Computer Hardware & Software: 8 Differences

What are the differences between computer hardware and software? Every PC has two main parts on the elementary level, hardware, and software. But a computer isn’t just a mouse, keyboard and CPU or the operating interface solely.

Both the hardware and software components of your PC are necessary for its working. When either of the ones is absent, you won’t be able to use some of the functions of the PC, or in the worst-case scenario, the PC won’t run at all.

Both are thus interdependent. But how could you differentiate between the two? Let us give our computer lessons a revision and find out.


  • Hardware is created in a factory by using elements that you will usually be able to find in a periodic table but software is created by a programmer with a set of instructions or algorithms.
  • Hardware has a physical form and is usually placed on the motherboard of a computer which, by itself, is a hardware item but software is virtual and does not have any physical shape.
  • Software is more susceptible to virus attack than hardware and therefore needs a backup, which is not possible with hardware.

8 Differences Between Computer Hardware and Software

Differences Between Computer Hardware and Software

Now that you know what these two are, it is time to know the differences:

1. Creation

The simplest difference between hardware and software is how each is created. Any piece of hardware is manufactured, in a factory or an area of production, using various elements you would see on the periodic table.

Any sort of software is created by a developer or a programmer who provides an algorithm or an instruction set to the software. You cannot just build it like hardware and it needs special knowledge of computer engineering.

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2. Form of existence

Every hardware of a computer is placed on or outside the motherboard, which itself is hardware. Thus, every hardware has some kind of a solid physical form or appearance.

Software, on the other hand, doesn’t have a fixed form. It is entirely virtual and we can only imagine it to be round, square, or even an irregular shape.

3. Physicality

Owing to its physical form, and hardware can be seen and touched, while a software or the coding therein cannot be seen or touched.

Whatever is displayed on the screen is some kind of a representation that is also designed by the developer.

4. Classification

The broad classification of computer hardware can be as follows:

  • Storage devices: The storage device can be further divided into two types:
  1. Primary storage: This is the ROM (read only memory) or RAM where data is stored for the use of the CPU.
  2. Secondary storage: Every computer needs a considerable amount of storage, be it a hard drive or an SSD which are exactly what a secondary storage unit is.
  • Input devices:  The input devices as their name suggests are the devices that help you to provide raw input for the computer to process, like the keyboard.
  • Output devices: The output devices are those through which your PC shows you the results relevant to those outputs, like a monitor.
  • Processing Unit: This is the most important part that does all the processing. The processor or CPU also lies in the motherboard along with many other components.

Then there is the software which is also of two main types:

  • Application Software: This is the kind of software responsible for running different programs on a computer system. A few of these aren’t necessary for one to use a computer, but everyone has a set of software that he uses daily. This varies from one user to the other.
  • System Software: This refers to the operating system and the necessary programs that also provide you with the basic functionality like turning your computer on or off. Without the system software, there isn’t a system, and without a system inside there isn’t a computer. All other application software runs on the system software.
  • Programming software: Any software is created with the help of other software whose function is specifically to create such software. This software, known as the programming software, acts as tools to design the other two kinds of software or various coding purposes. Python, C++ and Java are a few of these.
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5. Virus Attack

The hardware is a physical entity that isn’t bothered by the presence of any virus or its attacks. Sure you might have seen in the movies where a virus controls machines and hardware, but that is simply a fantasy and not possible in the real world.

But that is most definitely not the case for a software. It can be damaged, corrupted, and even hacked by some virus. Any of these situations aren’t desirable for you. Check out ways to stay secure online.

6. Backup

Hardware being a physical entity cannot be backed up. That is, you cannot back up your mouse into some other mouse. Once it gets damaged beyond repairs or usage, you will have to replace it entirely.

Software is just like data, and hence can be backed up into some other storage device.

7. Mobility

Both hardware and software can be moved from one place to the other, but carrying some hardware can be difficult, a monitor for instance. It isn’t possible to carry around a monitor everywhere you go, and this is one of the reasons why laptops were invented.

The software can be easily carried as there are portable storage devices of all sizes and kinds that allow you to carry software in your pocket or a bag, like a USB drive or a hard disk. You just need to have enough space in the device.

8. Damage

In case some hardware in your PC has been damaged, you can replace it with a new one or repair it. Unless it contains some data or is a storage device, it won’t bother any software.

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The software can also be replaced, but you would have to re-install it.


Computer hardware and software are both essential components of a computer, and the absence of either one would result in the computer not functioning properly or not at all.

While hardware is manufactured in a factory using various elements found on the periodic table and has a physical form, software is created by a programmer and is entirely virtual.

Hardware cannot be backed up or damaged by a virus, but software can be backed up and is more susceptible to virus attacks.

Both hardware and software can be moved from one place to another, but hardware can be difficult to carry.

Finally, damaged hardware can be replaced, and software can be re-installed.

About Puja Chatterjee

Puja ChatterjeePuja Chatterjee is a technical writer with extensive knowledge about computers. She graduated from BIMS. Her expertise includes technology writing and client relationship management gained through over 12 years of experience. Follow Her at Linkedin.

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