Updated: May 13
This article will help explain the terms usually used in Networking such as Driver, Firmware, Hardware, Software and Utility Software.
Hardware is any physical electronic device. Computers, adapter cards and Ethernet cables are examples.
Software is a broad term for the programs running on hardware. Familiar kinds of software are operating systems, which provide overall control for computer hardware, and applications, which are optional programs used for a particular job. Software resides on disks and is brought into memory when it is needed.
Often a distinction is drawn between software and firmware. Firmware is software that is semi-permanently placed in hardware.
It does not disappear when hardware is powered off, and is often changed by special installation processes or with administration tools.
The memory firmware uses is very fast — making it ideal for controlling hardware where performance is important. For example, NETGEAR Or TP-Link routers filter using firmware, which tends to make them faster than a PC or Macintosh performing a similar function.
A software or firmware upgrade makes a permanent change — usually an improvement in features, in performance, or to correct errors.
Beta software or firmware is an upgrade that has not been thoroughly tested. Some situations that can only be tested by putting equipment in the actual situation it will work.
Beta software and firmware is far more likely to have bugs than the polished final versions. Beta firmware may change rapidly when errors are found and corrected by the makers.
For these reasons NETGEAR Or Any Other Router Providers makes beta software and firmware available, but cannot provide technical support for it.
A driver is software and/or firmware that controls hardware. Often it connects an operating system with specific hardware devices. For example, there are drivers for every card and disk in your computer. Each driver is written for a specific operating system — for example Windows XP or Macintosh OS X.
Therefore, to use a card in your computer, you must use a driver that matches the device and also your operating system. Drivers can be enhanced, for example, when new operating systems come out. Eventually hardware becomes so old it is no longer economical or practical to produce new drivers for it.
Sometimes the words software, firmware and driver are used interchangably, so don’t be thrown off if somebody uses the word “software” when you expected to hear “driver”, or vice versa.
5) Utility Softwares:
Utility software is system software designed to help analyze, configure, optimize or maintain a computer. It is a type of system software, used to support the computer infrastructure; by contrast with application software, which is aimed at directly performing tasks that benefit ordinary users.
A utility is software used for the limited purpose of changing the overall behavior of hardware or other software. (For example configuring your browser to accept cookies.)