Open Loop vs. Closed Loop: What’s the Difference?

traffic light pedestrian crosswalk

Open Loop vs. Closed Loop: What’s the Difference?

Key Points

  • Open loop systems lack feedback mechanisms, making them less adaptable to disruptions or changes, while closed loop systems use feedback to self-adjust and respond to environmental changes.
  • Open loop systems are simpler and less expensive, making them suitable for stable environments with minimal adjustments needed, while closed loop systems are more complex and costly, ideal for dynamic operations requiring precision and adaptability.
  • Closed loop systems offer better reliability and stability due to their ability to detect and correct errors through feedback mechanisms.

What is the suitable control system between open and closed loops? We use open and closed loops to describe processes and systems in various domains. Such concepts are relevant in feedback mechanisms, engineering, and control systems.

The phrase “open loop” generally describes systems that lack any form of feedback or correctional functionality. The inability of open loop systems to self-adjust renders them less capable of responding effectively to disruptions or alterations.

The closed loop uses feedback mechanisms to adjust and monitor its behavior per the system’s output. The unique aspect of the closed loop is that it is self-adjusting and adaptable. It requires feedback to improve its actions when responding to environmental changes.

Let’s explore the applications, characteristics, and implications of closed and open loop systems while indicating their differences.

Open Loop vs. Closed Loop: Side-by-Side Comparison

Open LoopClosed Loop
ConstructionsSimple constructionsComplex constructions
CalledNon-feedback systemFeedback system
Required Additional SystemThe system lacks a feedback loopHas a feedback loop to control the state
ReliabilityLess reliableMore reliable
AccuracyPerforms accurately under good calibrationPerforms accurately due to the feedback system
OptimizationNot possiblePossible
MaintenanceLess maintenance neededMore maintenance required
Inbuilt ComponentsTwo components included More components (like controller, feedback, and comparator) are present
System DisturbanceAffectedNot affected
ComponentsController and controlled processAmplifier, controller, controlled process, feedback

What is an Open Loop?

An open loop system follows a predetermined set of commands and instructions, irrespective of the surrounding environment or the system’s output. Similarly, the loop cannot adjust or monitor the behavior based on real-time feedback, making it less responsive to changes that emerge during the operation. 

Closed Loops: the Complete Definition

The closed-loop system stands out because it incorporates a feedback mechanism that monitors and adjusts its behavior according to the system’s output. The closed-loop system compares the intended target or output with the actual output in this scenario. It then makes necessary alterations or corrections to reach the desired result or to maintain equilibrium.

Open Loop vs. Closed Loop: What’s the Difference?

Open and closed loops come into play when we discuss the control systems. The two refer to either the system’s absence or the presence of a feedback mechanism. However, their mode of operation makes the two systems drift apart. 

It is vital to know this distinction to understand every system’s benefits, characteristics, and application. In this section, we will help you understand the differences as we analyze open loops and closed loops and know how to apply them effectively.

Let’s explore the key differences that set them apart.


The presence or absence of feedback is one aspect that makes the open loop and closed loop distinct. For instance, an open loop lacks a feedback loop. The system uses predetermined instructions or commands without actively adjusting or monitoring the outcome. During its operations, it does not consider environmental conditions or actual performance. Because there is no feedback in the open loop system, it is less capable or adaptable to responding to uncertainties or changes. 

On the contrary, the closed loop relies on a feedback loop to monitor that outcome and adjust appropriately. The system compares the desired output against the real output, using errors or deviations to modify the system’s behavior. The closed loop can only maintain stability, expected performance, and accuracy by monitoring and adjusting continuously. Still, the closed loop requires feedback to be more responsive, capable of error collection, and automated. 


If you are a programmer, it can be exciting to discover the outcome of an open loop and closed loop on the level of adaptability. In general, adaptability is the ability of the system to respond or adjust to input signals or environmental input.

In the case of the open loop, adaptability is absent or limited because it does not modify their behavior when responding to real-time changes. We use open loop systems, especially in predictable and stable situations requiring minimal modifications during operations. 

On the other hand, the loop requires a higher level of adaptability. Any discrepancies or deviations in the outcome help adjust the system’s behavior in real time. The closed loop requires the feedback loop to adapt or respond to changes or disruptions to maintain stability and achieve the required outcome. They monitor and adjust their actions based on the details it gets from the feedback loop. 


The term stability refers to the ability of the system to maintain a steady and needed state of operation amid external disturbances and influences. Achieving stability in an open loop can be tricky as it does not monitor or adjust its behavior based on environmental conditions. Consequently, it is vulnerable to errors and deviations. Due to the absence of the correction mechanism and feedback, the open loop could be more stable. 

The closed loop provides excellent stability. The system can adjust to correct errors and discrepancies to maintain stability. Notably, closed loop systems can counteract disturbances and maintain their desired state of operation by responding to feedback and actively adapting their behavior.


We use the open loop when you need to follow a predetermined sequence of actions without continuous feedback or monitoring. A perfect example of where we use an open loop is in appliances like a toaster or washing machines since they follow a predetermined set of instructions. Another example is traffic lights, which run on fixed timing patterns. 

In contrast, we use a closed loop in applications that demand feedback and control to get the needed output. We use this closed loop in various industries like automation, robots, and manufacturing. For example, we can use loop control in chemical production, requiring precise monitoring and adjustments to ensure safety and maintain optimal conditions.  

