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Difference Between Software Testing and Firmware Testing

In this blog post we will explain the difference between software and firmware testing and their importance, procedures, and significance. Make sure to read till the end to clear your concepts.

Software and Firmware

Software is a program that enables a computer to perform a specific task, such as word processing, accounting, or inventory management. The software can be installed or uninstalled. Software is written in a programming language and installed on the hard drive of the computer where it resides until it is needed. Once installed, the software can be downloaded from the internet by connecting an internet cable to your modem and connecting your modem to your computer with an ethernet cable. A CD-ROM drive will also allow you to install software onto your hard drive by inserting a disk into the disk drive and following instructions on the screen

On the other hand, firmware is specialized software that is written to a read-only memory (ROM) chip on a hardware device. The firmware is installed by the manufacturer and does not need to be updated by the user. The firmware does not run on your computer, but it can communicate with your computer and other devices via USB or Wi-Fi. Firmware is often used in applications like printers, routers, and modems because these devices typically have very limited storage space for storing programs. By storing their code in read-only memory rather than random access memory (RAM), manufacturers don't have to worry about running out of room for new features while making sure they keep working correctly even after years of use. A firmware can be a bit of code on an EPROM, EEPROM, or Flash chip that can be updated or upgraded by the user once it’s installed into the hardware. 

Difference between Software and Firmware Testing:

As the name suggests, they are done on different test subjects, in one case it is software being developed on a certain platform while the firmware is being tested on hardware where it is installed on its ROM. Let us go through each of them:

Software Testing:

Software testing is a process of validating and verifying the quality of software products. It is an ongoing process that occurs during the development stages of a software application. Testing can be done manually or automatically.

There are several types of software testing methods, including unit testing (testing individual modules), system integration testing (testing different parts together to see if they work properly), usability testing (using real users to evaluate how easy it is to use your application) and acceptance testing (making sure that your product meets your client's requirements).

Firmware Testing: 

Firmware testing is the process of testing a computer program that provides control, monitoring, and data manipulation of the hardware. It is the permanent software programmed into a hardware device. There are three main levels of firmware testing: microprogram, microinstruction, and micro-operation. Each level has its own set of tools and methods. The most popular one is the microprogram level because it allows testing complete microprograms by analyzing their code or investigating the machine states after execution. 

The second one allows testing single microinstructions by analyzing their assignment of micro-operations to them or investigating machine states after execution. The third level is called the micro-operation level which allows monitoring of individual micro-operations while they are being executed on a computer or other device controlled by software instructions stored in memory chips (ROM).

This testing can be done from many software suites currently available, like the Firmware Test Suite (FWTS). This software can verify different aspects of firmware from hardware configuration to UEFI. When you’re testing firmware, it’s hard to know whether you have broken something unless you can see the effect on the outside. If your software crashes, for example, it might be hard to tell if this is because your algorithm is wrong or because there was a typo in a variable name somewhere. This is even more complicated when dealing with firmware because it resides inside a hardware device and is therefore invisible from the outside. To test that your code doesn’t crash and works properly with everyone else's code on the device, it needs to run as part of an entire system simulation (i.e., simulating all components in real-time). 

Summing up:

We laid down the fundamental differences between the two terms under consideration and how these testing can be done. Although the difference between software and firmware testing techniques are quite different, still they are readily used in by the QA engineers in different parts of development.

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