloading

While operator overloading isn’t possible in the C programming language, C++ supports the notion. Operator overloading is a feature that allows changing the way an operator works for user-defined types.

For the basic types i.e., int, double, float, the meaning of an operator always stays the same. However, it is possible to redefine the way an operator will work for user-defined types.

A special operator function must be defined inside a class for overloading an operator. Programmers widely use operator overloading to make the program more intuitive.

Polymorphism

One of the essential features of object-oriented programming is polymorphism. Hence, C++ supports it. Polymorphism in C++ simply means that a call to a member function will execute a distinct function based on the type of object that invokes the function.

In C++, polymorphism typically occurs when there is a hierarchy of classes and the same are related through inheritance.

There is no built-in support for polymorphism in C like C++. However, some design patterns, such as function pointers, can offer a logical equivalent of dynamic dispatch.

Program Subdivision

Any C++ program can be divided into classes and objects. On the other hand, a C program is divisible into modules and procedures.

Programming Style

The C programming language follows a procedural style of programming, which simply means it doesn’t support the concept of classes and objects. C++, on the other hand, is a programming language that supports the notion of multi-paradigm.

C++ can provide support for both procedural and object-oriented programming styles as a multi-paradigm programming language. Despite being truly object-oriented, supporting procedural programming makes C++ much like a hybrid programming language.

Being object-oriented means that C++ enhances productivity and code organization. Both qualities are essential when developing complex applications. The object-oriented nature of C++ makes it a top choice for developing server-side software and fast applications.

C emphasizes the steps or procedures followed for solving a particular problem. On the other hand, C++ primarily stresses objects. The object focus is because C++ has a higher level of abstraction than the C programming language.

Reference Variables

While C++ provides support for reference variables, C doesn’t. A reference variable is another name for an existing variable. After a variable reference is initialized, both the variable name and variable reference can be used to refer to the variable.

PS: Both programming languages provide support for pointers.

Scope

A general-purpose programming language, C emphasizes system programming, making it excellent for embedded systems. On the other hand, C++ is a pure general-purpose programming language, making it a top choice for various walks of application development.

The main() Function

C allows calling the main() function through other functions used in the code. In C++, it is not possible to call the main() function through other functions.

Use of Functions Inside Structures

C++ supports using functions in structures. A structure is much similar to a class in several aspects. However, the main distinction lies between the two regarding the default access level.

Every functionality supported by a class is also supported by a structure. Methods are used in the same way for a structure as they are used for a class. However, you cannot define a function within a structure in the C programming language.

Check out differences between structures and union in C.

Variables

It is mandatory to declare variables at the beginning of the function in a C program. However, variables can be declared anywhere in the function in the C++ programming language.

C allows multiple declarations for global variables, but C++ does not.

Virtual and Friend Functions

Any function that is a member function and declared within a base class is overridden by a derived class is called a virtual function. The main purpose of virtual functions is to achieve runtime polymorphism. A virtual keyword is used to make any function virtual.

A friend function belonging to a class is defined outside its scope but has the privilege to access all private and protected members of the class. Though prototypes of friend functions appear in the class definition, they are not member functions.

In addition to a function, a friend function can be a function template, member function, class, or class template. To make a function a friend function, the function prototype in the class definition is preceded with the keyword friend.

C doesn’t have friend or virtual functions, while C++ has both.

C vs C++: Head To Head Comparison

Parameters

C

C++

Developed By

Dennis Ritchie between 1969 and 1973 

Bjarne Stroustrup in 1979

Application Development Area

System-level code and embedded devices

Gaming, networking, and server-side applications

Programming Approach 

Procedural

Object-oriented

Compatibility with Each Other

Superset of C++

Subset of C

Compatibility with other Languages

No

Yes

Encapsulation

No

Yes

Data Security

No 

Yes

Polymorphism 

No

Yes

Keywords

32

52

Support for Data Types

Built-in 

Built-in and user-defined

Function and Operator Overloading

No

Yes

Header File

studio.h

iostream.h

Reference Variables

No 

Yes

Friend and Virtual Functions

No

Yes

File Extension

.c

.cpp

Primary Focus

Procedure

Data

Memory Allocation and Deallocation

malloc(), calloc(), and free()

new and delete

Exception Handling

No

Yes

GUI Programming

GTK tool

Qt tools

Optimization Technique

Macro functions

Inline functions

I/O Operations

scanf() and printf()

cin and cout

Namespace

No

Yes

Approach

Top-down

Bottom-up

Strict Type Checking

No

Yes

Program Subdivision

Modules and procedures

Classes and objects

Functions Inside Structures

No

Yes

Variable Declaration 

At the beginning

Anywhere

C vs C++: Which to Pick?

