Harvester simulators offer a safe and cost-saving method for studying the basics of harvester controls and working technique. Therefore, harvester simulators are increasingly being used in the education of harvester operators. In this study, the objective was to compare harvester work in real and simulator environments, and to determine how a professional harvester operator’s working technique may have changed in the simulator environment. Specific features of the simulator that encumbered operators’ normal work are also presented; and the correspondence of the simulator to reality is evaluated. The work of six professional harvester operators was studied in thinning and in clear cutting stands in both environments: first in the real forest and thereafter on the simulator. The results indicate that the operators’ working technique on the simulator was mainly the same as in the real forest. This means that the same restrictions are valid on the simulator as in the forest. The basic principles of harvesting must be known so that high productivity and good quality can be obtained. However, certain simulator-specific features encumbered the work of harvester operators. Limited visibility to the side increased the need to reverse and the 3D-visualization caused failed catches. Improvements in software would remove some of the defects, e.g. failed felling and cheating in the felling phase. These results also indicate that simulators can be used for research purposes.