Computer software is a general term that describes computer programs. Related terms such as software programs, applications, scripts, and instruction sets all fall under the category of computer software. Therefore, installing new programs or applications on your computer is synonymous with installing new software on your computer.
Software can be difficult to describe because it is "virtual," or not physical like computer hardware. Instead, software consists of lines of code written by computer programmers that have been compiled into a computer program. Software programs are stored as binary data that is copied to a computer's hard drive, when it is installed. Since software is virtual and does not take up any physical space, it is much easier (and often cheaper) to upgrade than computer hardware.
While at its most basic level, software consists of binary data, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and other types of media that are used to distribute software can also be called software. Therefore, when you buy a software program, it often comes on a disc, which is a physical means of storing the software.
Updated: December 5, 2006