Pick C over C++ when:

  • Coding truly tiny systems (results in a little less overhead as compared to using C++).
  • The application needs to be incredibly stable (Impermeable code and control results by removing the abstractions of C++).
  • You don’t have a C++ compiler on the platform of choice for application development.

Choose C++ over C when:

  • Developing an application that works directly with the computer hardware.
  • Developing an application that deals with application development.
  • The project aims for extremely low-level processing.

Summary

That wraps up our article about the difference between C and C++ programming languages. They are among the leading options to make a great living from programming. There isn’t a better time than now to brush up on your C and C++ skills or start developing them if you haven’t already.

Are there any differences between C and C++ that we missed? Or is there something factually incorrect in the article? Share your views via the dedicated comment window below.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is C++ Better than C?

It would be wrong to say that C++ is better than C. C++ is a newer language superior for most modern applications. However, C is still a lightweight, portable language excellent for low-level programming and IoT devices.

2. Should I Learn C Before C++?

Although C++ is backward-compatible with C, there’s no need to learn C before C++. It’s better to learn C++ first if that is your ultimate goal.

3. Is C Used in Robotics?

C and Java are both frequently used in robotics. C provides granular access to low-level functionality — and limited abstraction — making it particularly attractive for robotics applications.

4. Is C the Fastest Language?

The fastest programming languages include C, Fortran, and Assembly. C will be faster than C++, with all other things equal.

5. How are C and C++ Different?

There are a lot of differences between C and C++, as they were released over a decade apart. C is a lightweight procedural language that supports low-level and high-level programming. C++ is an object-oriented language with more layers of abstraction.

6. What Can C++ Do that C Cannot?

C++ is backward-compatible with C and adds object-oriented functionality. Object-oriented code is easier to develop, scale, and maintain.

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye has been a full stack developer for two decades, specializing in web application design and development. For the last eight years, she has worked as a news and feature writer focusing on technology and finance, with bylines in Udemy, SVG, and The Gamer. View all posts by the Author

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Marc
Marc

I'm not sure about C++ side but some things about C are just nonsense e.g.

"C supports inbuilt and primitive data types. On the contrary, C++ provides support for user-defined data types in addition to primitive and built-in data types"

Just to point it clearly, C has "struct" which in the essence is the user-defined data type.

Twain.Ingemar
Twain.Ingemar

In order not to leave regrets and regrets in life, we should try our best to seize all opportunities to change our lives

Naju
Naju

Unbelievable. There's so many mistakes in this article it's not even worth enumerating. Check the other comments for _some_ of them. Take this down at once before a beginner reads it.

RJD
RJD

Bad Article, a lot of typos, very misleading phrases, wrong Information provided to us by a customer service agent. Article should be flagged as personal opinion and not as an actual fact related article. This is something that belongs on a private Blog. And even then... how can this still be on here?

Wilfrantz Dede
Wilfrantz Dede 10 Points

Great article!

matt
matt

WTF

Hardy
Hardy

Great article. Too bad its more opinion than fact.

The article states that
1. C++ strings are immutable. I don't think so. (Java strings are immutable.)
2. C++ strings are builtin types. I don't think so.
3. C++ and object oriented are bottom up. I don't think so. For example, one might define a type and then if and when the need arises, define sub-types. C++ can be used in whatever way one wishes.
4. C is top down. I don't think its either top down or bottom up. It can be used in whatever way one wishes.

Dan O'Hara
Dan O'Hara

You mention:
>> While C++ is able to run most C code, the C compiler isn’t able to execute the C++ code.

I found this a little awkward. C++ doesn't run code, it compiles source text to an intermediate file which usually has to be linked to become executable. What you likely intended to say is that the C compiler can't compile C++ source text, but the C++ compiler can compile C source text.

Wilfrantz Dede
Wilfrantz Dede 10 Points

I agree.

example
example

Use "new" as a function name in C, or any other C++ reserved words that are not part of C. This tells you that C++ is not a superset of C. It never was and never will be so.

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