Hardware vs Firmware: Difference and Comparison

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

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.

Key Takeaways

  1. Hardware refers to the physical components of a computer system, such as the CPU, motherboard, and peripherals.
  2. Firmware refers to the software permanently stored on a computer hardware component, such as the BIOS or router firmware.
  3. Hardware is tangible and can be physically touched, while the firmware is intangible and exists as a set of instructions that control the hardware.

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 current when we use a computer. Hardware is a different part, and firmware is an inbuilt segment of a device inside the machine. Hardware’s performance partially depends 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 that is physically present when we use a computer and can be touched, felt and seen by us. It includes computer parts such as a keyboard, mouse, Central Processing Unit (CPU), speakers etc.

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

Firmware is a feature programmed in hardware that comes in the form 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 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
DefinitionHardware is a computer segment that can be seen, touched and felt by humans and present externally. Firmware is a segment that can’t be seen, touched and felt by humans but is present virtually in a device.
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, a hardware upgrade comes.

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

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

External hardware includes a 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 into integrated circuits marked computer hardware’s onset. “The computer’s father, ” Charles Babbage, first initiated and invented hardware.

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

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 were solved by computers, which were not completely ready, but when everybody started to realize 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 particular device that is virtually present and functions virtually with other features. 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).

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

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

A firmware upgrade, like a hardware upgrade, is meant to fix the existing issues in firmware and improve its effectiveness 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 and memory devices that retain their data when the power is closed, such as ROM, flash memory, EEPROM etc.

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

The CPU (Central processing unit) in computers presents instructions in that microcode. The term “firmware” was derived because of its existence between hardware and software.

Firmware has several appliances apart from its devices 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 current 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 more accessible and less expensive.
  3. Firmware is vulnerable to the virus. On the other hand, hardware is affected by the virus only when software or firmware is affected.
  4. Hardware is replaceable. On the other hand, firmware is neither replaceable nor can 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

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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10 thoughts on “Hardware vs Firmware: Difference and Comparison”

  1. While the information provided is useful, the comparison between hardware and firmware could have included more detailed examples to enhance clarity.

  2. The explanation of hardware and firmware is well-articulated and easy to understand. The importance of hardware upgrades and the security risks associated with firmware are well addressed.

  3. An engaging and comprehensive overview of hardware and firmware in computers. The article effectively communicates the significance of these components in technological advancements.

  4. Great in-depth explanation of the differences and uses of hardware and firmware in computers. This article provides an excellent understanding of these essential components.

  5. The article provides an insightful comparison between hardware and firmware, shedding light on their distinct characteristics and origins. The in-depth exploration is commendable.

  6. I appreciate the detailed explanation of hardware and firmware, as well as their respective functions. The historical background adds depth to the understanding of these components.

  7. While the historical context of hardware and firmware is intriguing, the article could have delved deeper into the impact of modern developments on the functionality of these components.

  8. This article provides a concise and clear definition of hardware and firmware. I appreciate the historical context and evolution of computer hardware described here.

  9. This article presents a comprehensive analysis of hardware and firmware, highlighting their evolution and functions. The emphasis on the transformative nature of technological advancements is thought-provoking.

  10. I found this article to be very informative and well-structured. The comparison table is particularly helpful in distinguishing between hardware and firmware.

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