Smoke testing refers to trying out software to determine its usability and stability. It serves as a confirmatory step that a quality assessment (QA) team does before doing other software tests. It involves doing several runs to test primary functionalities and identify system stability and conformance issues early.

Smoke testing thus verifies if all of a software’s important features work and are not flawed. It helps lessen wasting time and resources incurred from back-and-forth testing.

The term was inspired by hardware testing, which primarily checks for smoke coming out of a hardware component when it is turned on. In the context of software testing, the system will not undergo further testing until it passes the smoke test.

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Smoke Testing

Why Is Smoke Testing Performed?

Smoke testing is critical to ensure the smooth flow of software development. That way, organizations can save a lot of testing effort while bringing the system to an ideal state. Only when a software passes smoke testing can it proceed to functional testing.

Smoke testing is ideally done as soon as the software goes to QA. Defects in the program are identified and corrected to simplify detection for functional defects that may arise from using a new code.

When Is Smoke Testing Done?

Smoke testing should be done whenever additional software functionalities are integrated into an existing build or version. It ensues once the application is sent for QA. At this stage, several tests are done. Testers look for flaws in the current build’s critical functionalities. If the software passes smoke testing, the QA team proceeds with functional testing. If it fails, the build is handed back to the development team. Any change made to the build must pass smoke testing to ensure stability.

For example, the development team added a registration button to a login window, which required adding new code. The software needs to undergo smoke testing in QA again to see if it is glitch-free. 

How Is Smoke Testing Done?

Smoke tests can vary, depending on the application and configuration of the build. But its basic steps remain the same.

Once a build is complete, it needs to be set up before testing. The setup process involves copying files to their proper places, installing licenses, setting up database tables, and starting a server.

Once that is done, test files need to be prepared for the smoke test. Developers may need to use the command line to fetch some smoke test files.

The next step is writing a script. Ideally, a single script should be used to allow for flexibility in case changes need to be made. Remember, smoke tests should run from the build. That way, all reports can be saved along with other build files. Failures must be reported to the developers, along with all script outputs.

After each smoke test, a system cleanup is required. This process includes stopping the server, deleting files, or removing database tables to ensure the initial setup is returned to the original state before performing another smoke test.

Can Smoke Testing Be Automated?

Yes, smoke testing can be automated. In fact, some organizations prefer to do so to ensure efficiency. Automation allows QA testers to execute tests quickly, accomplishing around 20–50 tests in one go. The idea is for preliminary trials to test core features while eliminating false positives.

When choosing a smoke testing automation tool, companies go for a comprehensive framework that enables team members to maintain visibility while emulating user behaviors across processes.

Automated smoke testing must, however, consider an organization’s goals for using it. That means involving the QA team in choosing the application to use.