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The low-level simulation of equipment or phenomena by artificial means, such as by software modeling. Note that simulation may also allow an abstract high-level model.

Hardware emulation is the process of imitating the behavior of one or more pieces of hardware (typically a system under design) with another piece of hardware, typically a special purpose emulation system. The goal is normally debugging of the system being designed. Often an emulator is fast enough to be plugged into a working target system in place of a yet-to-be-built chip, so the whole system can be debugged with live data. This is a specific case of in-circuit emulation.

Sometimes hardware emulation can be confused with hardware devices such as expansion cards with hardware processors that assist functions of software emulation, such as older daughterboards with x86 chips to allow x86 OSes to run on motherboards of different processor families.