What are the differences between hardware and software?
Computer hardware is any physical device used in or with your machine, whereas software is a collection of code installed onto your computer's hard drive. For example, the computer monitor you are using to read this text and the mouse you are using to navigate this web page are computer hardware. The Internet browser that allowed you to visit this page and the operating system that the browser is running on is considered software.
Further information and examples
All software utilizes at least one hardware device to operate. For example, a video game, which is software, uses the computer processor (CPU), memory (RAM), hard drive, and video card to run. Word processing software uses the computer processor, memory, and hard drive to create and save documents.
Hardware is what makes a computer work. A CPU processes information and that information can be stored in RAM or on a hard drive. A sound card can provide sound to speakers, and a video card can provide an image to a monitor. All of this is hardware.
Can a computer run without software?
In most situations, yes, a computer can run without software being installed. However, if an operating system or interpreter is not found, it either generates an error or doesn't output any information. A computer needs to have at least some type of operating system that allows both the user and software to interact with the computer hardware.
Installing programs onto the computer in addition to an operating system gives the computer additional capabilities. For example, a word processor is not required, but it allows you to create documents and letters.
Can a computer run without hardware?
If any of these devices are missing or malfunctioning, an error is encountered, or the computer will not start. Adding hardware such as a disc drive (e.g., CD-ROM or DVD), modem, mouse, network card, printer, sound card, or speakers are not required, but give the computer additional functionality.
Tip: Hardware that is not required by the computer is referred to as a peripheral.
- How can I learn more about computers?
- See the software and hardware definitions for further information and related terms.
- See the hardware listing and software listing for a complete listing of hardware devices and software programs currently found on Computer Hope.
- Computer hardware help and support.
- Computer software help and support.