Difference Between Hardware and Software | Simplilearn (2023)

In this technological world, you cannot deny that computers are everywhere and have almost become a requirement for every business. It would be best if you had computers to help you reach out to customers, to help you streamline processes and to help you fulfill orders. You can surely do without it, but your task will become much more complex, and the results would become much less optimal.

Computer hardware and software are the two most essential parts of a computer. Although the processes in both parts are similar, they differ from one another dramatically. You can state plenty of differences between hardware and software. Some unique differences between them are:

  • Hardware is the physical component of a computer system, while software is the collection of code that tells the hardware what to do.
  • Another key difference is that hardware can be touched, and software cannot.
  • Finally, hardware is much more expensive to replace than software.

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What Is Computer Hardware?

  • Computer hardware refers to the physical components of a computer, such as a motherboard, Central Processing Unit (CPU), memory, hard drive, and optical drives.
  • Computer hardware is what makes a computer system function. Without hardware, there would be no way to input data or run programs.

Types of Computer Hardware

There are four main types of computer hardware: input devices, output devices, storage devices, and processing devices.

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  • Input devices include things like keyboards, mice, and scanners.
  • Output devices include things like monitors and printers.
  • Storage devices include things like hard drives and solid-state drives.
  • Processing devices include things like CPUs and GPUs.

What Is Software?

Software is a set of instructions that tell a computer what to do. It can be as simple as a single line of code that tells the computer to perform a specific action, or it can be a complex system with millions of lines of code that run a large organization.

Types of Software

The software can be divided into two categories:

  • System software
  • Application software

System software manages a computer system's hardware and software resources. It includes the operating system, device drivers, utility programs, and other software that enable the functioning of the computer system.

Application software performs specific tasks. It includes word processors, spreadsheets, media players, and other software that enable users to perform particular tasks.

And also, you can state the difference in simple words: system software is the software that helps the computer to run, while application software allows the user to perform a specific task.

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Hardware Vs Software: Key Differences

While both hardware and software are essential, they serve different purposes. Hardware handles the computer's primary function, while the software provides the instructions for more complex tasks. There are many key differences between hardware and software.

  • The most obvious difference is that you can touch and feel hardware but only see and interact with software.
  • Another key difference is that you can use hardware without software, but you cannot use software without hardware. This is because software is a set of instructions that must be run on hardware to work.
  • Hardware is subject to wear and tear; over time, it will break down and need to be replaced. The software does not degrade over time and can be used indefinitely until the software expires.
  • Hardware is also much more expensive than software.
  • Finally, hardware can be upgraded or replaced, but software can only be upgraded or replaced. This is because software depends on hardware, and the software may no longer work if the hardware changes.

Both hardware and software are essential to a functioning computer. Without hardware, there would be no way to run the software. And without software, a computer could not do anything beyond the most basic tasks.

What Is the Main Difference Between Hardware and Software?

The main difference between hardware and software is that hardware is the physical component of a computer system. In contrast, the software is the programs and data that run on those hardware components. Hardware includes the processor, memory, storage, and input/output devices, and the software comprises the operating system, application programs, and data.

Understanding Hardware and Software With an Example

Hardware refers to any physical object, device, or system that contains information or data.

  • Examples of hardware devices are computers, printers, scanners, routers, hard drives, and network cards.

Software refers to any program or set of instructions that run on a computer.

  • Examples of software programs include word processors, spreadsheets, web browsers, games, operating systems, and anti-virus applications. Your computer may have both hardware and software components.

Examples of Hardware

Some essential parts of the computer:

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1. CPU

The CPU is the brain of the computer, and it processes information and executes instructions. CPUs come in different types depending on their function.

2. Memory

Memory is where data and programs are stored. There are two kinds of memory—volatile and non-volatile.

  • Volatile memory loses its contents when the power goes out. Examples of volatile memory include RAM (Random Access Memory) and ROM (Read Only Memory).
  • Non-volatile memory retains its contents even after the power is turned off. Examples of non-volatile memory include flash drives and disk drives.

3. Motherboard

A motherboard connects all the other components of the computer. The motherboard contains slots for expansion cards, sockets for devices such as modems, and connectors for video cards.

