Are the words "firmware" and "embedded software" interchangeable? It seems that some people use them to mean the same thing. However, there are people who also seem to use it to mean different things. What would be the difference between the two if there's any?

1 Answer 1


Firmware is what goes between two types of hardware.

Drivers go between the hardware and the operating system.

Embedded software refers to many things. Embedded software can be an embedded operating system such as those that run an ATM. The implication being that this software was baked in as a part of its design.

Embedded software, depending on context, can also refer to an application baked into a piece of hardware for its management. What people refer to as the BIOS is actually the CMOS setup utility.

BIOS is how your motherboard talks with its attached components, you can sometimes see the tests it runs when your turn on the computer.

This is where you set motherboard settings such as boot order and CPU speed settings.

A BIOS is firmware. (Basic Input Output System) The CMOS setup utility is embedded software.

Firmware and driver are often used interchangeably.

  • 2
    Or, to summarise for clarity: No, they are not interchangeable.
    – MikeB
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 15:50
  • 1
    Embedded software is computer software, written to control machines or devices that are not typically thought of as computers, commonly known as embedded systems. It is typically specialized for the particular hardware that it runs on and has time and memory constraints.[1] This term is sometimes used interchangeably with firmware.
    – aLex
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 16:58
  • Sometimes embedded software is referred to as a thin client. Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 23:28

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