The difference between software and hardware is that they have an intangible and tangible character respectively.
Although both concepts need each other, they are completely different. On the one hand, the software needs the hardware to be able to execute any type of program. And, on the other hand, the hardware needs the software to be able to use any of its physical parts.
That is, a computer or a smartphone is useless if we cannot interact with it with an operating system such as Android or iOS. In the same way, it is useless to buy either of the two operating systems if we cannot host it on a physical device.
Metaphorically we could say that the software is the muscles of the human body and the hardware the bones, so they need each other.
Main differences between software and hardware
Each of the differences between software and hardware will be explained below:
- The first difference comes from the definition of each one, since on the one hand the hardware consists of that group of physical parts of a device and on the other hand the software consists of a group of lines of code that make up one or more programs.
- Second we have the forms of interaction. While one interacts physically with the hardware directly, with the software one interacts indirectly through the hardware itself.
- In third place we find that in order to have the latest version or the latest generation hardware, parts must be replaced and even a totally new device must be obtained. This is not so much the case with software, since no physical changes are necessary to get updates unless the hardware does not meet the minimum requirements to run the programs.
- With regard to profession, there are two very different figures. So much so that it leads to two different university degrees. On the one hand, there is the university degree in computer engineering, which mostly deals with the section on computer hardware or computers at a very advanced level, while the software is merely testimonial. On the other hand, there is the university degree in software engineering, which focuses on subjects related to the different codes and ways of programming, whether on mobile, PC or tablet, among other devices.
- In another order of factors, while the hardware can become obsolete, break, or damage, the software can only become obsolete if it is not updated. Therefore, in terms of accounting depreciation, hardware has a finite life while software does not necessarily have it.
And these are the five big differences between software and hardware. Although there may be more differences in a specific way, in a general way and covering both terms almost completely, these differences are the most notable to highlight.
Examples and comparison
Some examples that we can highlight in order to differentiate both terms are:
- Screen vs Netflix app. Although the screen is the hardware, the Netflix app works in this case as the software program that allows us to see through the screen, whether on a mobile phone, PC or TV. Both are necessary to each other.
- Camera vs Skype. The difference in this case is also that although both terms can collaborate with each other, the camera is the physical part of the device that allows the Skype software to emit images or videos.
- Microprocessor vs Windows 10 Home. More of the same, but with a difference. Although the operating system is necessary as the ‘soft part’ (or software) of the device, the microprocessor is not only linked to this type of software, but is the main axis at the physical level of the entire device.
- Graphics card vs video game. Finally, it remains to analyze the example in which they do not have to be necessary to each other. If we understand a graphics card as an external one, as a physical part it is fundamental in the world of video games. It may be the occasion that sometimes the power of the microprocessor together with the integrated card are able to deal with certain video games. So the more demanding the video game, the more power the graphics card must have.
These examples cover much of the differences between hardware and software that can work with each other. We must not forget that although both terms are different, they need each other for a device to function properly.