What Is the Difference Between Software and Hardware?

Software is a set of instructions that tells the hardware what to do, whereas hardware is the physical component of a computer.  Software is intangible and consists of code. Hardware comprises tangible items such as the computer processor, monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

When most people think of computer-related items, they often think of two things: software and hardware. But what do these terms actually mean? What is the difference between software and hardware?

In this article, we will discuss the definitions of these two terms, as well as the differences between them. We will also explore how they work together to create a functioning computer system.

What is Computer Software?

Computer software is a general term that refers to all the programs and applications that run on a computer. It includes everything from the operating system (OS) to the word processor, spreadsheet, and games you play.

Software is usually stored in one of two places: on the computer’s hard drive or a disc. When you buy a software program, you typically need to download the installation file from the internet. Earlier, they were delivered in physical media such as CDs, DVD, and floppy disk drives. No matter where you get the software from, it needs to be installed and stored on the PC before you can use it.

Software is written in two languages: assembly language or high-level language. Assembly language is a low-level language designed to be easy for computers to understand.

High-level languages are easier for people to read and write, so they are used to writing most software programs. Examples of software are Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and the Windows operating system.

What is Computer Hardware?

Computer hardware refers to the physical parts of a computer system, including the motherboard, CPU, RAM, hard drive, and video card.

Hardware is classified by its type. There can be different types of computer hardware, including the microprocessor, input/output, and storage.

Microprocessors are the brains of a computer system. They perform all the calculations and execute all the instructions that make everything work. Input/output devices allow you to interact with a computer, including the keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Storage devices store all your data and software programs.

Difference Between Software and Hardware

Hardware and Software are two completely different things, but they work together to create a computer system. Let’s see the main differences between software and hardware.


Software is what tells the hardware what to do, and without software, the computer would be useless. It is what makes the computer system work while hardware provides the material structure and elements.

Without Software, a computer would be nothing but an expensive paperweight. With hardware, you can’t do anything without the accompanying Software. They are both essential for a working computer system. 


The Software can be classified into two types which are system software and application software. System software is the type of software that helps run the computer system, while application software is the programs you use, such as a word processor or games.

Hardware can also be classified into four variations which are input device, output device, internal components, and storage. Some examples of hardware that you are familiar with are the keyboard, mouse, monitor, and hard drive.

Storage Location

The Software needs to be stored on the computer’s hard drive or on a disc. Nowadays, they can also be stored in cloud services. Besides, the hardware must be physically installed on the motherboard.


Software is written in either assembly language or high-level language. Hardware is designed only to understand assembly language. However, most software programs are written in high-level languages as they are more accessible for people to read and write.


The purpose of the Software is to provide a way for humans to communicate with the computer. The hardware’s only goal is to provide the physical structure and elements to let the software run efficiently.


Some examples of the software include the operating system, word processor, and games. Examples of hardware include the motherboard, CPU, RAM, hard drive, and video card.


Hardware is typically mass-produced and consists of circuits,  boards, and chips that are put together. They are manufactured by companies such as Dell, HP, Apple, and much more.

On the other hand, software developers create software who may work for a company or be self-employed.


Software is not physically movable as it needs to be installed on the computer’s hard drive. But you can transfer them electronically over the internet by downloading or emailing them to someone. Hardware, on the other hand, is portable and can be carried from one place to another.


The Software can be updated regularly with new features and improvements while the hardware cannot be. The Software must be rewritten every time there is an update to the hardware, which can be costly and time-consuming.


The cost of hardware and Software can vary on a large scale depending on the capability, type, and brand. Software is typically cheaper than hardware, but the cost can go up if you purchase premium applications such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop.

Can Software Run without Hardware?

Software cannot run without hardware. The Software needs the hardware to run, and without it, the computer system will not work. Hardware provides the physical structure and components for the computer system while Software tells the hardware what to do. Both of them are compulsory for a working computer.


In conclusion, Software and hardware are both essential for a working computer system. Without either one of them, your computer will not work correctly. They each have their unique purpose in the running of a functioning machine; however, without one, the other is useless. They need each other equally to function as intended.