What Is the Difference Between Software and Hardware?

Hardware refers to the physical parts of a computer that can be seen and touched, while software is simply a collection of programs, data and procedures that perform various tasks on the computer system. Software can be seen but is not tangible.

Computer hardware can further be categorized into input devices such as scanners, keyboards, mice and microphones, and output devices such as speakers, printers and monitors. Software is further categorized into application software like databases, web browsers, media players and office suits, programming software such as text editors, interpreters and compilers and system software such as operating systems and device drivers. Both the hardware and software components of a computer have to work in tandem to provide computerized functionality.

Sound and video cards, peripheral drives, cameras and gaming input devices are also hardware components. Operating system software, such as Window Vista and Mac OSX, form the invisible brain of the computer. Software applications, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, are stored in the computer’s memory. They perform specific tasks, such as word processing, accounting and record keeping. Applications, such as Firefox, Safari and Chrome, allow users to browse the Internet.