Difference between Hardware and Software + Short Quiz

Updated Feb 14, 2023.
Difference between Hardware and Software

A computer is made up of Hardware and Software. 

What is the difference between Hardware and Software?

Hardware represents physical components, whereas software is a set of computer programs used to execute specific tasks. 

They rely on each other to perform tasks like browsing the internet, watching movies, playing video games, and more. Let’s learn the key differences and know how they make up modern computers, tablets, smartphones, and other electronic devices.

Remember to test your understanding with our short quiz!

What is Computer Hardware in Simple Terms?

Hardware includes tangible electronic components that are used for computer assembly. Physical components like a computer’s hard drive, motherboard, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and storage devices are examples of computer hardware.

When it comes to a computer or an electronic device, the hardware comes first because it serves as the base where software/programming codes are written, stored, and executed. The software provides instructions to a hardware device to perform certain tasks and display the output.

Some of the hardware components include input devices, output devices, and internal components.

1. Input Devices

Users can interact with such hardware components to give specific instructions to the computer. Your keyboard, mouse, microphone, and even the webcam are examples of computer input devices. They provide data and signals to the computer in the machine-understandable code.

2. Output Devices

These are simple devices used for displaying the desired output to the users. A computer monitor is an excellent example of an output device. A few other examples are printers, speakers, headphones, and more. They convert machine code into human languages.

3. Internal Components

Unlike input and output devices, these parts of the computer are invisible to users. Most of the time, they are inside the PC case. Examples of internal components in a computer are the Motherboard, Hard-drive, RAM (Random Access Memory), GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), and CPU (Central Processing Unit). Internal components such as computer processor (CPU) and motherboard are essential to running the operating system and other programs.

A computer cannot function without hardware because it is vital for storing data, sending specific instructions, displaying output in human-readable form, and more. 

What is Computer Software in Simple Words?

Software is a set of instructions given to the computer to perform specific tasks. It can be a collection of data, documents, or procedures compiled by the developer. Computers need software in order to execute desired tasks. 

For example, suppose you wish to write a document; Microsoft Word contains the needed instructions to create and edit the document. A word processor is computer software that allows you to input, edit, and format text. It also allows you to save documents and transfer them electronically.

Software is created using programming languages and goes through compiling and debugging.

Let’s discuss two main categories: System Software and Application Software. We will take a quick look at them and try to understand their role in the functioning of a computer.

1. System Software

It is the core program that is preinstalled on the computer. System software generates the initial dashboard or user interface with which operators can interact and give further instructions to perform a specific task. Your computer’s Windows or macOS operating system is an example of system software. Computers require system software to execute basic-level tasks, and it serves as a platform for application software.

2. Application Software

Apart from system tasks, computers can perform a nearly infinite number of actions. We need separate application software for each such task. For example, an internet browser like Google Chrome or Safari is needed for web surfing. Most of the application softwares need to be purchased and installed separately.

The software cannot function without the hardware. This is because they are interdependent and work in tandem with each other. For example, to run a game on your computer, it is recommended to have a high-end GPU and a minimum RAM of 4GB.

Software vs. Hardware: What are the Differences?

DefinitionIt represents the physical device or component used for building the computer.It is a set of instructions given to the computer to accomplish desired outputs.
TangibilityAll of the hardware can be touched. Few electronic components are embedded inside the computer case.Softwares cannot be touched. They are seen through the monitor. You can interact with them using input devices.
TypesHardware can be divided into three categories: input devices, output devices, and internal components.Two main software categories: System software and Application software.
MakingHardwares are electronic and mechanical devices that the factories manufacture.Hardware engineers mainly design them.Software is written by developers who understand programming languages such as C, C++, Java, SQL,  Python, PHP, and more.
Interpretation of machine-level languageHardware is capable of interpreting machine-level languages. However, it cannot read direct human inputs.Software is versatile; it understands machine-level languages and can convert human-readable inputs into machine-level languages.
FailureAs an electronic component, hardware is subjected to physical breakdown and wearout due to moisture, dust, and overheating.Viruses are the main reason behind software failure. Sometimes they suffer sudden crashes or lag due to overloading.
RecoveryIn case of damage, hardware needs to be replaced with a new part or component.On the other hand, the software needs to be recovered using the previous version or data backup.
Long-term useHardware is damaged by long-term usage. It wears out over time.Software is subjected to bugs and glitches over time.
TransportDue to its physical nature, hardware cannot be transferred electronically from one place to another.Software is transferred electronically between various computers and electronic devices.
DependencyHardware cannot function alone without instructions from the software.Software cannot perform any task without help from the hardware.
ExamplesHardware includes CPU, Motherboard, GPU, RAM, Hard-drive, Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor, Printer, Webcam, Headphones, Power Supply, and more.Software includes Operating System, Internet Explorer, Paint, Microsoft Word, My Computer, Calculator, and more.

Even basic-level tasks like installing programs such as MS Word to create documents require hardware and software support. The software tells the hardware to execute a series of instructions stored in memory devices to complete the given task and display the desired output.

Hardware and software are both integral parts of the computer.


Can a computer run without hardware?

It depends. Hardware includes a few essential physical components like CPU, RAM, and GPU. The computer will not function without them. However, there are optional hardwares, such as a video card or webcam, without which desktops can work properly.

Can a computer run without software?

As stated earlier, both hardware and software are essential for computer functioning. A computer won’t be able to perform any tasks without system software like an operating system. However, application software, such as MS Word, Google Chrome, and Skype, is not required for computer functioning. You can install such programs if you need them.

Quiz to Better Understand the Difference between Hardware and Software

A computer requires ______ to function and execute the desired task.

We can touch computer _____

Mouse and keyboard are the examples of

Which of the following statements is/are true?

The Windows operating system is an example of

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Martin Luenendonk

Editor at FounderJar

Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.