The difference between software and hardware

The world is quickly evolving and the number of new technologies is increasing every day. It is therefore vital to acquaint yourself with innovations, more so computers.

The difference between software and hardware
The difference between software and hardware

A computer as you know is an electronic device that inputs raw data processes it and emits it as an output.

This article intends to highlight The difference between software and hardware in computers.

Functions of a computer

Computers are made to perform the following functions:

  • Accepting data and inputs it.
  • Storage of instructions in the memory and can later retrieve and process them.
  • Processing and converting of data into meaningful information i.e. Arithmetic functions.
  • Generation of output.
  • Controlling the above steps in a sequence.

what is an computer hardware

The term hardware in computer science refers to all the tangible components of the computer. The parts that you can see and touch. 

Components of computer hardware

Input devices

Examples are a keyboard, mouse, joystick, graphic tablets, microphone, and barcode reader. They help users feed data into the computer which then translates the instructions in a language computers can comprehend

Output devices

They comprise printers, monitors. These devices produce useful information such as visual displays, and hardcopy reports for the user

Secondary storage

Eg. DVD, compact disks, flash disk, hard dis

Internal components

 The internal components are like the motherboard, RAM, and CPU ( the computer’s brain) just like a human’s brain functions, the memory stores instructions and data in the computer.


Software is a collection of programs designed to perform a specific task. A program on the other hand is a set of instructions that are designed to solve a specific problem.

The programming code which may be at the machine level is then run on a computer’s processor. 

There are two types of software:

System software

The system software is a group of programs that control, run and enhance the computer’s processing abilities. In most cases, computer manufacturers develop this system software.

The programs are coded in low-level languages that interface with computer hardware at the most fundamental level.

It allows close interaction between end-users and the hardware components. They are a bit challenging to design and manipulate but in terms of speed, they are very fast.

The main role of system software is managing system resources.

System software comprises programs that are dedicated to managing the computer by assemblers, debuggers, drivers, compiler, interpreter, and operating systems.

Application software

Application software is created to meet a specific requirement in a specific context. The apps are prepared in a computer lab.

It may comprise one program i.e. Microsoft’s notepad. In addition, it also consists of a software package which is a collection of applications that operate together to complete a task, such as a spreadsheet package.

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Programmers find application software easy to navigate. Unlike system software, a computer can easily do without application software.

Application software heavily relies on system software. But, the case for system software is that a computer cannot function without it.

Take a look at some of the examples of application software; PowerPoint, Microsoft word, payroll software, railways reservation software, Microsoft excel, income tax software, Microsoft office suite among others. All of them serve a purpose.

The relationship between software and hardware in computers

  • They both share this interdependent bond where one cannot exist without the other. They usually work hand in hand with each other to produce meaningful output.
  • The hardware for instance needs the software for support, Without the set of instructions, the user cannot operate the computer, therefore the hardware would be rather useless in this scenario. 
  • Hardware is a once-in-a-lifetime expense whereas software develops continuously over time and is quite expensive.
  • Users can load various software apps on hardware and they run different jobs.

Now let us look at the differences between hardware and software

The difference between software and hardware

Whereas software is a set of instructions that command a computer by telling it what to do, hardware is the physical parts that make up a computer.

Hardware is built by manufacturers using electronic and other materials while the software is developed using programming languages by computer engineers in labs.

Hardware can only function when there is software to direct them while the software is independent. They can execute instructions without hardware being present.

Hardware comprises four key categories i.e. internal components, storage, output devices, and input devices. On the other hand, the software is subdivided into two; application software and system software.

Viruses do not affect hardware but with the software they get damaged.

In case of a malfunction or damage occurs on the hardware, they can be replaced. However, when software encounters issues, only the backup can be of help. Otherwise, it’s not easy to replace.

Hardware is only physically portable. It’s impossible to transfer them electronically via a network, unlike software that can.

As we can see and apply software, we cannot touch them. But when it comes to hardware, we can touch, see and use them.

Hardware examples are monitor,  mouse, keyboard, hard drives, scanners, printers, etc. whereas software includes MySQL, Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop, Microsoft Office suite, Google chrome, windows 8.

Hardware is bound to wear as time goes by but as for software they don’t wear out. Instead, they get glitches and bugs which will force you to install new ones.


Computers are interesting and important machines. They have made communication easy and efficient today. Thanks to the hardware, we can now type our data into banks, hospitals, and schools. The software uses programs to interact with hardware to perform well-defined instructions.

As much as the hardware and software have their differences, they also share some commonalities. However, we must take extreme caution when handling this software.

Especially when they get affected by viruses. Hardware too needs good maintenance if you want them to continue serving for a longer period.

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