Hardware and software make up the two main categories of a computer system. For a computer to function effectively, both are required. Although you may have heard these two terms used interchangeably, there are some significant distinctions between them. Are you among the many people unsure how to properly use these terms? A lot is happening within your computer, so understanding what is considered hardware or software is important. Read on to learn more about the definitions, differences, and applications of hardware and software.1,2 

What Does Hardware Mean?

Computer hardware is any component that humans can physically touch, and these are the main electronic components that go into making a computer. The processor, monitor, memory devices, printer, mouse, keyboard, and central processing unit are a few examples of hardware in a computer.3

What Does Software Mean?

Software is a set of protocols, guidelines, and documentation that provide computers with clear instructions on what to do or enable users to communicate with computers. A computer processor executes computer software created using a variety of programming languages. Google Chrome™ browser, Microsoft® Word, Microsoft® PowerPoint, Microsoft® Excel, and MySQL® are a few examples of software.4 

Hardware vs Software: Important Distinctions.

The most significant differences between hardware and software are listed below. 2,5,6,7

  • While software is a set of instructions that enables the user to interact with the hardware to carry out a specific operation, hardware is a physical device necessary to store and execute the program.
  • In contrast to software, which is designed and engineered, hardware is manufactured.
  • While software is developed using a computer language to write instructions, hardware is created using electronic and other materials.
  • As a physical, electronic object, hardware can be seen and touched. Although the software may be seen, it cannot be touched because it is a virtual object.
  • While software can be electronically transmitted from one location to another through a network, hardware cannot.
  • Software does not degrade over time in terms of endurance, despite the fact that it may have defects and errors, whereas hardware frequently does.
  • Computer viruses cannot destroy hardware, but they can damage software on a computer.
  • Software can be separated into system and application software, while hardware is segmented into input, output, storage, and external components.
  • Machine-level tasks are performed by hardware devices, whereas software is employed to specify the type of work that particular hardware should perform.
  • Hardware failures are frequently caused by dust, overheating, and other tangible issues, however, software failures are typically caused by overloading, systematic error, and other intangible factors.

The bottom line is that it takes two to tango because you wouldn’t want a computer without a monitor or your favorite program, would you? Even though these are some significant distinctions, operating a computer effectively necessitates the collaboration of both hardware and software.

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  1. Computer hardware and software. – Abstract – Europe PMC. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://europepmc.org/article/med/7055137 
  2. (PDF) Ontological distinctions between hardware and software. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314128243_Ontological_distinctions_between_hardware_and_software 
  3. Computer hardware | Electrical and Computer Engineering | University of Waterloo. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://uwaterloo.ca/electrical-computer-engineering/research/areas-research/computer-hardware 
  4. Computer Software – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/computer-software 
  5. Hardware vs Software – Difference and Comparison | Diffen. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://www.diffen.com/difference/Hardware_vs_Software 
  6. Topic B: Computer hardware and software – Key Concepts of Computer Studies. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://opentextbc.ca/computerstudies/chapter/computer-hardware-and-software/ 
  7. Difference Between Hardware and Software – Pediaa.Com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://pediaa.com/difference-between-hardware-and-software/