Firmware vs Software What’s the Difference?

The main difference between Firmware vs Software is that firmware is a special type of software that helps to control the hardware of a device whereas software is a collection of instructions that tells the computer to perform a specific task.

Computer or electronic equipment consists of two main components in the form of hardware and software. Hardware refers to the physical components of the device. Software is a set of instructions that can perform a specific task. There are different types of software. Firmware is a special type of software specially designed to handle hardware or electronic devices.

What is firmware?

Firmware is a special type of software. It can be in any engineering-based product, computer peripheral, or consumer device. It is used to monitor, manage and control the data of various devices.

An example is a washing machine – it works according to the built-in firmware. Another example is the TV remote control, which contains electronic circuitry and pre-programmed firmware. These devices work according to the firmware embedded in them.

Firmware-based systems obtain information from the user. They then process that data and finally provide the result. The output can be thermal, electromagnetic, kinetic, etc. It is usually difficult to update the firmware. For example, to change the functionality of a TV remote control, it is necessary to replace the entire circuit.

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What is Software

Unlike the case of hardware, not everything labeled as software exists physically. British computer pioneer Alan Turing was the man who coined the term software.

The operating system that you are currently running is also software and provides a workspace for other software installed on the operating system. Even the device driver that I mentioned above is also a kind of software. Such software belongs to a larger group known as system software. These are critical to the operation of the system. Similarly, malware is a separate group of malicious software with its subset, which includes viruses, Trojans, worms, etc.

A noteworthy point is that software is a broad term. And the things we refer to as software in everyday use are called application software. This category ranges from antivirus, word processor, web browser, multimedia, and video editing software. In short, they are designed to carry out certain applications on the computer.

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Firmware: a brief history

If you search online for “firmware” and “embedded software,” you will find definitions throughout the map. And the definitions have changed over time.

Historically, “firmware” was software stored on a special type of memory chip called EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) or EEPROM, the “electrically erasable” version. These chips were different from the Garden variety of ROM chips. They can be erased and reprogrammed; EPROMs can be erased by exposure to UV light and EEPROMs can be erased and reprogrammed by external circuitry. For all practical purposes, the software stored in this way was permanent and immovable: “firmware.”

Firmware is generally used as low-level software that operates a typical single-purpose device. Many components within a personal computer (video adapters, disk drives, and network adapters) contain firmware, as do many peripherals that connect to the computer.

Computer components and peripherals generally contain device driver software. This software works as an interface with other devices.

In the past, device firmware was rarely updated, mainly due to the inability to erase and reprogram EPROMs in the field. With only a few kilobytes of storage available, the firmware became simpler and generally did not need to be updated in any way.

Two more recent developments have made firmware updates more common:

The devices and their firmware are more complex; with more lines of code, there are more possibilities for bugs and additional opportunities to modify the firmware for greater speed and efficiency.

Firmware is now more likely to be stored in flash memory (the same technology that underpins USB drives and solid-state drives), is much easier to erase and reprogram, and has (e) more storage than EPROM predecessors . . . Eligibility.

Many devices cannot update their firmware in the field because they lack the interface for it. For example, the firmware that powers most devices is there to stay; there is no other way to update the firmware other than to disassemble the machine and replace the circuit board.

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Firmware vs Software: exploring the difference

There are several important differences between firmware and software in general. These differences will be briefly explained below.

User interaction

Most of the software installed on your smartphone or computer is intended to serve a specific purpose that you may know of. In other words, you interact with the software.

I mean, it is word processing software because you want to be able to write and save your thoughts. The video player software is installed to play the video.

Firmware, on the other hand, is not designed to interact with you. The firmware instructions are useful for the computer hardware and not directly for you.

To get better

Software is generally updated more frequently than firmware. Firmware updates were rarely done before, and even now, updates are not as frequent as other software.

Ease of removal

Most of the software can be removed without affecting the computer too much. The firmware is different. Removing the firmware renders particular hardware ineffective.


The size of the software is usually much larger than that of the firmware. When you compare the size of the firmware with the software, the software is the best. Some firmware is only a few kilobytes long. This is because the data stored in the firmware is relatively small.


Firmware is not stored in volatile storage locations like RAM. Firmware runs on electrically isolated parts of the system, such as Eee Prone chips or flash memory, or on smaller processors.


The software is written in high-level languages ​​like Java. Firmware, on the other hand, is written in low-level languages.

Software code is often based on the use of predefined libraries and functions. The firmware is not library-based because the code is very specific to individual hardware devices.

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Working capacity

The firmware takes care of the low-level functionality. Firmware is low-level software that is tasked with handling low-level operations on a hardware component.

System and application software is higher-level software than firmware.

Keep your smartphone on

The battle between firmware and software takes place inside your smartphone. Actually, you need to have both for everything to run smoothly. It will never interact directly with the firmware, but it does perform a number of important functions.

Your smartphone firmware includes code that runs inside the camera module. It handles the image collection and initial processing, before distributing the data to the ISP and other processing components. Likewise, the display will also have its own tiny microprocessor, complete with firmware, to handle data for color, brightness, gamma, and other settings. The CPU also has its own firmware in the form of a low-level kernel to optimize task scheduling, clock speed, and power consumption.

Smartphone software consists of the Android operating system and then the applications that run on it. So all your apps are software, including Facebook, Chrome, Gmail, and the Play Store.

As you can see, you will be interacting with your device regularly, updating, adding, and removing software. The firmware remains firmly in the background.

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Firmware vs Software is an integral part of the computer. The software gives the computer all the information it needs for various functions.

There are many types of software, and this article tries to explain what is software in general and what is firmware in particular.

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About Author
An engineer and MBA, who is a technology and a gadget freak. I write about smart home solutions and gadgets like all wireless devices, technology brands like Apple. Love to follow the latest trends in the technology space and write about latest developments.