What Is the Difference Between Hardware and Software

What Is the Difference Between Hardware and Software-feature image
 |   | 

Electronic devices like computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets have become an indispensable part of our lives. Hence, we use the words hardware and software every now and then.

All the physical components of a computing device that we can touch without switching it are hardware. Whereas software is intangible and refers to all the instruction sets that allow the computing device to perform a task.

However, confusion can come up when you start discussing them in detail. We discuss their types and the hardware and software differences in this blog to help you have a clear understanding of both.

Hardware vs Software: What is Computer Hardware and Software

Let’s start with a proper understanding of what computer hardware and software is.

What Is Hardware?

Hardware meaning: Hardware refers to a physically tangible electronic component in a computing device.

The hardware within the device is responsible for storing and processing data while the external peripherals are needed for taking input and providing output. Same hardware types have distinct characteristics, such as form factor and power consumption in different devices like laptops and smartphones. Examples of hardware include monitor, keyboard, hard disk, CPU, printer, and so on.

What Is Software?

Software meaning: Software refers to the set of instructions in the form of programs, routines, and procedures for operating a computing device and executing specific tasks on the system.

These instructions are written in high-level or assembly level programming languages that are translated by the interpreter or compiler into machine code for the processor of the computing device to understand. The software parts of computer process the data input that it receives and provides an output.

The software can run on compatible smartphones, PC, tablets, and other such devices. Examples of software include web browsers, word processors, images, and video editors, etc.

Suggested Read: What are Hardware Security Modules (HSM)? Why Use and How its Works?

Key Differences Between Software and Hardware

Computer hardware and software both make up a computing device, but they are significantly different. In devices like a computer, laptop, or mobile, hardware is the tangible electronic component while software is the code that gives commands to the hardware for executing different functions.

To simplify what is the difference between hardware and software, we have summarized it below in the form of a Hardware vs Software table.

Hardware vs Software
ParameterSoftwareHardware
DefinitionSet of instructions for the functioning of a computing devicePhysical parts of a computing device that are responsible for execution of instructions
MakingDeveloped & engineered by programmingManufactured in factories with semiconductors and other materials
TransferElectronically through networkPhysical movement
TypesSystem Software & Application SoftwareInput device, Output device, internal components, secondary storage
TangibleNo, can be seen and usedYes, can be seen too
DamageBugs, computer viruses and other cyber threatsPhysical wear & tear
RecoveryReinstallation via backup copyNew replacement
ExamplesMS Power Point, Photoshop, Mozilla FirefoxPrinter, hard disk, scanner, monitor

Software Vs Hardware: Types of Hardware and Software

Now that you can define hardware and software clearly, let’s study the main types of hardware and software.

Types of Hardware

The internal hardware parts in a device are called components and external ones are called peripherals. Hardware can be classified into four main types, that is, input devices, output devices, processing devices, and storage devices. Let’s understand what do you mean by different hardware types.

  • Input device

    An input device is a type of hardware that enables users to interact directly with the computer device. The purpose of these devices is to get raw data and instructions from the user in an acceptable format that are essential for executing computational processes and programs. Some common input devices are touchscreens, keyboards, scanners, biometric devices, mouse, microphones, cameras, joystick, ethernet hardware, etc.

  • Output device

    An output device is any hardware that communicates data stored on the device to the user. Input data is processed to provide an output. The output can be hard copy or soft copy in the form of sounds, digital images, printouts, etc. Common output device options available are speakers, printers, monitors, data projectors, earphones, etc.

  • Processing devices

    The devices that convert raw data instructions into information for use in distinct functions are known as processing devices. One such example is a microprocessor. A microprocessor contains the control unit (CU), arithmetic logical unit (ALU), register, and cache to process the input based on the provided instructions.

  • Memory and storage devices

    Storage devices allow data retention so that it can be accessed whenever required. Different devices differ in characteristics like speed, volatility, capacity, portability, durability and so on depending on the purpose they serve. You can classify them into primary and secondary memory.

    The processor has direct access to the primary memory for executing instructions while it is not possible for secondary memory. Examples of storage devices are RAM, ROM, HDD, SSD, flash disks, etc.

    Internal components like graphics processing unit and heat sink also fall in hardware category.


