C++ vs. C# – The Key Differences Explained

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In a world where over 700 programming languages exist, figuring out which to focus your efforts on can feel overwhelming.

Of course, many of these languages serve specific niches, allowing you to whittle the list down to the most common. During this process of deciding what to learn, you may find yourself considering both C++ and C#. If that’s the case, you need to look into C++ vs. C# in terms of the key differences between these languages and how they’re used.

That’s where this article comes in.

Let’s examine what separates these two programming languages so you can determine which is best for you to learn.

What Is C++?

Created in 1983, C++ is a cross-platform language created by Bjarne Stroustrup. It was originally designed as an extension of the C language, with the intention being to create a more manageable language for use in coding high-end applications.

C++ offers developers significant control over a system’s resources and memory, allowing them to create operating systems, graphical interfaces, and embedded real-time systems. Though it’s an object-oriented language, C++ is versatile enough to enable several programming methods. It’s also portable, making it ideal for developing applications across multiple systems.

What Is C#?

Developed to work in tandem with the .NET framework, C# was first released as part of Microsoft Visual Studio 2002. Since then, the language has gone through multiple iterations, the most recent being C# 10.0.

The language is authorized by both the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the European Computer Manufacturers Association (EMCA). Like C++, C# is an object-oriented language.

C++ vs. C# – The Main Differences

Though they’re both object-oriented languages, C++ and C# have several key differences you need to understand before choosing which one to learn. These differences affect several aspects of your usage, including what you can do with the language and the platforms you will use.

Platform Dependency

As C# was developed as part of Microsoft’s .NET framework, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the language is Windows-specific. You’ll typically work with it when using Microsoft Visual Studio. Though a version of Visual Studio exists for Mac users, it doesn’t offer the same degree of functionality as Microsoft’s offering. That said, Microsoft has stated its intention to make C# a more global language, meaning cross-platform use may become more viable in the future.

C++ is a true cross-platform language that can be used on practically any platform. This lack of platform dependency means C++ is often used to create applications that need to communicate with system hardware directly. For example, many operating systems are made using C++ due to that cross-platform nature.

Language Level

C++ is a lower-level language that is more hardware-oriented. The programs created in C++ frequently use operations that utilize the hardware-set instructions fully. Though this means that coding in C++ is more difficult than in other languages, it also provides the coder with more control.

Programmers can use C++ to gain direct access to a machine’s resources, allowing for the creation of incredibly complex applications. Again, operating systems serve as a good example. But this ability to use system hardware more effectively also makes C++ popular in video game development.

As a higher-level programming language, C# is similar to Java and Python. It’s a user-oriented language designed to make it easier for programmers to turn complex algorithms into code. This simplicity comes at the cost of restrictions in core functionality. Often, you might need to turn to C++ coding for niche tasks.

Memory Management

A programmer using C++ is responsible for managing memory within their code. If a programmer creates an object that requires explicitly allocating memory, they must also create functions to destroy that object when it has completed its task. Failure to do so leads to inefficient code that could affect a system and the application’s operation.

Thanks to its garbage collector (GC) function, C#’s memory management is automated. Once a C# object completes its task, the GC automatically deletes the objects, so it doesn’t eat up vital resources and minimize leaks.

C++ vs. C#


Both C# and C++ use compiling techniques to turn your code into binary files that a system can understand. However, there’s a big difference in the size of these binary files.

Compiling in C# is a longwinded experience due to the number of libraries the program must include before compiling. This creates overhead that leads to larger files and longer compiling times. C# has to be converted into an intermediary code before it can be turned into the binary files a machine requires.

By contrast, C++ is much more efficient because it compiles more seamlessly into assembly code. Its binary files are smaller, which usually translates into more efficient programs and shorter development cycles.

More specifically, C++ usually compiles directly to machine code, which are the binary files a system requires to understand what a program wants it to do.

C# compiles to Common Language Runtime (CLR), which doesn’t communicate directly with the machine. This CLR code is then interpreted into machine code by Just In Time (JIT), which is a feature of the .NET framework. Thus, compiling in C# requires extra steps compared to compiling in C++.


As you may surmise from the differences in language level, C++ is a much more difficult language to code in than C#. That’s due to C++ including many complex features that require in-depth knowledge of programming fundamentals to understand. In C#, hierarchical coding is made much easy, allowing novices to learn how to write code quickly.

These differences in difficulty offer pros and cons for both languages.

It’s easier to learn how to code in C#, which allows programmers to start developing software quickly. But even though learning C++ requires a larger time investment, it also allows you to learn the fundamentals underpinning all programming languages.

Once you understand C++, you’ll find that learning other languages is much easier. You can’t say the same if you only know C#.

Component-Oriented Programming

Though both C++ and C# are object-oriented programming languages, there are some differences in execution.

C++ was created as an extension of the C language. It had the specific goal of building object-oriented capabilities into C. However, programmers have almost complete flexibility in terms of the objects they create. Furthermore, C++ is not a pure object-oriented language, which means coders can use techniques outside of the scope of more pure languages.

Even with C# being classified as an object-oriented language by Microsoft, many developers take that a step further and call it a component-oriented language. With C#, you’ll build programs primarily by combining pre-existing and purposefully developed components.

Each of these components is a self-contained package of functionalities containing types that determine an application’s behavior.

Think of it like building a car. Cars are made using pre-existing components, with new components coming into play for unique features or updates. Manufacturers put these components together to create a vehicle in the same way that C# coders put different pieces together to create their programs.

Multiple Inheritances

In coding, multiple inheritances allow one class to inherit features from several other classes. If you imagine a child inheriting genes from their mother and father, you get a good idea of how this work. Features are passed down from multiple parent classes to the child class.

C++ allows you to leverage multiple inheritances, thus allowing one class to extend from several other classes at the same time. C# doesn’t support this functionality, making multiple inheritances impossible.

Instead, classes have one-to-one relationships, which can result in more complex code when creating programs with many classes that would otherwise interlock. In the battle of C++ vs. C#, multiple inheritances play a key role because they allow for the creation of more complex programs.


Coders use pointers to store memory addresses. They’re typically used in C to define variables that the programmer may need to use elsewhere in the code. This function was preserved and expanded upon in C++ with both pointer and reference addressing.

With proper pointer assignment, the coder can use the pointer to call up the variable designated to it whenever it’s needed.

C# allows programmers to use pointers, but only if they set Visual Studio to unsafe mode. Doing this means that the portion of code designated as unsafe isn’t compiled into CLR but goes directly to assembly. This makes pointers notoriously difficult to debug if things go south.

Bound Checking

C# utilizes bound checking within its compiler. This ensures that an error message is thrown up if the programmer attempts to access an array index by mistake. Compilation errors signify that something is wrong with the code, resulting in bound checking being useful for debugging.

Unfortunately, C++ doesn’t use bound checking. As such, mistakes in array index access aren’t highlighted by the precompiler. The resulting program won’t run correctly, which signals that something is wrong. But the lack of a specific compiling error makes figuring the issue out more difficult than it would be with C#.

Which Is Right for You?

Your choice of C++ vs. C# depends on several factors.

If you want to quickly learn a programming language that allows you to develop programs using a pre-defined set of components, C# is your best choice. Just recognize that you’ll be limited in terms of the operating system you use for programming and what you can achieve with the language.

Those who want to work on large projects that require more flexibility in coding should focus on C++. In addition to being more feature-rich, C++ provides novice coders with the foundational knowledge they need to quickly learn other languages.

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