Difference Between Hardware and Software

The main difference between hardware and software is that the hardware refers to physical components of a computer while the software refers to a set of instructions given to a computer to perform a certain task.

The components of a computer are mainly divided into two sections. They are hardware and software.  Hardware refers to the tangible and physical components of the computer.  CPU, motherboard, mouse, keyboard, printer, and monitor are some hardware components. On the other hand, software is a set of instructions to perform a specific task. The software should be loaded into hardware to perform a task. Software works as the interface between the user and the hardware. In brief, both hardware and software are essential for the computer to produce a useful output.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Hardware
     – Definition, Types
2. What is Software
     – Definition, Types
3. What is the Relationship Between Hardware and Software
     – Outline of Association
4. What is the Difference Between Hardware and Software
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Application Software, Computer, Hardware, Input Devices, Output Devices, Secondary Storage Devices, Software, System Software

Difference Between Hardware and Software - Comparison Summary

What is Hardware

Hardware refers to the physical components of a computer. These components are tangible. Hardware is further divided into input devices, output devices, secondary storage devices and internal components.

Difference Between Hardware and Software

Figure 1: Hardware

Input Devices

Firstly, input devices are the components that send data to the computer. Some examples are as follows. Keyboard is a device that allows the user to enter input data. The layout of the keyboard is similar to a typewriter with additional keys. Another input device is a mouse. It consists of left, right mouse buttons, and a wheel. It cannot be used to enter text into the computer. According to the mouse movement, it is possible to control the position of the cursor on the screen. Joysticks, Light Pen, Scanner, Microphone, and Barcode Reader are furthermore examples for input devices.

Output Devices

Secondly, output devices are the peripheral devices that receive data from the computer. It can be a display, projection or any other medium. Some examples are as follows. Monitor is a Visual Display Unit (VDU) that displays the data or visuals from the computer. Printer helps to print the details into a paper. Latest printers are the inject printers. They are used to take high-quality multiple printouts.

Secondary Storage Devices

Secondary storage devices are the devices that store the data until the data is deleted or overridden. These devices store data permanently. Therefore, they are nonvolatile memory. In other words, powering off the device will not delete the data in secondary storage devices. Hard disk, CD, DVD, Floppy disk, Solid State Drives are some examples for secondary storage devices.

Internal Components

Most importantly, the internal components are the elements that directly connects with the main functionalities of the computer. CPU, RAM, ROM, and motherboard are few examples. CPU is the main execution unit of the computer. It divides further into two components: Arithmetic and Logic Unit (ALU) and the Control Unit (CU). The ALU performs the mathematical calculations and the logical operations. The Control Unit (CU) carries the control signals to operate other components.

RAM which stands for Random Access Memory that stores data, programs and program results for the CPU to perform tasks. It is possible to perform read and write operations in RAM. The amount of RAM is a considerable factor to determine the performance of the computer. It requires more time for the CPU to access secondary storage such as hard disk for all operations. Therefore, the RAM is used as the primary storage. It is a volatile memory. Therefore, it holds data temporary. In other words, powering off the device will erase the data in the RAM.

ROM stands for Read Only Memory. It is only possible to read from the ROM. It is a nonvolatile memory, so the data is permanent. It consists of the instructions required to start a computer. Moreover, a motherboard is a single platform. It connects CPU, memory, hard drives and other ports through cables. Those are main hardware components found in a computer.

What is Software

Software is a set of programs designed to perform a task. A program consists of a sequence of instructions. There are two main types of software: system software and application software.

Main Difference - Hardware vs Software

Figure 2:  Software

System Software

System software allows operating, controlling and extending the processing capability of a computer. This software is necessary to run hardware and application software. They are the interface between the hardware and the end users. Usually, computer manufacturers develop system software. The common programming languages to develop system software are C, C++, and Assembly language.

Some examples for system software are operating system, compilers, assemblers, interpreters and device drivers. An operating system performs task management, memory management, file handling and hardware management and many more. The compilers and interpreters convert a high-level program into machine understandable machine code. An assembler converts the assembly language program to machine code. The device drivers control and monitor the functionalities of specific devices such as printers.

Application Software

Application software is designed to achieve a specific user requirement. Some application software is as follows. Word documents allow creating documents. Spreadsheet allows maintaining financial details. Database Management Systems (DBMS) helps in maintaining data in databases.

Moreover, there is application software designed to support particular organizational tasks. Business organizations use Human Resource Management system to record employee details. A school or a university uses a Library Management System to insert records of new books, burrower’s details etc.

Apart from these types, there is another software type called utility software.  This type assists the tasks of the computer. Some examples of utility software are antivirus programs, file and disk management tools.

Relationship Between Hardware and Software

  • Hardware and software are dependent on each other. Both are required for the computer to produce a useful output.

Difference Between Hardware and Software

Definition

Hardware refers to the physical elements of a computer or electronic system. Software refers to a collection of instructions that tells the computer how to perform a task. This is the main difference between hardware and software.

Categories

The hardware has four main categories: input devices, output devices, secondary storage devices and internal components. Software is mainly divided into system software and application software.

Tangibility

The hardware is tangible while the software is intangible.

Method of Constructing

Furthemore, the hardware is developed using electronic and other materials. Software is developed by writing instructions using a programming language.

Replacement

When a hardware component is damaged, it can be replaced with a new component. When software is damaged, it can be reinstalled using a backup copy. Malware such as virus and worms can damage software.

Initialization

The hardware starts functioning once the software is loaded into the system. To use a software, it should be installed into the computer.

Examples

Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor, Printer, Hard disk, CPU, RAM, and ROM are few examples of hardware. MS Word, Excel, MSSQL, MySQL, Photoshop are some example of software.

Conclusion

Both hardware and software are necessary for the proper functioning of the computer. Software cannot be utilized without hardware while hardware cannot be utilized without software.  The difference between hardware and software is that hardware refers to physical components of a computer while software refers to a set of instructions given to a computer to perform a certain task.

Reference:

1. Tutorials Point. Www.tutorialspoint.com, Tutorials Point, 21 July 2018, Available here.
2. Tutorials Point. Www.tutorialspoint.com, Tutorials Point, 21 July 2018, Available here.
3. Computer Hope, 29 Dec. 2017, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “683247” (CC0) via Pixabay
2. “417880” (CC0) via Pixabay

About the Author: Lithmee

Lithmee holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Systems Engineering and is reading for her Master’s degree in Computer Science. She is passionate about sharing her knowldge in the areas of programming, data science, and computer systems.

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