In this study, Artificial Bee Colony (ABC) algorithm is applied to the Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR) system for obtaining optimal control. The tuning performance of this algorithm and its contribution to the robustness of the control system are also extensively and comparatively investigated. In the performance analysis, Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO) algorithm and Differential Evolution (DE) algorithm are used for the purpose of comparison. These analyses are realized by benefiting from different analysis methods such as transient response analysis, root locus analysis, bode analysis and statistically Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) analysis. Afterwards, the robustness analysis is applied to the AVR system, which is tuned by ABC algorithm in order to determine its response to changes in the system parameters. At the end of the study, it is shown that the ABC algorithm is successfully applied to the AVR system for improving the performance of the controller and shows a better tuning capability than the other similar population based optimization algorithms for this control application. (C) 2011 The Franklin Institute. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.