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Difference between System and Application Software with Comparison Chart

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Difference between System and Application Software with Comparison Chart

A system, be it a mobile, computer, mobile or any other digitally aided device such as a microwave oven, need software to function properly. Software refers to any set of coded instructions that are used by a system for executing commands or making its hardware parts work in order. The software can be categorized under two heads- system software and application software. This article will help you learn about the differences between application software and system software.

System Software and Application Software 

Comparison Table

Point of Difference

System Software

Application Software


Used for the operation of computer hardware. It manages system resources (memory management, protection and security, process management, etc.) and offers a platform for the running of application software. It serves as a set of programs for controlling computer components and/or operations.

Used by end-users for the performance of specific tasks.

Time of installation

Installed on the computer/ device at the time when the operating system is installed.

Installed as per any user’s requirements.

User interaction

Users do not interact with system software as it functions in the background.

Users interact with application software while using specific applications.

Independence in performance

Capable of running independently. They provide the platform for effective running of application software.

Can’t run independently. The system software has to be present for application software to function.


Compiler, debugger, assembler, driver, BIOS, firmware, etc.

Word processors, web browsers, media players, Microsoft Office, Photoshop, etc.


System Software is written using low-level languages or assembly languages.  

Application Software is written using high-level languages such as Java, C++, VB, .net, etc.

Running of software

System Software is initialized and starts running as soon as the system is turned on. It keeps on running until the system is shut down. It runs fully or partially in the background.

Application Software runs in accordance to user requests. It runs in the foreground.


Has full and continuous access to memory, disks, etc.

Application software has limited/allowed access to disks, memory, etc.

Running of hardware

Hardware systems require at least one system software for the performance of their actions.

It is not compulsory to have an application software installed/ running on any system.

Definition of System Software

System software or general-purpose software is useful for operating different types of computer hardware like I/O devices, processor, memory devices, etc. System software serves as an interface between the hardware of any computer/ device and its application software. Appropriately designed for the management of system resources, it offers the platform for running application software. System software is in the nature of a set of programs that’s put into use for controlling all components of a computer/ digitally aided device/ mobile. It is also used as a platform for installing and running different types of application software. The examples of system software are:

  1. Operating Systems such as Microsoft Windows, Linux, DOS, Unix, etc.
  2. Device drivers of the likes of the device driver software belonging to a printer. This software is usually found on a CD provided with the printer.
  3. Utility Programs of the likes of disk scanners, BIOS, firmware, AVAST anti-virus, file viewers, etc.

Definition of Application Software

Application software is basically any specific-purpose software that is useful for the handling of specific tasks. It performs a singular specific task or may be coded to take care of a set of specific tasks. Application software will take instructions or permissions as provided by its users. Thereafter, the system software will be accessed by the application software to use system resources for the cause of computing and sending the desired information/ output back users. The examples pertaining to application software include:

  1. Word processors of the likes of Notepad, Wordpad, Microsoft Word, etc.
  2. Spreadsheet software such as MS Excel, etc.
  3. Database software of the likes of Microsoft Access etc.


Despite the differences between system software and application software, they both make systems useful for end-users. While system software cannot be done without and is useful for the system to work, an application software comes in handy for users looking towards performing specific tasks. We shall look forward to your views on this article in the Comments section below.