Difference Between Hardware and Firmware

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Hardware and Firmware

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We are all aware of many inventions that make our lives easier and more efficient in this technologically advanced age. Computers are one of the most important inventions in technology. There are many parts and features to a computer that each have its own functions. One of these many parts/features is 1. Hardware 2. Firmware.

Hardware vs. Firmware

Hardware and firmware are physically separate. Hardware is physically present when we use computers, while the firmware is virtual. Hardware is an independent part, and firmware is an internal segment of the device. Hardware's performance depends on software conditions and firmware, while the firmware is an autonomous segment.

Hardware refers to the part of a computer that is physically present when it is used. It can be felt, touched and seen by users. It includes parts of the computer such as keyboards, mice, central processing units (CPU), speakers, and so on. Hardware can be upgraded at any time, depending on how many additional features are added.

A firmware is a program that is embedded in hardware and comes as a set or instructions. It can be found in many devices, including computers, washing machines and televisions. Although they pose security risks, such as hacking, they can be managed by certain modifications. The abbreviation for firmware is "FW".

Difference Between Hardware and Firmware in Tabular Form

Parameters for Comparison Hardware Firmware
Invented by Charles Babbage Ascher Opler
Invented in the year The 1960s 1967
Definition Hardware is a computer component that can be seen, touched, and felt by humans. Firmware is a segment that cannot be touched, felt or seen by humans but is embedded in a device.
Presence Physical Virtual
Examples Keyboard, mouse and speakers. RAM, BIOS and core rope memory. Open filer NAS operating systems. Proprietary firmware.

Main Difference Between Hardware and Firmware

  • To run, a hardware device needs a program. A firmware is an application program.
  • Without firmware, a hardware can't function. Firmware is what makes hardware work.
  • Reprogramming hardware is possible. Except in very rare cases, the firmware doesn't require reprogramming.
  • Examples of hardware: Motherboard, RAM (RAM), Disk Drive, Sound Card.
  • Example of Firmware: IBM-Compatible Computer BIOS, Timing and Control Mechanisms for Washing Machines, Sound Controlling Attributes in Modern Televisions.

Overview of Hardware and Firmware

Both firmware and hardware are terms that are commonly used in technology today. However, their particular features clearly distinguish them from one another. It is important to understand the differences between these terms and their key features.

Hardware refers to all mechanical units integrated into a device. They are classified under the fittings category. Hardware includes, for example, the processor, motherboard, memory (flash drives/disks), soundcard, input/output device of a computer, or electronic gadget.

These mechanical units can't operate by themselves and must be programmed to function properly. A program is a set of instructions that a computer follows to perform its functions. There are many programs we use every day. MS-Word, a word processor program, is based on a set of instructions that tells it how to process words. Programming is the key to the hard circle. The working framework allows you to call different programs for specific tasks. Programming languages like Java or C are used to code programs.

Firmware can be described as a specific type of programming. Programming is necessary to perform any task that is performed by the many processors on a device. This programming is embedded in a Read-Only Memory (ROM). The firmware is the program package that controls hardware. The firmware is a program that controls a hardware device. It can also be described as code that works with specific hardware.

When surfing the internet, our device connects to the internet using a particular system card or modem. To connect to the modem, our Operating System uses a program called gadget drivers. Each modem processor can have its own firmware that controls data transfer between the internet and the workstation. Mobile phones, microwave ovens, and washing machines are all examples of the firmware. If a change is necessary, the firmware does not usually need to be reprogrammed. Sometimes, the manufacturer of devices such as disk drives offers redesigns due to a firmware update. The operating system of your device will bring out the drivers for the hardware that can repair the firmware.

What is Hardware?

Hardware is durable equipment with its own function in the harmonious working of a device. There are two types of hardware: internal and external. Hardware upgrades are required when the hardware is upgraded to add new features or improve its performance. The primary purpose of hardware upgrades is to improve the device's performance and keep it current. The buyer can choose to purchase the hardware separately or to get the hardware pre-made.

Most computers include hardware, such as a motherboard, CPU (Central Processing Unit), mouse, cables and modem. A joystick, microphone and keyboard are examples of external hardware. Internal hardware includes the CPU (Central Processing Unit), drive, modem and power supply, sound card, and modem.

Computer hardware was born in the 1960s when integrated circuits were created from vacuum tubes. Charles Babbage, the father of the computer, was the first to invent hardware. The evolution of computer hardware and other components began in 1958. Today, thanks to the efforts of many intellects around the globe, supercomputers are possible. Computer hardware and computers were created with the primary goal of improving efficiency and simplifying daily life.

Complex mathematical problems and all queries related to them were initially solved by computers that were not fully ready. But, everyone began to see the possibility of computers being used to create a more relaxed atmosphere in many workplaces and fields if they were modified correctly. After this realization, many efforts were made in order to increase the efficiency of the machines used to produce them.

