System software is the main operating system that keeps a computer running. Application software runs independent from but using the operating system and performs specific functions.
Operating System Software
The operating system is the most familiar type of system software. It's the software that performs all of the essential tasks needed to run a computer and execute the applications. All application software must communicate with the operating system to function properly. Examples of operating systems include Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and Unix. The operating system is responsible for managing jobs and tasks within the computer. It also manages files and drivers within the system. Without the system software of the operating system, a computer would not function.
Other Types of System Software
In order for the operating system to operate efficiently, it must communicate and work with other types of system software. Drivers are a type of system software that supports all of the peripheral devices like DVD players, USB ports, keyboards and mice. The drivers help translate the language of the operating system into a language that the peripheral devices understand. The basic input/output system (BIOS) is what boots up a computer and acts as an interface between the drivers and devices. The database management system is another type of system software that helps the internal components of a computer operate. This includes storage, security and communication of various databases and exists in either a mainframe or a server file. Examples of database management systems include Oracle and SQL Server.
External Application Software
Application software is different from system software because it doesn't come as a necessary component of the operating system. Some application software may come pre-installed on a new computer system, but it's not software that's necessary for the computer to function like system software; these are simply additional programs. Examples of application software are Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Real Player, Adobe Photoshop and Outlook.
Multimedia application software has grown in popularity with the introduction of smartphones and applications. Web-based applications are a popular type of application software because they can be accessed by anyone from anywhere in the world. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn allow users from all over to connect for business and personal reasons without needing to be in the same office building or even on the same continent.
Dangerous Application Software
With Web-based application software comes risks and warnings. Unlike external application software that's purchased in bundles and installed separately on to a computer system, anyone has access to Web-based applications. Dangerous types of application software include malware, spyware and adware. These applications can cause a computer to become infected with viruses or Trojan horses, which can cause the operating system to crash. Adware and spyware will track users and sites visited to create targeted pop-up ads and can cause operating systems to run slowly.
The main difference between system software and application software is that system software does not need application software in order to run efficiently but application software does need system software to run efficiently. If system software becomes infected with dangerous application software, it will affect the entire computer and can cause the whole system to crash beyond repair.