Suggested Read: What are Computer Networking Devices and Functions

Types of Software

Software classification is done into two types, namely, application software and system software. Here is the answer to what is the meaning of different software types.

  • Application software

Application software is a program with which the end-user interacts directly. It provides additional functionality and is not essential for the working of your device. Its installation is dependent on the user’s requirement and budget.

It is programmed in a high-level language. The software may be general-purpose or customized to meet specific user needs.

Examples of application software include:

  1. Database software like MySQL and dBase
  2. Multimedia software like Adobe Photoshop and Windows Movie Maker
  3. Presentation software like MS PowerPoint
  4. Spreadsheet software like Google Sheets
  5. Word processing software like MS Word and Google Docs
  6. Web browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox
  7. Conferencing and collaboration software like Zoom
  • System software

System software is a program that enables resource management for the computing device and provides a platform for running application software. This program always runs in the background of the device for tasks like memory management.

It is essential to the functioning of the device and application software. It is usually written in a low-level language.

Examples include operating systems, system utilities, file management tools, etc. Programming software and driver software are two popular subsets of system software, that are sometimes treated as separate classifications too.

  • Programming software

Programming Software is a category of system software designed for developers to help them write, test, debug and maintain software programs easily. A programmer enters the code in high level languages and the programming software translates it into machine code for execution. Examples include compilers, interpreters, integrated development environments (IDEs), etc.

  • Driver software

Driver software is a type of system software that gathers inputs from the operating system and communicates with hardware to provide it with instructions necessary for performing a task.

Hardware devices that require driver software are printers, displays, hard disks, etc. It is usually created by hardware manufacturers. Some examples are ROM driver, BIOS driver, printer driver, VGA driver, and more.

Other subsets of system software include firmware and utility software. Firmware contains a set of permanent instructions on a hardware which determines its interaction with other hardware. One such example is BIOS.

Utility software offers configuration, optimization, maintenance, and other such capabilities to ensure smooth functioning of the device. Examples include compression tools, disk cleanup tools, antiviruses, etc.


Relationship Between Hardware and Software

Computer hardware and software differences are easily evident. To define hardware and software relationship, one can say that hardware and software are interdependent on each other. Without hardware, software has no platform to run on and without software installation, hardware generates no output or produces an error.

Hardware interacts with other hardware and software through system software and standard protocols. Firmware and drivers contain instructions for controlling this interaction. They help execute tasks and produce relevant results on a computing device.

One type of hardware can be used for several different outcomes based on the software used. The performance of the software depends on the hardware’s speed and capabilities.

With the advent of cloud computing and virtual machines, the relationship between hardware and software has evolved. It has become possible to create virtual versions of internal hardware.

The software abstracts physical components and provides the required functionalities. Software is made available to the users by cloud vendors through the Internet. This helps in running programs with minimal installation hassles.

Conclusion

The knowledge of hardware and software helps in working with the system more efficiently. To ensure that the device functions properly, you must avoid physical damage to the hardware and ensure security against cyber threats for the software parts of the computer by following good practices.

Suggested Read: What is Utility Program in Computer

FAQs

  1. What is the hardware in a computer?

    Hardware definition is that it is any electronic component that makes up or attaches to a computer.

  2. What is hardware and its examples?

    Hardware includes all the physical components in a computer. Examples of hardware are monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc.

  3. What are the 5 types of hardware?

    Five primary types of hardware are input devices, output devices, processors, storage devices, and communications devices.

  4. What is software and its examples?

    Computer software definition is that it is the set of programs for performing different tasks on a computer. For example, Google Chrome allows browsing the Internet, MS Excel is for creating spreadsheets, and Mac OS is for starting the system and running other applications.

  5. What are the 4 types of software?

    The four types of software are system software, application software, programming software, and driver software.

  6. Is Google software?

    No. Google is a software company. It owns the search engine google.com, system software Chrome OS and Android OS, Google Chrome web browser, Google Workspace apps and much more.

  7. How is hardware different from software?

    Hardware means the physical parts of a computing device that we can touch. Software refers to the intangible set of instructions that run on top of the hardware to perform various tasks.

  8. What do you mean by hardware and software?

    Software means a set of instructions that allow a computing device to perform a specific function. Hardware is an electronic element in a computing device that runs the software.

Subscribe to get the latest offers, news & updates.
No spam, we promise