|It seems silly to even write such a basic article, but there are thousands of people that own computers and have no clue as to operate them other than play
Solitaire. My 83-year-old grandmother is a prime example of this. I just give her credit for being able to turn the unit on and access the program list. I say
this because she literally has no clue how the bulky desktop works.
I will only talk about the three basics here, and that is: Hardware, software and firmware. An easy breakdown for you is this. Hardware is all that bulky mass,
the desktop, monitor, mouse, printer and other physical stuff that you can touch, see and even smell if you wish to. So any part you can touch can be
classified as hardware. In and of itself, it is just a bunch of metal, plastic and cords. It doesn’t do anything and doesn’t know how to behave. That is where
software comes in.
Software is programming codes that are stored on a disk, like a hard drive, flash drive, compact disk or DVD. Until the software is loaded, your hardware
won’t know what to do with itself. When needed the software is loaded into memory and executed so the hardware can perform its function.
Now Firmware plays its part. Firmware is software that is stored on a hardware chip. Firmware is not hardware and not exactly software, but is in a realm
between the two. When Grandma presses the power button, a relay clicks over and electrical current flows through the unit. The firmware chip called the
basic input/output system (BIOS) is accessed. These startup instructions are activated, scanned into memory and processed. This is what enables your
system to load to the main Windows screen.
There are also two types of software running. One is called the Operating System or (OS), and the other is the Applications. All computers have an
operating system, Windows 7, Mac OS, Linux, etc. The operating system is what accepts and processes your commands and it speaks to the hardware so it
knows what you want to do. It acts like the middleman, or translator. The Applications run one level above the Operating System, it is the application that
allows you to perform tasks like writing emails, calculations, and interacting with Solitaire!
That is essentially it. So simple and yet those three devices control so much of our lives. I would like to add a side note for Grandma here about warranties.
Anyone who has a warranty on their computer will need to know the difference of Hardware, Software and Firmware.
Most warranties cover only hardware: Hard Drive, Mother Board, Memory Chips, DVD drives, and other INTERNAL hardware. A warranty seldom covers
keyboards, mice, etc.
Software is rarely covered, even if a board is changed that requires software. Say your hard drive is replaced. They will not install the software. You have
to do that on your own. Be sure to read the small print because software is mostly your responsibility.
Firmware may be covered in some cases but not all. Firmware really depends on the type of warranty to have.
Please make sure you read your warranty before processing a claim so you know what you are covered for and what you aren’t covered for. There are a lot
of misconceptions and the sales people often say everything is covered. That may be the case until you call for your coverage. Read the details or you may
end up like Grandma with a new hard drive and no operating system to run it.