4. Hard Drive

Hard drives store files, music, pictures, videos, and other digital content. They connect to the computer via USB, FireWire, or eSATA ports. Hard drives come in several sizes, including 5.25 inches, 3.5 inches, 2.5 inches, and 1.8 inches.

5. Monitor

Monitors display images on a screen. Monitors vary in size, resolution, and price. Flat panel monitors have become popular recently due to their sleek design and low profile.

6. Power Supply

Power supplies convert electricity from AC outlets to DC voltages that run the computer. They also regulate voltage levels and filter noise.

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Examples of Software

There are many different softwares, ranging from simple applications to complex systems. Some common examples of software include operating systems, productivity suites, games, and media players.

  • Operating systems are the most basic type of software and manage a computer's hardware and software resources.
  • Productivity suites are collections of software applications that improve productivity, such as word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation software.
  • Games are a type of software that is designed for entertainment and can include both single-player and multiplayer games.
  • Media players are software applications used for playing audio and video files.
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Many people use the terms hardware and software interchangeably, but it is important to understand that they are not the same thing. Hope this blog helps you understand the difference between hardware and software so that you learn how to use both to support your work or studies. You will be able to make the most of your technology in the future when you know where the limitations of each are.

If you are interested in enhancing your software development skills further, we would highly recommend you check Simplilearn’s Post Graduate Program in Full Stack Web Development. This course, developed in collaboration with Caltech CTME, can help you hone the right skills and become job-ready.

If you have any doubts or questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below. Our team will get back to you with the solutions at the earliest.


What is the difference between the hardware and the software? ›

A computer system is divided into two categories: Hardware and Software. Hardware refers to the physical and visible components of the system such as a monitor, CPU, keyboard and mouse. Software, on the other hand, refers to a set of instructions which enable the hardware to perform a specific set of tasks.

What are three differences of hardware and software? ›

Computer hardware is any physical device used in or with your machine, whereas software is a collection of programming code installed on your computer's hard drive. In other words, hardware is a product you can hold in your hand, whereas software cannot be held in your hand.

What are examples of hardware and software? ›

Examples of hardware are RAM, ROM, Printer, Monitor, Mouse, Hard disk and more. Examples of software are Google Chrome, MySQL, MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Notepad, Photoshop and more.

What are 5 software examples? ›

10 Software Examples
  • macOS.
  • Microsoft Defender.
  • Linux.
  • Windows 11.
  • Windows Disk Cleanup.
  • Google Drive.
  • Todoist.
  • Asana.
Oct 3, 2022

What is software in simple words? ›

Software is a set of instructions, data or programs used to operate computers and execute specific tasks. It is the opposite of hardware, which describes the physical aspects of a computer. Software is a generic term used to refer to applications, scripts and programs that run on a device.

What is an example of a software? ›

A list of some of the most well-known computer software examples includes: Operating systems (such as Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS) Productivity Software (for example, Microsoft Office Suite including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) Internet Browsers (including Firefox, Chrome, and Safari)

What are the 3 types of software? ›

There are different types of software that can run on a computer: system software, utility software, and application software.

What are the 5 examples of hardware? ›

  • Monitor.
  • Motherboard.
  • CPU(Microprocessor.
  • Main memory(RAM)
  • Expansion cards.
  • Power supply unit.
  • Optical disc drive.
  • Hard disk drive (HDD).
Sep 22, 2022

What are the differences and similarities between software and hardware? ›

Software products evolve through multiple releases by adding new features and re-writing existing logic to support the new features. Hardware products consist of physical components that cannot be “refactored” after manufacturing, and cannot add new capabilities that require hardware changes.

What are the 3 types of software and explain? ›

The 3 types of computer software
  • System software. If you think of software as being in layers, the system software is the bottom layer: it sits between the hardware and the application software. ...
  • Utility software. ...
  • Application software.

What are the 3 main types of hardware? ›

Hardware devices can be classified into four distinct categories:
  • Input devices: For raw data input.
  • Processing devices: To process raw data instructions into information.
  • Output devices: To disseminate data and information.
  • Storage devices: For data and information retention.
Jan 12, 2021

What is the difference between hardware and software quizlet? ›

What is the difference between hardware and software? Software refers to a collection of data or computer instructions that tell the computer how to work. Hardware is the set of physical components that make up the system and perform the work.


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