Difference Between Hardware and Firmware

In this technologically advanced world, we are all familiar with several inventions that have made our daily chores easy and time-saving. One of the many great inventions in the world of technology has to be computers.


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Computers have several parts and features which have their independent functions in the altogether working of a computer. Two of those many features/parts are 1. Hardware 2. Firmware.

Hardware vs Firmware

The difference between hardware and firmware is that hardware is physically present when we use a computer. On the other hand, firmware is virtually present when we use a computer. Hardware is a different part itself, and firmware is an inbuilt segment of a device that is present inside the device. Hardware’s performance is partially dependent on firmware and software’s condition, whereas firmware is an independent segment.

Hardware vs Firmware

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Hardware is that segment of the computer which is physically present when we use a computer and which can be touched, felt and seen by us. It includes computer parts such as keyboard, mouse, Central Processing Unit (CPU), speakers etc.

Hardware can be upgraded after indefinite intervals of time depending on the number of additional features that are to be upgraded.

A firmware is a feature that is programmed in hardware that comes in the form of a set of instructions. It is included in several devices such as computers, washing machines, televisions, routers, switches etc.

They have security risks such as firmware hacking, but they can be managed with certain amendments. The abbreviation used for firmware is “FW”.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonHardwareFirmware
Invented byCharles BabbageAscher Opler
Invented in the yearThe 1960s1967
DefinitionA computer segment that can be seen, touched and felt by humans and present externally is called hardware. A segment that can’t be seen, touched and felt by humans but is present virtually in a device is called firmware.
ExamplesKeyboard, mouse, speakers, motherboard, Central Processing Unit (CPU), modem, network card, drive, joystick, printer, projector, earphones, headphones, monitor, cablesRAM, BIOS, core rope memory, open filer NAS operating system, proprietary firmware,

What is Hardware?

Hardware is durable equipment that has its independent function in the harmonic working of a device. It has two subtypes, namely internal hardware and external hardware. Whenever a more advanced or new feature is to be added to hardware, there comes a hardware upgrade.

Hardware upgrade’s primary motive is to increase the performance of the device and keep it up to date. It is the buyer’s choice to buy hardware independently or to buy hardware that comes along with the device ready-made.

A computer is included most commonly with hardware such as motherboard, CPU (Central processing unit), mouse, cables, modem, hard drive, network card, sound card, video card, keyboard, speakers, monitor etc.

Examples of external hardware are joystick, microphone, keyboard, printer, projector, mouse, monitor, scanner etc. Examples of internal hardware are CPU (Central processing unit), drive, network card, modem, power supply, sound card etc.

In the 1960s, the transformation of vacuum tubes to integrated circuits marked the onset of computer hardware. “The father of the computer” Charles Babbage first initiated and invented hardware.

The timeline of the evolution of the computer hardware and its several other parts began in 1958, and today, after so many efforts put in by the world’s several intellects, we can use supercomputers as well.

The fundamental aim behind the invention of computers and computer hardware was to ease daily activities and improve efficiency.

Initially, complex mathematical problems and every query related to them was solved by the computers which were not completely ready, but when everybody started to realize the fact that if it is modified correctly, it can be used to create a less pressurizing atmosphere in several workplaces and several fields.

Once it was brought to notice, several efforts were made to improve the efficiency of the machinery used to make them.


What is Firmware?

Firmware is that part of a certain device that is virtually present and functions virtually with other parts of the device. It is a segment that is not visible, touched or felt by humans physically. It is a form of stored data device’s ROM (read-only memory).

A firmware is a set of instructions that are provided to a device to work accordingly—Ascher Opler, in his article for the first time, mentioned “firmware” in the year 1967.

Firmware is an inbuilt feature present in a device whether or not it is working. It can’t be deleted by a user and is permanently stored in the device.

A firmware upgrade like the hardware upgrade is meant to fix the existing issues in firmware and improve the effectiveness of it by adding more features and keeping it up to date. A device is controllable because of the presence of firmware in it.

Several devices such as embedded systems, electronic devices, appliances and computers have firmware in them and memory devices that retain their data when the power is closed, such as ROM, flash memory, EEPROM etc.

A personal computer consists of a firmware called BIOS. Some firmware appliances included semiconductor diodes before the usage of integrated circuits. Firmware consists of microcode that enables us to control the device in which it is present.

Instructions present in that microcode are presented by the CPU (Central processing unit) in computers. The term “firmware” was derived because of its existence between hardware and software.

Firmware has several appliances apart from its appliances in computers such as firmware present is a microwave oven, television remote etc.


Main Differences Between Hardware and Firmware

  1. Hardware is physically present and can be touched and seen by humans. On the other hand, firmware is virtually present and can not be seen or touched by humans.
  2. When hardware is to be upgraded, the entire part is supposed to be replaced with another more advanced and comparatively more costly part. On the other hand, firmware upgrade takes place in the device itself and is easier and less costly.
  3. Firmware is vulnerable to the virus. On the other hand, hardware is affected by the virus only when software or firmware is affected by the virus.
  4. Hardware is replaceable. On the other hand, firmware is neither replaceable nor can it be deleted.
  5. The word “hardware” has an etymology that means “hard”- small metal, ” ware”- goods, objects. On the other hand, the word “firmware” means permanent software programmed in a device.
Difference Between Hardware and Firmware
  1. https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/1217196.1217198
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=wUecAQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP2&dq=computer+hardware&ots=mrZAE0kK1N&sig=MvhJjoV__R9mtFIKWXoq9Tk01hc
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