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, mouse 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.


In a computer, 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.

On that same computer, software can be installed and allow a person to interact with the hardware. An operating system, like Windows or Mac OS, is software. It provides a graphical interface for people to use the computer and other software on the computer. A person can create documents and pictures using software.

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 on the computer, it either generates an error or doesn’t output any information. 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?

This depends on the hardware. Most computers require at least a display, hard drive, keyboard, memory, motherboard, processor, power supply, and video card to function properly. 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.