What's the Difference Between Computer Hardware and Software?

As technology continues to expand rapidly in the modern world, the vast array of capabilities, concepts, features, and basic ideas become confusing for anyone who is not in the tech field. Some of the most core functions and components of these technological marvels are often little understood, and are not fully comprehended for the capabilities each one may provide.

One thing that everyone should be informed on in the digital age is the differences between a computer’s hardware and software. Although the names provide little relevance to the actual traits of each component, they become more relevant upon analyzing the specific aspects that each one encompasses. Here are some of the primary differences between a computer’s hardware and software:


The term hardware refers to the tangible, physical components that go into building a computer or laptop. This can include things such as the monitor, motherboard, hard drive, and other ‘hard’ material items that come together to comprise of a fully built computer. The hardware of a computer is crucial because without it, there would not be a computer in the first place.

The hardware is also responsible for many of the functions and capacities that we look for in a computer when we are in the market to purchase one. Things like the RAM storage space or internal processor that are used in building the computer determine the speed and strength of the machine being built. For example, the more robust the RAM cards that are used in the machine, the faster and more stable a computer will operate. If the speakers and sound quality that comes out of your computer are important for you, these are hardware components, and the more advanced ones will evidently provide a more crisp and enjoyable sound.


When understanding the concept of software, it can be summed up in the idea of the programs and functionalities that allow your computer to perform the functions you want. Acting as the opposite to hardware components, software is intangible and is not in the form of material. Rather, software encompasses the vast collections of code that are worked together to formulate a specific application that can then be installed on various machines.

For example, many people have a preference of their favorite operating system. Some people prefer MacOS as featured on Apple’s laptops and computers, others may prefer the Windows system that Microsoft implements. These operating systems are both different types of software that can be implemented onto a computer after the hardware has been pieced together to build it. Other examples of software include programs like Microsoft Office, internet browsers such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, or any other non-tangible functionality of the computer that is embedded in the digital sphere.

Although the technological age is moving faster than ever before, staying up to date on the innovations and trends can be made more simple if the terminology is understood. Something as foundational as differences between software and hardware is necessary for everyone to understand, so as to make more coherent and informed decisions when purchasing a gadget or device.