Difference between Hardware and Software

A computer is a system, i.e. it consists of several parts. The two crucial parts of a computer system are – hardware and software. Those parts of computer system which are physical and visible are called the hardware. Whereas, the computer software are the sets of instructions and programs that enable the computer hardware to perform their functions. Both the hardware and software are dependent on each which means we must install the software in the hardware to make it functional. In the same way, the hardware parts of a computer must be present in the system to perform the tasks.

Read through this article to find out more about computer hardware and software and how they are different from each other. Let's start with some basics of hardware and software.

What is Computer Hardware?

The physical and visible components of a computer system are called computer hardware or simply hardware. Thus, computer hardware is any part of the computer that we can see, and touch. These parts need some space to place them. Basically, the computer hardware are the electronic components that used to build the physical mechanism of the computer. In a computer system, the hardware components must be present to perform the tasks.

Examples of computer hardware are: monitor, keyboard, CPU (Central Processing Unit), mouse, connecting cables, motherboard, memory devices, connecting ports, printer, speaker, microphone, and many other input, output, storage, and processing devices.

What is Computer Software?

A software is defined as a set of computer instructions, procedures, and programs that make the computer hardware functional. We may also define the software as a computer’s programming code that is executed by the central processing unit (CPU) of the computer to perform a task.

Therefore, the computer software, represents the program(s) which perform different tasks on a computer system. Where, a computer program is a set of computer instructions that tell the computer hardware what and how a task to be performed. The set of different computer programs is referred to as the computer software.

The computer software can be broadly classified into the following three categories, namely −

  • System Software

  • Application Software

  • Utility Software / Program

A system software is a type of computer software that is designed to make the hardware parts functional and to provide a platform to run other application software. Thus, the system software of computer acts as the interface between the computer hardware and user’s application software. Since a computer system uses the system software to manage itself, for this reason these are named so. A computer system cannot work without the system software. Hence, these are the integral parts of a computer system. Examples of system software are: operating system, language processors, device drivers, etc.

An application Software is one that is specially designed to perform a specific task. The application software are called end-user software because users of the computer use them to perform a task. The application software are quite specific for its functionality and perform the function that they are designed to do. The function performed by an application software depends upon its type and user’s requirement that generally cannot be stated. But, a typical application software performs some common functions like manipulating data and information, inputting data into a file, producing results in desired format, passing instruction to the CPU to perform a task, etc.

The most common examples of application software are: word-processors (like MS-Word, google docs, WordPad), spreadsheets (like MS-Excel, google sheets), presentation tools (PowerPoint, google slides), real-time online communication tools (ex. zoom, google meet), internet browsers (ex. google chrome, safari, Firefox), multimedia tools (video players, photo viewers, music players), etc.

The utility software or programs are the type of application software that helps the system software to perform their functions. Examples of utility software are: anti-virus, file manager, disk defragmenter, etc.

Difference between Computer Hardware and Software

Both hardware and software are crucial parts of a computer system, also they are quite different from each other. The important differences between Hardware and Software are highlighted in the following table −

Parameter Hardware Software
Definition Hardware is a set of physical parts of computers which actually executes the instruction. Software is a program or set of instructions which are to be executed by CPU to do the intended task.
Development Hardware is manufactured in factories. These are manufactured by assembling different electronic devices in a right manner, according to circuit diagram. A software is developed, engineered by software development companies. These are created by writing computer codes using programming languages.
Dependency A hardware cannot do any task with a software instructing it. A software cannot execute if underlying hardware is not present.
Tangible A hardware can be touched being a physical electronic device. Software being digital can be seen but cannot be touched.
Categories Hardware categories: Input Devices, Output Devices, Storage Devices, Internal components of CPU and motherboard. Software categories: Programming Software, Application Software, Operating Systems.
Virus impact Hardware remain unaffected by viruses. Software is affected by virus being primary target.
Digital Transfer A hardware can be only physically transferred. Software can be transferred electronically.
Replacement If hardware gets damaged, it is replaced with new one. If Software get damaged, it is reinstalled.
Programming language Hardware understands only machine language (or binary language). Software can be developed in machine language or assembly language or high-level language.
Reasons of failure Physical factor like dust, moisture, overheating, etc. are responsible for the failure of the computer hardware. Programming errors like syntax error, overloading, code interpretation and execution, etc. are mainly responsible for failure of computer software.
Primary Function Hardware perform a task physically. Software instructs the hardware parts about how to perform a task.
Examples Examples of hardware are: monitor, keyboard. Mouse, cables, motherboard, speaker, printer, memory devices, CPU, etc. Examples of computer software are: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, internet browsers, Photoshop, MS-Access, video player, etc.


The most significant difference that you should note here is that a Hardware is the physical part of the computer that actually performs a task, while a Software is a set of computer instructions and procedures that tells the hardware about how to perform the tasks.

Updated on: 24-Nov-2022

22K+ Views

Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started