Again, we can use a loop in aviation for stability and control. For example, the autopilot system requires a closed loop to maintain the needed flight path. The vehicles need a closed loop to regulate engine performance and stability, like anti-lock braking or fuel injection. 

traffic light
Traffic lights are a great example of open loop systems.

©Steve Hamann/Shutterstock.com


Reliability is significant in helping us uncover the differences between open and closed loops. Regarding reliability, the closed loop carries the upper hand over its open-loop counterpart. The closed loop relies on the feedback loop to detect changes, disturbances, or errors in the system and take corrective actions. Since this closed loop can perform self-regulation and adapt to different conditions, it becomes more reliable. As such, it can deliver consistent and accurate results. 

In contrast, the open loop does not detect or correct errors since it runs on predetermined instructions or settings. They do not monitor the output and adjust accordingly. Consequently, the open loop is vulnerable to errors, variations, and disturbances in the system, leading to reduced reliability. 


The open loop is simpler than the closed loop, running on predetermined settings or instructions. An open loop only follows fixed commands or sequences of actions without relying on feedback. Designing, implementing, and troubleshooting the open loop is simple and easier. 

However, the case differs as you handle the closed loop, which is more complex due to the presence of feedback components. The programmer incorporates sensors to measure and compare the output with the needed outcome. 

Furthermore, control algorithms will facilitate adjustments based on feedback. What makes this closed loop appear more complex is the inclusion of additional components to get accurate results. To design and implement closed-loop systems, you must use control algorithm design, sensor selection, and tuning to ensure stability. 


It becomes more exciting to examine open loops and closed loops on the cost element and know where they vary. Generally, an open loop is less expensive than a closed loop. First, it is easier to design and implement an open loop. This is because the programmer can include simple control algorithms, feedback loops, and sensors. Due to the absence of these components, manufacturing and implementation costs go down significantly. 

The closed loop, on the other hand, comes with higher costs due to feedback mechanisms, which include control algorithms, sensors, and actuators. As a result, it implies that the control loop system is more complex to ensure accurate feedback and control. The cost difference between closed and open loops is significant, especially when handling large-scale applications. 

Open Loop vs. Closed Loop: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • The closed loop system needs a feedback mechanism to deliver accurate results, while an open loop does not require feedback. 
  • Closed loop systems detect and correct errors and deviations for the needed outcome, while open loop systems lack error correction functions.  
  • Due to continuous feedback and adjustment processes, a closed loop system features higher precision and accuracy, while an open loop has limited precision. 
  • The closed loop has actuators, sensors, and feedback mechanisms, making it more complex than the open loop. 
  • The closed loop system continuously regulates adjustment and feedback processes, making it more stable than the open loop system.  

Open Loop vs. Closed Loop: Which Should You Choose?

While simplistic and more affordable, an open loop system thrives in predictable, stable environments, making it an ideal choice for processes that do not require extensive monitoring or adjustments. If you aim for cost-effective, straightforward functionality with minimal fuss, an open loop system could be your preferred choice.

Conversely, the closed loop system is more sophisticated, leveraging feedback loops for enhanced stability and precision. If your operations are dynamic and are subject to changes in external variables, the closed loop system’s ability to monitor, adjust and adapt is a game-changer. Yes, it’s a pricier option, but when accuracy and adaptability are paramount, you’ll find that the closed loop system’s benefits can outweigh the costs.

Overall, choosing between an open loop and a closed loop should reflect the balance between simplicity and precision, affordability and sophistication. Make your choice based on what your process demands. The open loop system is best if predictability is your process’s watchword. The closed loop system calls your name if adaptation and precision are at the forefront.

Whichever you choose, know that it’s not about choosing the “best” system but rather about selecting the right one that aligns seamlessly with your needs. Let the nature of your process guide your decision, and you’ll find the perfect fit.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should one choose a closed loop system?

When accuracy, stability, and adaptability to shifting conditions are a requirement, closed loop systems are preferable. They are appropriate for operations that need precise control where external factors dictate the outcome. Robotics, temperature control systems, and other applications that maintain a particular output or response are a few examples.

When is an open loop system applicable?

Open loop systems are appropriate when a process is predictable, steady, and unaffected by outside forces. They frequently cost less and are more superficial than closed loop systems. Simple on-off control systems or procedures are examples when accuracy and real-time modification are not essential.

Which system is more accurate between an open loop and a closed loop?

In general, closed loop systems are more precise than open loop ones. Closed loop systems have a continuous feedback mechanism that monitors and adjusts based on the discrepancy between the desired and actual outputs. Increased accuracy is possible thanks to the feedback loop’s fine control and real-time correction capabilities.

What is a closed loop system?

A closed loop system involves numerous essential activities. The system first measures its output or response. Following that, it makes a comparison between the measured output and the desired setpoint or reference value. The system generates an error signal based on the variance between the measured output and the setpoint. Using this error signal, the system’s inputs undergo modification as needed to maintain the output’s proximity to the target setpoint.

What happens in an open loop system?

In an open loop system, the control procedure follows guidelines or orders. There is no feedback mechanism included to check or modify the output. The system executes the specified instructions regardless of output or environmental factors. It does not measure or correct the output to keep it aligned with the desired setpoint.

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