3.4.1 Computer Systems - Hardware & Software

Table of Contents

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1 Hardware and Software

Learn It: What is a Computer System?

  • A computer system is made up of both hardware and software components and is capable of:
    • Data Input – Allowing users to input the instructions using input devices,
    • Data Processing – Using a microprocessor, typically the Central Processing Unit (CPU) to process instructions,
    • Data Storage – Storing user instructions,
    • Data Output – Output processed instructions using output devices.
    • Data Transmission - Ensuring that data can be transferred to or from another computer system
  • As well as the personal computer, this definition applies to any equipment which uses computer technology.


  • Hardware is any physical components that make up the computer.
  • Software is any program that runs on the computer.
  • Computer systems are all around us. They are not just desktop PCs, but also include mobile phones, tablets, supermarket tills, ATM cash machines and engine management systems in modern day cars.

2 Hardware

Learn It: What is Hardware?

Hardware is the physical parts of the computer that you can touch.
  • The hardware on a computer are the components of a computer you can physically touch. This includes the computer itself, the parts inside the computer and any peripherals (i.e. things that are attached to the computer):
    • Monitor,
    • Keyboard,
    • Mouse,
    • Computer Case,
    • Printer,
    • Graphics card,
    • Power supply unit,
    • Motherboard,
    • CPU,
    • RAM,
    • Storage (HDD, DVD-ROM).


3 Software

Learn It: What is Software?

Software are the programs that control how the computer works.
  • Software is any program that runs on a computer system. It can be grouped into two main categories:
    • System Software: Programs that are needed to enable the computer to function, including the operating system, utilities software, library routines and programming language translators.
  • Application Software: Programs that enable a user to perform particular tasks like; word processing, spreadsheet calculations, databases management, gaming, web browsing, mobile phone apps, graphics design, programming, music editing and many more programs for specific applications such as payroll, accounts, air traffic control etc.


4 Relationship between Hardware and Software

Learn It: Software working with the hardware

  • Some people find it easy to remember the difference between the hardware and software of a computer system if they think of them in terms of the human body and their thoughts.
  • The body, brain and all the mushy bits inside us could be compared to the hardware of our system, these are the bits we could touch. Our thoughts, dreams and feelings could be compared to the software of our human system.
  • You cannot have a living and functioning person without both the hardware and the software working together. It is the same in a computer system; it needs both the hardware and the software to be working together for the computer system to function correctly.

Badge It: Hardware and Software Table

Silver: Answer the following questions and complete the table below and place a tick in the column to show if the item is hardware or software.

  1. Describe what hardware is?
  2. Define software and give some examples?
Item Hardware Software
Graphics Tablet    
Touch Screen    
Internet Browser    
Light Sensor    
Network Cable    
Windows/Mac OS/IOS    
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Badge It: Types of Computer Systems Table

Gold: Read the information about computer systems below and then copy and complete the table detailing each type of computer system.

  • A computer is an electronics device that processes data.
  • There are many types of computers, from small, embedded computers, such as those used in watches and calculators, to huge supercomputers that are used to perform computationally intensive tasks, such as weather forecasting.
  General Purpose Systems Dedicated Systems *Control Systems
Purpose Programmed to perform a wide range of tasks. Perform a specific function or set of functions.  
Examples     Fitness monitors, baby incubators, security alarms
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