Hardware and Software

Computer motherboard and package of software

Hardware and Software are terms you’ve probably heard a lot but may not be entirely clear on their distinctions nor purposes. Before we learn the details, it’s important to note that everything you do on a computer requires both hardware and software. In fact, you are using both right now! You are viewing this lesson in a web browser, which software is running and you have clicked the “Mark Complete” button on the previous lesson, using the mouse, which is hardware. Now let’s learn a little more about each……


Hardware refers to the physical components of a computer. Physical components can be internal or external; however, most computer hardware is internal and cannot be seen, such as the hard drive. Many of the external hardware elements, such as the keyboard, monitor, and mouse, are already familiar to you from the previous lesson. Although the design and look of hardware may differ between desktop and laptop computers, the same core components are found in both. Hardware allows the computer to run and allows for its operation by a user.


Software can be thought of as the brains of the computer; it tells the hardware what to do and how to do it. Internet browsers, operating systems, games, and word processors are all applications of software. Software, in its most basic sense, is a set of instructions the hardware follows to perform a task. System software, which runs the computer itself, will come pre-installed on your computer; however, most application software (also known as “apps”), which allows users to accomplish specific tasks, will need to be downloaded and installed by the user depending on your individual needs. Software can help with the management of information, manipulation of data, design of visual graphics, document creation, calculations, and more. Some common examples are Excel, Word, Powerpoint, internet browsers (Safari, Chrome, Firefox), iTunes for music and movies, Skype for video calls, and Photoshop for designing graphics.

Office 365

Microsoft’s Office 365 is a suite of very useful software packages for students, businesses, and just about everyone. Luckily for Wichita State students, Office 365 is offered for free as long as a student is enrolled. A selection of the most used softwares from the suite are listed below:

  • Word – word processing software great for creating research papers
  • PowerPoint – slide making software perfect for professional looking class presentations
  • Outlook – email software for receiving, composing, and sending email
  • Excel – data collection, manipulation, and computation software great for research projects


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