Recall that information systems contain both hardware and software. Hardware is the part of an information system you can touch — the physical components of the technology. Computers, keyboards, disk drives, iPads, and flash drives are all examples of information systems hardware.
Software is the set of instructions that tells the hardware what to do. When programmers create software programs, what they are really doing is simply typing out lists of instructions that tell the hardware what to do. Software can come in many forms, including the operating system and application software. There are many types of application software as well. For example, word processing or spreadsheet applications are productivity software, and antivirus programs installed on a computer are an example of utility software.
Essentially, computer software controls computer hardware. These two components are complementary and cannot act independently of one another. In order for a computer to effectively manipulate data and produce useful output, its hardware and software must work together. Without software, computer hardware is useless. Conversely, computer software cannot be used without supporting hardware. Similarly, computer software has to first be loaded into the computer’s hardware and then executed. There are several categories of software, with the two main categories being operating-system software, which makes the hardware usable, and application software, which does something useful. Examples of operating systems include Microsoft Windows on a personal computer and Google’s Android on a mobile phone. Examples of application software are Microsoft Excel and Angry Birds.
Consider the following analogy: an iPod is used to play recorded music in the form of an MP3. In order to listen to the recorded music, you need three things: an iPod, a speaker, and the MP3 file. In this analogy, both the iPod and the speaker are examples of hardware. The MP3 file, in this case, would represent software. Without the iPod or the speaker, you would not be able to listen to the MP3. By the same token, the iPod and the speaker would be worthless without the MP3 files to play.
Source: Derived from Chapters 2 and 3 of “Information Systems for Business and Beyond” by David T. Bourgeois. Some sections removed for brevity. https://www.saylor.org/site/textbooks/Information%20Systems%20for%20Business%20and%20Beyond/Textbook.html