What is Firmware?

Firmware refers to a part of a device that is almost present and works virtually with the other parts. It is an invisible, touch- or feel-invisible segment of a device. It is a type of stored data device's read-only memory (ROM). A firmware is a set of instructions that are given to a device in order to make it work according to its specifications. This was the definition of "firmware" as used by Ascher Opler in 1967's first article.

Firmware is an embedded feature that is present on a device regardless of whether it is functioning. Firmware cannot be removed by the user. It is stored permanently in the device. The firmware upgrade, like the hardware update, is intended to fix existing problems in firmware and increase its effectiveness by adding new features and keeping it updated. The presence of firmware makes a device controllable.

Many devices, including electronic devices, appliances, computers, and embedded systems, have firmware. These devices also include memory devices that can retain data even when the power is turned off, such as flash memory, EEPROM, and ROM.

The BIOS firmware is the core of a personal computer. Before the advent of integrated circuits, some firmware appliances used semiconductor diodes. Firmware is made up of microcode, which allows us to control the device it's installed in. The CPU (Central processing unit in computers) presents instructions in the microcode. Firmware was named because it exists between software and hardware. Apart from the appliances found in computers, firmware can be used to create firmware.


Each core component has its own purpose and use. The hardware stores the firmware and software information until the user can use them. The software provides access to materials and programs. Based on the user's work and personal needs, the software programs available to them may vary.

Firmware can be used to improve the speed or performance of a hardware device. These purposes can be achieved without the need to purchase firmware separately. It is usually part of an integrated hardware program. Sometimes, users will need to replace or update their firmware.


Software, firmware and hardware can also be located in different places. Because hardware is tangible equipment, it's easy to locate and can be easily changed by the user.

However, software and firmware are not always easy to find. Software is usually stored on long-term memory products that may include a flash drive or hard drive. After the software is installed, the computer can read the data and use it to communicate with the hardware. Flash ROM is where firmware is stored. This is a type of read-only flash memory that users have the ability to erase if it's not being used anymore. The firmware is a control that allows the software to communicate with hardware in order to execute commands.

Management of Vulnerability

When you consider the amount of confidential information that may be stored on your computer, security is essential. Because hardware is physical, it is unlikely that security breaches will occur. Software programs typically have an integrated security feature. Users may be able add additional security levels. Software users often transfer data, so it is important to have a security plan.

Although it can be harder to hack firmware than software, it is possible. Multiple malware programs can compromise the security of firmware programs. Combining antivirus software with firmware can help to keep it secure.


Each technical component must be considered when troubleshooting technical issues. Because hardware is a tangible item, it can be easier to troubleshoot problems. You may be able visually to identify problems such as a broken circuit board or a computer not turning on.

It can be difficult to troubleshoot software and firmware. This is where you can gather information, pull error codes, or compare the technical issues to a user manual. If you are unable to identify the problem, technical support may be contacted or you can take your computer to a shop for repair.

Upgrades and Replacements

No matter what type of computer part they are, replacement or upgrade is required for most parts. The process for doing this is different. You must replace the hardware in order to upgrade or replace it. It is usually easy to replace hardware as the products can be purchased online or at a technology store.

It may take only a click to upgrade your software. You don't have to physically access new features if the provider updates them. The software can be copied to new computers. This means you don't have to buy a new program each time you get a new computer. Although the firmware is software, it doesn't need to be replaced or upgraded as often as your computer's software. Updates are rare and only if requested by the manufacturer.

Main Difference Between Hardware and Firmware

Here are some of the primary difference between hardware and firmware:

  • Hardware can be physically touched and viewed by humans. Firmware, on the other hand, is invisible and cannot be touched or seen by humans.
  • Hardware upgrades are meant to replace the entire hardware with a more expensive and more advanced part. The firmware upgrade is done in the device and is simpler and cheaper.
  • The virus can infect firmware and software. Hardware is only affected by the virus if software or firmware are affected.
  • Hardware can be replaced. Firmware, on the other hand, is not replaceable and cannot be deleted.
  • The etymology of the word "hardware" is "hard"-small metal, "ware"-goods, objects. Firmware, on the other hand, refers to permanent software that is programmed into a device.


Since their discovery, both firmware and hardware have advanced tremendously. Their functions are what make a device work with great efficiency and harmony. Hardware gadgets like printers have made it possible to print nearly any material in both black and white. For example, the firmware allows us to operate a device and control it.

These segments will continue to be present in different devices. However, more technology and computer science will enable more people to live more easily.


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"Difference Between Hardware and Firmware." Diffzy.com, 2024. Tue. 16 Apr. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-hardware-and-firmware-770>.

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