Most people know the difference between hardware and software. However, have you ever seen the word firmware and wondered how exactly it differs from software?
Both firmware and software are programs that help your device perform certain tasks. Everything your device does is backed by either firmware or software. This can make it difficult to differentiate between the two things.
However, that is not to say that they are the same thing. In fact, there are some significant differences between the two. As such, it is important that you know the difference between firmware vs software.
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What Is Firmware?
Firmware is basically a piece of software that is designed to help a piece of hardware run. It is designed specifically for the hardware it is installed on and helps it perform its most basic functions.
All your hardware has firmware that allows it to operate as it should. This includes everything from computers to wireless routers, adapters, and even devices such as TVs.
Firmware is usually semi-permanent. As a device can’t function without it, deleting or removing the firmware would be disastrous. Having said that, sometimes it is possible, or even advisable, to update a piece of firmware to help your device run more efficiently or give it extra features.
On a router, your firmware deals with things such as connection options, your router’s security settings and advanced modes on your router. Upgrading your firmware can allow your router’s manufacturer to do things like improve the security of your router or fix any bugs that may have occurred.
If you are not happy with the firmware installed on your router and you want to get some extra features, it is also possible to install a custom open source firmware such as DD-WRT on your router. Before trying this you should ensure that your router supports the firmware.
Alternatively, you can buy a router from FlashRouters with pre-configured open source (DD-WRT, Tomato etc). This takes away the stress of installing yourself and potentially 'bricking' your router. They even come optionally with VPN clients as well.
What Is Software?
Software, on the other hand, usually refers to programs that give your computer or device a specific function. For example, music software allows you to play music on your computer, antivirus software allows you to protect your device from viruses and a game’s software allows you to play games.
Unlike firmware, software can generally be easily installed, removed, updated and deleted without having any affect on the performance of your device. Removing a piece of software from your computer will simply stop your computer from performing the function associated with the software.
Firmware vs Software: Rounding Up
Both firmware and software are programs that allow your devices to perform certain tasks.
Firmware is the most permanent of the two. It is generally required for your device to work and it helps it perform its most basic functions. Without firmware, your computer, phone or router would not be able to work.
Software, though, is less important for the device to run, but can allow the device to perform specific tasks and functions. Installing software on your device can help you get the most out of it and allow you to perform tasks you would otherwise not be able to do.
The very fact that firmware is crucial to a devices performance means that it is much more permanent than software. Firmware is needed to run the device and as such shouldn’t be removed or updated unless you really are confident in what you are doing.
Hopefully, you now know your firmware from your software! If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.