Difference between System software and Application software

Computer software is a set of instructions or programs instructing the computer to do specific tasks. Software is basically a generic term used to describe computer programs. In general, scripts, applications, programs and a set of instructions are all terms often used to describe a software.

On the basis of language in which software is developed and platform which is required for its execution, we can group different types of software into two categories: System Software and Application Software. Read through this article to find out more about System Software and Application Software and how they are different from each other.

What is a System Software?

Those computer software that control and monitor the computer hardware and provide essential functionality to the computer are called system software. Therefore, system software are essential parts of a computer, which means a computer cannot perform its functions without system software. System software are entirely responsible for creating an interface between the computer’s user and computer hardware.

System software are the system-side computer programs that are required for the working of the computer itself, although the user of the computer does not need to know about the functionality of system software while using the computer. Examples of system software include: operating systems, device drivers, language processors, etc.

What is an Application Software?

A computer software which is developed to perform a specific function is known as an application software. Application software are also called end-user software because they are designed to use by users of the computer.

An application software may be a set of computer programs or a single computer program. These software provide the required functionality for a specific purpose. Thus, a computer user uses these software to accomplish a specific task.

The different types of application software can be developed to accomplish different tasks such as word processing, playing multimedia files, database applications, spreadsheets, accounting, graphic designing, etc. The most common examples of application software are: MS-Word, Excel, PowerPoint, browsers, video editors, etc.

Difference between System Software and Application Software

Both system software and application software are essentially required for using the computer. But they are completely different from each other in many aspects like programing languages, purposes, development processes, etc. The important differences between a system software and an application software are listed in the following table −

Parameter System Software Application Software
Definition System Software is the type of software which is the interface between application software and system. Application Software is the type of software which runs as per user request. It runs on the platform which is provide by system software.
Development Language In general, System software are developed using low-level language which is more compatible with the system hardware in order to interact with. In case of Application software, high level language is used for their development as they are developed as some specific purpose software.
Necessity System software are essential for operating the computer hardware. Without these software, a computer even may not start or function properly. Application software are not essential for the operation of the computer. These are installed as per the user’s requirements.
Usage System software is used for operating computer hardware. Application software is used by user to perform specific task.
Installation System software are installed on the computer when operating system is installed. Application software are installed according to user’s requirements.
User interaction System software are specific to system hardware, so less or no user interaction available in case of system software. Users can interact with an application software with the help of a User Interface (UI).
Dependency System software can run independently. It provides platform for running application software. An application software cannot run independently. It cannot run without the presence of system software.
Examples Examples of system software include operating systems, compilers, assemblers, debuggers, drivers, etc. Examples of application software include word processors, web browsers, media players, etc.


The most significant difference between a system software and an application software is that a system software operates on the machine-side and is essential for operating the computer hardware, while an application software operates on the user-side and performs a specific task as per the user’s instructions.