Difference Between Software and Hardware

The easy explanation of the differences between software and hardware is that the term hardware refers to the physical housing of a computer’s parts. It is the framework, case or container in which the components, made of metal and plastic, are fixed. Included under this heading are: cabinet or case, central processing unit, monitor, keyboard, computer data storage, graphic cards, sound cards, speakers and motherboard.  Software is the programs and applications that are housed within those hard-shell components or are accessed through them. Video gamers also use such hardware as trackballs, joysticks and gamepads. Software is in fact, digital language. It is non-tangible and logical, made up of electronic languages or codes. Hardware, on the other hand, is tangible and physical or rigid and solid. Hardware stores the software which stores the information necessary to perform tasks.

What Is the Difference Between Software and Hardware?

Hardware

Input Devices

  • The most common of these devices are mouse and keyboard, which many computers, such as laptops, now have incorporated within them. That also goes for microphones and webcams. Digital cameras, barcode readers, scanners and graphics tablets are others which are external and are used to insert information of one kind or another.

Some hardware devices that were once external are now incorporated into computers and are seen as standard issue. Computer technology develops at a lightning pace and terms once used to describe separate attachments are no longer used because they have been merged into the whole computer package.

Output Devices

  • Output devices can include prints, plotters, speakers and monitors. Again, external devices that extract information and images.

Secondary Storage Devices

  • Secondary storage devices are also called backup, external and auxiliary. Hard Disks, C.Ds and DVDs, they now include USBs. And Blue Ray Disks. They have evolved from floppy disks and magnetic tapes. Used for permanent storage of large chunks of data.

Internal Components

  • The main internal component of a computer is the motherboard, which connects with all the other essential components to ensure the computer functions. These include the central processing unit or CPU, the random-access memory or RAM and the read-only memory or ROM. The motherboard also manages the disk drives. There are also chipsets, BIOS and Buses that are used to connect the various parts to one another and ensure their correct function.

Software

System Software

  • System software manages the computer hardware, overseeing basic necessary functions that users need. It monitors other software and is used as a platform from which all the application software used. It provides basic utility functions that allow other programs to perform tasks. These include operating systems, programming and device drivers that deal with input/output, data storage and application. Operating systems play a supervisory role.

Application Software

  • Application software uses the computer’s system to do certain functions. Most computers come with some measure of built-in applications, but technically they are still independent of the system software. Almost all applications are bought separately, downloaded and installed for specific tasks. The functions of application software can be used for, information management, data manipulation, the creation of visuals, resource coordination and mathematical calculations.
  • There are also application platforms, which serve as providers and are designed for group use, mainly as a business tool.
  • Application software shouldn’t be confused with Apps. Although, still deemed software, they are created for different purposes. Apps are designed for one single and set purpose, whereas application software is designed for a variety of interconnected uses. Apps are non-essential programs, whereas application software serve essential services for mostly business purposes. Apps are for personal use, mainly on cell phones, whereas application software are designed for group users on multiple devices.

Usage

  • Software has an almost infinite range of usages. Public Administration on a local and national level. Public or private databases. Public health administration. Social security. Businesses use software for many tasks, for example: accounting or delivery and collection schedules. Household schedules such as weekly chores, in or outside of the house.

Categories

  • Computer software falls into three broad categories. System software, which starts and runs all other computer programs. Application software that sees to word processing and browsing the web. Computer programming tools made up of linkers and compilers that combine and translate computer program source code, along with libraries in executable RAMs.

Appearance

  • Hardware can be seen and physically touched, not only the computer itself, but the external devices that can be attached to one. Software, on the other hand, although it may be housed within a disk or another kind of device cannot be touched because it is made up of binary coding. It is the ghost in the machine that performs the functions it has been created to perform. Only the end result of the instructions embedded within the software in the form of code can be seen. An example of this would be a page of printed words on a monitor screen or a physical page of paper ejected by a printer. Graphic designs that can be used onscreen or printed out. Another side to appearance is what you actually see on the screen. Using the embedded programs you can personalise the onscreen display. Most of this can be done by going into Settings or the Control Panel and choosing the different options there. The Display option lets you control colours, enlarge or reduce text size or adjust screen resolution. Using the Taskbar and Navigation, you can reorder or change the Start menu. The Ease of Access Center is an especially designed shortcut to help those with physical difficulties. The File Explorer Option lets you manage the look and behaviour of files. Font styles and sizes are easily changed.

Type

  • Hardware controls the functions of the computer, such as processing, storage, plus input and output. There are three main types of software, system software, programming software and application software. Examples of what can be done and managed by application software are: online services and goods, retail buying and selling and marketing services. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Under these umbrella headings software types can be broken down into many more specific types of applications covering the whole range of human endeavour.

