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"Hardware" is a physical entity with mechanical or electronic parts such as a computer or an iPhone or a printer or an external hard drive.

"Software" refers to instructions that tell a computer not only what to do but also how to do it.  Software today is generally loaded onto the hardware via a download from the Internet or loaded from a CD/DVD disk.  "Apps" are software designed generally for a limited, specific purpose such as playing solitaire or connecting to a newspaper or the Weather Channel.

"Data" is stored information (names, addresses, photos, etc.).  Data is manipulated and/or displayed by the hardware (a computer) using software (a program) that knows with to do with the data. 

Read more: Hardware? Software? Data?

More About Storage

Whether it's storing something on your home computer, your mobile device, or  "in the Cloud", it pretty much works the same.  The computer processes information it gets from somewhere (typed in with a keyboard/mouse, downloaded from the Internet, received in an email, etc) and stores it as a document in a folder. 

Read more: Storage and Files

The Old Days

Computers in 1977 (when I started) were only affordable by large corporations and mostly made by IBM.  We gave the computer information on punch cards and it gave us back information ONLY on paper. 

The paper was produced by impact printers that worked like the typewriters of the day, striking one letter at a time through a ribbon with a die that had the letter stamped on it. If a person needed the information in a hurry, they ran down the stairs to the printer room and read it as it got printed!  Good exercise but hardly timely!

Computers took up huge rooms, mostly because the internal processing ('thinking') created so much heat that most of the space was taken by "chillers" that pumped cold water through the core of the computer.

Read more: What's a Computer?