Hardware vs. Software

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What’s the Difference Between Hardware and Software?

Image of two boxersThis may sound stupid to most techies, but if you are not a geek or are new to computers it is a very good question.

This article discusses the difference between hardware and software and why you need to know this before you can begin to fully understand computers.

Which came first, hardware or software?

This is a rather difficult question, seeing as how hardware doesn’t do much of anything without having software installed on it, and software can’t do what it is programmed to do without the hardware to host it. So, what exactly is the difference between hardware and software, and why are their functions so different?


Hardware is defined as a device with the task of storing and running installed software. The hardware is the physical piece of machinery, such as the hard-drive, mouse and keyboard, video and graphics cards. These devices serve as the host system for the software. Hardware is changed far less often than software.

The reason it is called “hardware” is because the physical device is not readily created, modified or erased on the CPU. These devices are hard put and usually consist of wiring and solder to hold them in place. Everything about the name speaks to what the devices are like; hard wired, hard to make, hard to install and hard coded with instruction.

The easiest way to think of hardware, is that it is the part of the computer that you can physically touch.


On the completely opposite hand, software is the program aspect of the computer. It cannot be physically touched and is easily created, wiped out and replaced in an instance. Software is the programs that allows you to perform the specific task you need to complete, such as typing a letter or viewing a video clip.

Software holds the collection of instructions that enables users to issue a set of commands and have the computer respond with a certain result. Programs are examples of software, like Microsoft Word, or PowerPoint, also, Adobe Photoshop, Skype, and even your your web browser which you use to get on the Internet.

 Basically, anything that you can point and click at on your screen is tied to some type of software.

Hardware and Software Must Work Together

It is only when hardware and software come together, that things begin to happen. Without either of the two, you have an expensive paperweight or a group of coding that cannot live up to its purpose because there is no host to help display the outputs.

Software makes it possible for hardware to work and the user to interact with the software. For example, it is software that runs the mouse programming, which allows the mouse hardware to click on and interact with the software on the computer.

Software developers cannot show off their skills and talents without the hardware developers keeping up with the latest and greatest improvements. It is an ever-changing reality that pulls one behind the other. Hardware becomes useless if it out-paces software and vice-versa.   Only until the two entities start working together, can any lasting improvements be made and advancements can be covered in leaps and bounds.

 So, in the world of which came first, it doesn’t matter since one is completely useless without the other.

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