Difference Between Hardware and Software

Both hardware and software are two fundamentals building blocks of computer systems. The significant difference between hardware and software is that hardware is the physical component (device or machine) of a computer system that can be seen or touched. As against, the software is known to be the virtual part of the system that is basically a collection of codes. According to these stored programs operation is performed within the system.

For a computer system to operate hardware and software are required as both show dependency on each other.

What is Computer?

A machine that operates on binary information or data and processes a large amount of data at a very fast rate is defined as Computer. It has mainly two components that constitute a whole system, namely, computer hardware and computer software.

This discussion is all about the difference between two major types of components of computer systems.

Content: Hardware Vs Software

  1. Comparison Chart
  2. Definition
  3. Key Differences
  4. Conclusion

Comparison chart

Basis for ComparisonHardwareSoftware
BasicAll the electrical, electronic, and mechanical parts of the computer system are known as hardware.All the set of instructions and codes stored in memory belongs to software.
FormationIt is manufactured physically.It is developed by Engineers.
CategoriesPeripheral, storage devices and various internal components.System software, application software.
Nature of componentPhysicalVirtual
OperationStarts after proper component configuration.Starts after the programs get installed.
Damage or CorruptionWhen damage occurs, new units are required.When software corrupts, reinstallation of backup or duplicate copies is done.
Malware hindranceNot affected Affected
TangibilityExistNot exist
Failure typeRandomSystematic
Duplicate copiesNot existExist
DurabilityLessComparatively more
TransferabilityIt is impossible to transfer electrically.It can be transferred electrically.
ExampleKeyboard, Mouse, CPU, Hard disk, etc.MS Word, Excel, SQL, Google Chrome, etc.

Definition of Computer Hardware

Computer hardware or simply hardware corresponds to the physical parts of the computer system. The basic hardware of all the computers is almost similar such as CPU, storage units, input and output devices, internal buses, and power supply. The internal components of hardware units are ICs, circuit boards, and other electronic components.

CPU is considered as one of the crucial hardware components and all the stored information is mainly handled by it.

The hard disk is another computer hardware that is a storage device. It is used to hold data, programs, and instructions on which operation is performed. It is quite spacious thus can hold a large amount of data within it. It is an internal storage type of memory from which removal of data is not easy. SD cards and flash drives are two forms of external storage devices.

The peripheral devices i.e., the input and output devices are also important hardware devices. Input devices allow the users to insert data and commands into the computer. Example of such devices is keyboard, mouse, trackball, trackpad, light pens, etc. While through output devices, the processed data can be obtained as output. Examples of these devices are computer monitors, printers, speakers, etc.

compute hardware

However, the operation of hardware depends on software because the tasks that are to be performed are informed by the computer software to the computer hardware.

Definition of Computer Software

Computer software or simply software is not any physical unit but is the collection of various instructions or codes that tells the system what is required to be done with the input data. A set of specified instructions is regarded as a program and various programs constitute software.

A computer system may operate without the installation of a certain type of software. However, in that case, the system becomes unable to give an output of any information and displays an error if the operating system or interpreter is not found. A system with properly installed software facilitates performing additional functionalities.

Major computer software is of two types:

  • System Software: This is responsible for controlling or managing the hardware operations more simply, it manages the internal functioning of the computer system. Through this, the processing functionality of the overall system gets improved. Like operating systems such as Windows, Mac, etc.
  • Application Software: This helps in performing user-specific tasks thus executes commands of the users. Single system software may have multiple application software. Such as MS Word, Adobe Acrobat, Media Player, excel spreadsheets, etc.

Key Differences Between Hardware and Software

  1. Hardware and software are mainly differentiated on the basis of the nature of components. Hardware includes electrical or mechanical units whereas software corresponds to the set of codes that defines the operation to be performed by the hardware.
  2. As hardware is a physical unit thus it requires a proper manufacturing procedure where the inside components are manufactured physically. While software corresponds to a set of instructions that are developed by qualified engineers.
  3. In case of any damage to the hardware component, then the component must have needed to be replaced as no other option exists in this case. Whereas when corruption in software programs is noticed then the reinstallation of the software programs can be done through backups.
  4. Viruses act differently on hardware and software or we can say viruses only affects the software and not the computer hardware. The viruses affect the computer software and the hindrance caused by viruses can be severe sometimes that can lead to corrupting the important files and data. In order to protect the system from malware, antivirus software is installed within the system.
  5. Tangibility is offered by computer hardware as we can see, touch and feel the hardware components while this is not the case with computer software as it exhibits virtual nature hence cannot be touched or sensed physically.
  6. The failure that is caused by hardware components is of random nature. This is so because in the physical units the failure can be due to voltage fluctuation or any sort of cabling issue. On the contrary, in computer software, the failure is the result of systematic errors that are introduced through inaccuracy and the reason for which may be virus attacks or any temporary occurrence of bug (that can be resolved).
  7. Hardware units are present in the normal environment thus the chances of wear and tear with time are more, in this case, than software because it has no relation with the outside world. Due to this reason, hardware is less durable than software.
  8. The formation of duplicate entities of computer hardware is not possible as each individual unit must be manufactured separately. Whereas duplicate copies of computer software can be formed.
  9. Computer hardware starts operation when a properly assembled (configured) unit is connected to a system with adequate necessary supplies. As against, computer system operates efficiently when error-free software programs are installed within it.
  10. Computer hardware is a physical unit thus cannot be electrically transferred from one region to another through a network as it requires a physical motion for getting transferred. On the contrary, software programs offer electrical transferability through a network.


Thus, from this discussion, we can categorize the hardware components as peripheral devices like input and output devices, storage (RAM, ROM), and various internal components. While software programs are mainly categorized as system software and application software.

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