what is firmware? How it defers from software?

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If you are new to the world of computers you might have not heard about the word firmware or maybe you might have heard but you don’t know the meaning. With so many “wares” in computers, people often get confused about what is what. In this article, we will not talk about all the ‘Wares’. Here let us understand what firmware is and how it defers from the software.

What is firmware? 

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If you are expecting a very complicated answer for what is firmware then my friend you will be disappointed to know that Firmware is just another software. According to Wikipedia, In electronic systems and computing firmware is  “a specific class of computer software that provides the low-level control for the device’s specific hardware. ”

So generally firmware doesn’t differ much from the software. When discussed, firmware usually refers to fixed data as part of a hardware device, unlike software which is meant to be used.

But you need not take firmware to be just a mere software. For most of today’s devices, be it a computer, phone, stereo, car, or a washing machine comes from the manufacturer with some form of firmware. For certain simpler devices, just a firmware is enough for its functioning. But if we move our attention towards more advanced things such as a computer. In such devices, we need more software along with the firmware for better functioning.

Firmware VS Software. 

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As now you know about firmware and what is firmware. Here let us try and differentiate between software and firmware best on certain features and specifications. Understanding the difference between software and firmware will help you get a better catch over firmware.

Based on size. 

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Usually, the software is a big application which is quite useful and necessary in most of the devices. It ranges from a few hundred kilobytes to a few gigabytes in size. Whereas firmware is usually very small and specific and would usually be just a few kilobytes in size.

Mobility

Here we should take note that even if the firmware is just a small software. It plays a very important part in a device and replacing the firmware of specific hardware can be pretty tricky if not outright difficult. Some devices have user-replaceable firmware while other doesn’t. On the other hand, Installing, removing, or changing software is a very straightforward task and the process is almost similar regardless of the platform that you use.

Memory 

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In case of firmware, the memory where it is stored is often embedded to the device itself and is not replaceable by the user. On the other hand in the case of software, it is often stored in memory that is easily accessible and even replaceable by the user. ( The memory which stores firmware is often non-removable because the firmware is very important for the device and if it has tampered or anyhow removed it might cause unwanted consequences. The firmware is often constructed in such a way that it outlasts the device itself.)

Updates 

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Lastly, the frequency of updates is another major difference between firmware and application software. In many devices, the firmware isn’t meant to be updated by the user. And very often the manufacturer of the device doesn’t give users access to the firmware at all.

Bonus fact

Even if the device is allowing you or giving you the ability to update the ware. In that case, you need to be very cautious about what you do. Because if anyhow you mess up you will have to bid goodbye to your device. And that’s not what you would like to do.

Conclusion

Knowing about firmware is very important for any computer geek. You could just mess up your device if you don’t know what is the basic difference between firmware and software. You should be aware that software generally refers to high-level programs while the firmware is used to microcode embedded in most hardware. And basic information such as software can be very big while the firmware is usually very small.

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