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Difference between Firmware and Operating System

  • Last Updated : 15 Jun, 2021

Firmware : 
It is a piece of programming code embedded in a particular hardware. It is a modified version of the software. Firmware is equivalent to unmodified or fixed code.

Examples –
Firmware resides in keyboards, video cards, routers, webcams, motherboards, mice, microwave ovens, refrigerators, washing machines, etc. All these examples contain the pre-programmed embedded firmware where all the functions are performed by the instructions given by firmware. 

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Operations in firmware :
Firmware carries low-level operations which are responsible for the functions of any device. All such devices and hardware are controlled by the firmware. In such a way, every piece of hardware contains some kind of firmware installed into it. 



All the software is written in high-level languages but the firmware is written in low-level language, i.e. assembly or machine language. These types of languages are understood by the hardware. 

Commands are given by firmware :
Main memory and secondary memory both get the commands from the firmware. While booting the devices, firmware gives commands to RAM to take OS code and another command to ROM to give a copy of its OS code to RAM.

Where firmware resides in memory?
Firmware resides in the non-volatile memory (ROM or flash memory). 

Firmware code changing:
Previously, changing used to be rarely done or not done, but changing is possible after its manufacturing.

Example – 
Suppose a brand wants to add some extra features to its existing devices, then they can change its firmware so that changes will automatically be reflected in the device of that particular brand.

Operating System :
It is system software that operates as the foundation layer on a computer (or computing device). It acts as the interface between the hardware and the end-user of the computing devices. It manages all the resources such as I/O devices, processors, secondary storage devices, etc.

Initially, it is loaded onto the computer with the help of a boot program, and then it manages all the application programs. It also provides user interface components so that users can efficiently perform desired functions.

Examples –
Windows, Linux, etc



Where OS resides?
It resides in mass storage devices.

Need of Operating System : 
There are multiple reasons behind the need for the OS –

  • The operating system is needed for any kind of operation such as accessing any devices, executing any job, etc. It is the same as printing any documents, the print command is given for invoking the printer.
  • Suppose a user is accessing hardware devices and at the same time another user wants to access the same devices, these types of ambiguity are avoided by the OS to maintain data consistency.

So there are multiple reasons for using the OS.

Functional Area : 
The operating system is responsible for multiple functions, which are specified below:

  • Resource Management – 
    Allocating resources such as compilers, assemblers, utility programs, etc.
  • Processor Management – 
    Allocating the processors for different jobs.
  • Memory Management – 
    Allocations of main memory and other storage devices.
  • File Management – 
    Storing records of files on various storage devices.
  • Security and privacy – 
    maintaining the authenticity of the system.
  • Input / Output Management – 
    It is helpful in maintaining interaction and allocation of various i/o devices.

Some useful points about the differences between firmware and operating systems :

  • Firmware typically resides in the ROM whereas the OS lives on disk.
  • Firmware is a small program but the OS is a huge one.
  • Firmware is usually fixed but the OS is often updated on a regular basis.
  • Firmware is low-level operations, whereas the OS is high-level interfaces.
  • Firmware is used for a single purpose, but the OS is used for general purposes, which allows any kind of software to run on multiple types of hardware.

The difference between firmware and operating systems in tabular form :

Sl. No- 

Firmware

Operating System

1.It is a piece of programming code embedded in a particular hardware.It is system software that operates as the foundation layer on a computer (or computing device).
2.It resides in ROM.It resides on a disk.
3.It is a small program.It is a huge program.
4.It is usually fixed.It is often updated on a regular basis.
5.It is a low-level operation.It is a high-level interface.
6.It has a single purpose.It is a general-purpose system that allows any kind of software to run on multiple types of hardware.
7.Examples – It resides in keyboards, video cards, routers, webcams, motherboards, mice, microwave ovens, refrigerators, washing machines, etc.Examples – Apple macOS, Microsoft Windows, Google’s Android OS, Linux Operating System, and Apple iOS.
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