For Seniors: How to Distinguish between Computer Hardware and Software

You may have heard the words hardware and software before and wondered what the difference was. The hardware is all the tangible computer equipment, such as the keyboard and mouse. The software is what makes the hardware work or lets you get things done, such as writing documents with Microsoft Word or playing a Solitaire game.

Think of computer hardware as being like your television set and the shows that you watch as being like the software.

Hardware you'll find on your computer

The hardware on your computer consists of

  • A central processing unit (CPU), which is the very small, very high-tech semiconductor chip that acts as the brains of your computer. The CPU is stored in a computer tower along with the other nuts and bolts of your computer.

  • A monitor, which displays images on its screen, such as the Microsoft Windows desktop or a document in a software program.

  • A keyboard, which is similar to a typewriter keyboard. In addition to typing words, you can use a keyboard to give the computer commands.

  • A mouse, which you also use to give your computer commands. You move the mouse around your desk with your hand, which moves a pointer around on-screen. Using this pointer, you can click items like buttons that cause an action or click the screen and drag the mouse to select text or an object to perform an action on it (such as deleting it or making the text bold).

  • Peripherals, such as a printer, speakers, webcams, and microphones. These items may or may not come with your computer when you buy it, but your computer does come with slots (called ports) where you plug in various peripherals.

Software that runs stuff on your computer

Software (also known as programs or applications) is installed on your computer hard drive, which resides in the computer casing (either in your laptop or, for a desktop computer, in the computer tower).

Here are a few basics about software:

  • You use software to get your work done, run entertainment programs, and browse the Internet. For example, Quicken is a financial management program you can use to balance your checkbook or keep track of your home inventory for insurance purposes.

  • Some programs come preinstalled on your computer; you can buy and install other programs as you need them. For example, there is always an operating system on a computer, because it runs all the other programs.

    Some programs are included with your operating system, such as Solitaire, an electronic version of the old favorite card game, which comes with Windows 10. Skype, a program that enables you to make online phone calls using your computer, is a popular program that you can find on the Internet and install on your computer yourself.

  • You can uninstall programs you no longer need. Uninstalling unwanted programs helps to free up some space on your computer, which helps it perform better.

  • Some software programs called utilities exist to keep your computer in shape. An antivirus program is an example of a utility used to spot and erase computer viruses from your system. Your operating system (such as, Windows 10 Home Premium, which also includes some utilities, like the Windows Defender program. Windows Defender protects your computer from unwanted intrusion by malicious programs called spyware.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement

Inside Dummies.com