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Difference Between Hardware and Software

Vibhav Gaonkar Aug 24, 2020
Any and every electronic device, may it be a computer or a mobile phone works due to the co-existence of hardware and software. In what way is the former different from the latter? This story explains the differences between both, and how they are collectively responsible to make an electronic device work.
Although it sounds like another kind of 'ware', it isn't that. A firmware is simply a permanent or uneditable software program installed on a read-only memory. Firmware is generally used in devices restricted to perform only a specific set of functions. For instance, digital watches, traffic lights, remote controls, and the like.
The very basic difference probably even a child would tell between software and hardware is that, the latter can be touched and are actual physical components of a device.
However, the former (software) is simply bits and bytes, and is completely intangible. It can also be called the digital component of a device. Even though the basic difference between them is quite clear to most of us, there are some more aspects about each, one should consider when reading about differences between the two.
Let's do a hardware vs. software analysis and see what they are.

Hardware and Software: What is the Difference Between them?

What is Hardware?
Hardware is a physical entity, or something which is tangible. However, hardware isn't of any use without proper software, and vice versa. For instance, a microwave oven won't recognize Android, as it is necessarily meant for a mobile phone.
Likewise, an operating system or application software is of no use without suitable hardware. In brief, hardware of any device includes wires, circuit boards, chips, internal circuits, and every minor thing required for an electronic device to function.
Types of Hardware
Hardware has three major types; first ― storage and memory, second ― circuits and other apparatus, and third ― housing and outer body. Let's elaborate on all three.
The first type, storage and memory, is the storehouse for all software and digital data (documents, images, etc). It is the location which the machine uses to recollect all the stored information related to its own functioning, as well as the user's data. The second type, circuits and other apparatus is actually the technical part of a machine.
This type includes everything from wiring, processors, circuit boards, chips, display devices, speakers, microphones, and more; it is the core or powerhouse of a machine, without which it wouldn't function.
The third and the final type, the housing and outer body, is basically the panels and shells that hold all of this together. In some machines, this type also functions as an insulation in order to prevent the user from getting an electric shock.
What is Software?
The definition of a software is basically certain information or data used by a machine to perform the most rudimentary tasks required for it to function correctly. However, there are more complex software which apart from simply helping a machine to function, help execute varying task aimed to reduce human effort and increase efficiency.
Types of Software
If we wished to classify types of software into very basic categories, we would be left with three broad ones. System software, application software, and malicious software. Each have different functions to perform; system software could be called firmware in certain instances (however not always).
It is a type of software that carries out the proper functioning of a machine by utilizing the available hardware. To break down the functions of system software, its functions include everything from running a machine, maintenance, and recovery.
System software include operating systems, device drivers, and other utility software required to assist the mainstream software to perform certain tasks. The second type, namely application software is as its name suggests, a software required to carry out certain user-centric tasks to minimize human effort and increase efficiency.
Application software may or may not aid to functioning of a machine, however, they are more involved in carrying out user-specified tasks using the available resources.
Thirdly, malware is a machine's enemy. It is aimed to disrupt the normal functioning of a machine, especially in case of computers.
By now, you must be very clear about the two concepts. Try thinking about examples for both; you could also refer to some common ones given below.
  • Buttons and levers
  • LEDs
  • External wires
  • Connection ports
  • Casing and body
  • Internal circuit boards
  • Processing units
  • Internal wiring
  • Internal memory and storage devices
  • Operating systems (Windows, OSX, Linux, Android, iOS, etc.)
  • Firmware
  • Word and data processing software (Microsoft Office)
  • Image processing software (Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, etc)
  • Internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox)
  • Viruses and malware