Method of Constructing

Replacement

  • Sometimes replacing hardware is unavoidable, but whether or not it is because of worn out components or for upgrade purposes, it is well to be prepared to change parts. Instead of buying a new computer when your old one starts to fail, it is a good idea to replace old or faulty parts and extend the life, and power, of your computer. The motherboard can be replaced, but usually that means starting from scratch again, but there ways around that. Monitors do fade over time, but the new LCD type are thin, light and easily installed. The keyboard, which is in continuous use, always takes a pounding and is prone to damage. New keyboards are easily replaced and come with new, added features. Hard drives crashes are a nightmare, you could lose all your stored data. If a hard drive show any sign of failure, it is best to replace it immediately. CD/DVD drives are getting better and more versatile all the time. The same goes for video and flash cards. UPS or surge protectors are overlooked, but are just as important as the other parts. A good idea is to install better quality protectors than the standard issue. Cooling fans are liable to breakdown or wear out, but are easy to replace. Computers need a constant and stable power supply, PSU. Weak or intermittent supply will damage your machine, but can also be replaced.

Function

  • Hardware is permanent and fixed. It is hardly ever changed. Whereas software is constantly being changed in some form or another. It can be deleted, uninstalled, added to, upgraded and modified in many different ways. Software is created to perform specific tasks the built-in computer programs can’t handle. Hardware is the delivery system of the software programs.

Interdependence

  • Software can’t function unless it is installed in the hardware. The hardware functions once the software is installed. It is only when the two are working together that specific tasks and instructions can be performed.

Firewalls

  • Firewalls are the security protection of the computer. It protects against malware and viruses. It can detect or block unsolicited information or data. It stops illegal hacking. It is your own form of personal network security. Firewalls monitor incoming and outgoing digital traffic, based on pre-programmed rules and limitations. It is literally a wall between your computer and external networks. Most computers come with an installed package that includes security protection, but it can also bought and installed separately. Once installed the software can be programmed to your individual wishes and level of protection that you require. Software cannot be used or accessed without first being downloaded into the hardware. On the other hand, hardware is useless without the software.

Changes

  • Hardware is rarely changed, as It can be difficult and expensive, depending on what component you wish to change, but it is possible to upgrade hardware instead of changing any parts. Added software can help restore some functions that aren’t physically broken. Software on the other hand, is constantly being deleted, upgraded, exchanged, added to, installed and uninstalled. Computers use many different software programs to perform many different tasks. Personal computers, as well as computers for commercial use, will have multiple software programs. Software programs are being invented, refined and upgraded on a daily basis by an industry seems to have no limits.

Initialisation

Examples

  • Examples of hardware would be CD-ROMs, routers, modems, printers, label makers, scanners or video and sound cards. Software examples would be Microsoft Word for word processing. Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari internet browsers. Skype for personal communication. Pandora for music. Slack for group or team collaboration. Others include: Adobe Acrobat, QuickBooks, Calibre, Excel and Apple Maps.

Comparison Chart

Hardware Software
Definition Devices that are required to store and execute (or run) the software. Collection of instructions that enables a user to interact with the computer. Software is a program that enables a computer to perform a specific task, as opposed to the physical components of the system (hardware).
Types Input, storage, processing, control, and output devices. System software, Programming software, and Application software.
Function Hardware serve as the delivery system for software solutions. The hardware of a computer is infrequently changed, in comparison with software and data, which are “soft” in the sense that they are readily created, modified, or erased on the comput To perform the specific task you need to complete. Software is generally not needed to for the hardware to perform its basic level tasks such as turning on and reponding to input.
Examples CD-ROM, monitor, printer, video card, scanners , label makers, routers and modems. QuickBooks, Adobe Acrobat, Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Apple Maps
Inter dependency Hardware starts functioning once software is loaded. To deliver its set of instructions, Software is installed on hardware.
Failure Hardware failure is random. Hardware does have increasing failure at the last stage. Software failure is systematic. Software does not have an increasing failure rate.
Durability Hardware wears out over time. Software does not wear out over time. However, bugs are discovered in software as time passes.
Nature Hardware is physical in nature. Software is logical in nature.

 

Conclusion

Once you have grasped the fact that software is unseen and non-tangible, entirely logic based and that hardware in is in fact, physical and tangible, you will understand the difference between the two. What sometimes makes it difficult to separate the two is the symbiotic relationship between them. Both are useless without the other. Computer jargon tends to blur the lines, but they are distinct things. No doubt, sometime in the future, the two will become merged into one.

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