Difference Between Software and Firmware (With Table)

The world is becoming digital day by day, and most of the work is done on computer nowadays. Therefore it is very important to know about it. Hardware and Software are the most common among these. Differentiating between them is very easy as the physical part is the hardware, whereas the part which is not physical, such as the processor, is the Software. But the difficulty arises when differentiation has to be done in something such as Software and Firmware.

Software vs Firmware

The difference between Software and Firmware is that the Software is instructions provided to the instructor, whereas Firmware is also a type of Software that is used to control the hardware. Firmware is Software that is changed very rarely, but the Software is not Firmware and can be changed constantly.

Software is a set of instructions that helps and guides the user. It provides data or programs that are necessary to execute the tasks on the computer. It is also known as a program that generally runs on a device. It is considered the variable part of the device.

Firmware is a type of software that falls under the category of System Software, which is used to coordinate the hardware with the Software and therefore makes the hardware work. From the TV remotes to the Mobile Phone, everything has Firmware in it. 

Comparison Table Between Software and Firmware

Parameters of ComparisonSoftwareFirmware
MeaningSet of instructionsType of software to control the hardware
CategoriesIt includes categories such as Application software, computer programming tools.It includes no such categories.
UpdatingUpdating is straightforward.Updating is comparatively difficult.
SizeIts size is massive.Its size is very small.
LanguagesBoth low-level and high-level language is used in the developing process.Usually, low-level language is used in the developing process.

What is Software?

The Software consists of programs and procedures that are associated with the working of a computer. Software is divided into many categories. The most used and common are:

  1. Application Software: it is the most common type of Software that performs only certain tasks. It either can be independent or a group of programs—for example, Office Suites, Databases, Word Processor and Image Editors, etc.
  2. System Software: it coordinates the activities and tasks performed by the software programs and hardware. It also helps in the working of other Software. An Operating System is the main System Software that manages all the activities of computer programs.
  3. Driver Software: it is a type of system software often called device drivers that control the device enabling them to perform a certain task—for example, USB Storage Devices, headphones, and Printers, etc.
  4. Middle Software: it is Software that mediates between different types of application software. For Example, Microsoft Windows mediating with the word and excel and PowerPoint. It is also used to send requests of messages from one kind of operating system to another kind of OS.
  5. Programming Software: it is used to write code enabling developers to develop, such as assemblers, compilers, etc.

What is Firmware?

Firmware is a type of system software designed with low-level language to makes the hardware perform the tasks. There are two types of Firmware Generally:

  1. BIOS: it keeps a check on the proper working of the computer hardware components and handles all its activities, and also check if there is an unknown error. Firmware has not been changed, and this causes several problems. Such 16-bit code is used by the BIOS, but most of the new laptops run 32 and 64-Bit codes. Therefore it is not supporting modern technologies.
  2. EFI: Extensible Firmware Interface, or some time referred to as Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, is a system firmware of a new generation. It ensures that the Firmware is supporting the feature called ‘Secure Boot’, enhancing the security of the device. It is best for the new technologies where BIOS sometimes fails to work. 

The most difficult part with the Firmware is its updating. Some firmware is not very difficult to update, but some are very difficult and consume a lot of time. One of the important things to take care of while updating the Firmware is that the device must not shut down. Otherwise, it can corrupt the device.

Main Differences Between Software and Firmware

  1. The Memory stored in the Software has easy access and can be changed, but in the case of Firmware, the memory does not have easy access and cannot be changed easily by the user. 
  2. Software size is very big, whereas the size of Firmware is very small.
  3. Both Low level and High-level Languages are used in developing the Software, but only Low-Level language is used to develop the Firmware.
  4. Updating software is relatively very easy, whereas updating the Firmware is comparatively difficult.
  5. The main purpose behind the design of the Software is Interaction, but this is not the main purpose in the case of Firmware.
  6. Software is mainly run on CPU and main processor, but Firmware usually runs on the small processor.
  7. Changing Software is easy; therefore is changed constantly, whereas Changing Firmware is not so easy and is rarely changed.
  8. To develop Software, more time is required as compared to Firmware, but Firmware does not require more time.

Conclusions

With all the difference and information stated above, it is very much clear how Firmware is just a part or type system software which provides help in using the hardware. Apart from all the above differences, the Software is worked from volatile and virtual memory, but the Firmware is worked from non-volatile memory. Proper knowledge of how to use them is required as they are a very crucial and important part of the computer or any device.

Such a partial update firmware can cause a lot of damage to the device. Without coordination of Software and Firmware with the hardware, no task or activity can be performed on the device. 

References

  1. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/1646955/
  2. https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/doi/10.7916/D8P55NKB

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