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What is an Operating System?

Desktop PC.
Multitasking operating systems can run more than one program at the same time.
A computer's operating system is one of its most important aspects.
An operating system can be used to managed files on a computer hard drive.
A central processing unit.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2014
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An operating system is a program designed to run other programs on a computer. A computer’s operating system is its most important program. It is considered the backbone of a computer, managing both software and hardware resources. Operating systems are responsible for everything from the control and allocation of memory to recognizing input from external devices and transmitting output to computer displays. They also manage files on computer hard drives and control peripherals, like printers and scanners.

The operating system of a large computer system has even more work to do. Such operating systems monitor different programs and users, making sure everything runs smoothly, without interference, despite the fact that numerous devices and programs are used simultaneously. An operating system also has a vital role to play in security. Its job includes preventing unauthorized users from accessing the computer system.

There are multiuser, multiprocessing, multitasking, multithreading, and real-time operating systems. A multiuser operating system enables multiple users to run programs simultaneously. This type of operating system may be used for just a few people or hundreds of them. In fact, there are some operating systems that are used to allow thousands of people to run programs at the same time.

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A multiprocessing operating system allows a program to run on more than one central processing unit (CPU) at a time. This can come in very handy in some work environments, at schools, and even for some home-computing situations. Multitasking operating systems work a little differently; they make it possible to run more than one program at a time. Multithreading operating systems are even more different, allowing varied parts of one program to be used simultaneously.

Real-time operating systems are designed to allow computers to process and respond to input instantly. Usually, general-purpose operating systems, such as disk operating system (DOS), are not considered real time, as they may require seconds or minutes to respond to input. Real-time operating systems are typically used when computers must react to the consistent input of information without delay. For example, real-time operating systems may be used in navigation.

Today’s operating systems tend to have graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that employ pointing devices for input. A mouse is an example of such a pointing device, as is a stylus. Commonly used operating systems for IBM-compatible personal computers include Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.

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Discuss this Article

anon960674
Post 122

What business processes changed because of the operating system?

anon296140
Post 113

I am a really good OS collector. What I have: Windows 1.01-3.1; chicago 58 and 189; windows 95, me, windows 8 beta, 7, xp, etc.

anon280578
Post 107

How is the operating system created?

anon280369
Post 106

What is the purpose of the operating system?

anon277060
Post 104

What is equitable processor sharing and how do I implement that?

naseema
Post 103

what is memory management?

khadeeja123
Post 100

How can an operating system control a network?

anon228611
Post 96

Can I ask what are the types of operating systems?

Gricel Cardona
Post 95

I wish to know how to update my computer's operating system. I brought a printer and it is asking for a operating system update in order to install. Help.

anon186789
Post 93

What are the features of operating systems?

anon185345
Post 91

you have given my nice data regarding o.s. can you give me a data about unix?

anon161977
Post 84

what is the characteristic of an operating system?

anon158829
Post 82

it is possible to buy OS on a disc? well normally it is on disc lol but I'm not sure if there is any other way of obtaining a OS.

anon139723
Post 78

operation system is the device that controls all the applications and software.

anon138892
Post 77

great! it is a good site for students. thanks for the help.

anon137469
Post 76

thanks for your help.

anon109298
Post 70

what are the characteristics of an OS?

anon103618
Post 67

nice and simple answer. -- jssaten

anon101080
Post 66

Why do operating systems come in versions?

anon99615
Post 64

What are the advantages and disadvantages of operating system kernels?

anon97530
Post 63

nice information. Please, is data based on an OS?

anon94161
Post 62

branches of OS? is there such a thing? can someone please discuss? thank you so much

anon91154
Post 57

Is dBASE an operating system?

anon89192
Post 56

thank you.

anon82903
Post 52

Operating systems play very important roles in computer technology and this is the key of any technology.

anon82201
Post 50

thanks for giving this information.

anon79834
Post 47

nice information.

anon79581
Post 44

thank you, it's very good. thanks for the help.

anon78513
Post 43

An overview of OS-- good.

anon78300
Post 42

thank you for your help.

anon77629
Post 41

what are the different characteristics of an operating system? what is the role of an operating system in system software?

anon77617
Post 40

It's good.

anon75280
Post 39

what is chipset?

anon73300
Post 38

same problem is with me. processing is slow with hp vista. i also want to degrade my system to xp, but i heard don't degrade with recommended vista. Please help me to improve the speed of the system.

anon73038
Post 37

Good job!

anon72717
Post 36

what is another name for an operating system?

anon71823
Post 34

i am an ict student who is finding some difficulties in understanding the role and functions of operating system. can you make it simple for me to understand?

anon71641
Post 33

Thank you for a brief explanation about the operation system. Cheers!

anon70766
Post 32

What are some examples of an operating system?

anon69415
Post 31

thanks for the help.

anon68632
Post 29

What are five current os and the computers or configuration each operates?

anon66152
Post 28

it helped me a lot! Thanks.

anon65828
Post 27

anon7461: the latest operating system is windows 7. it's really good. the ultimate is only like 11,000 rupees.

anon65121
Post 26

Most probably the most recent Operating system is going to have to be a Linux distribution - Linux is a free growing system which anybody can download and install as their main or secondary operating system (OS) - All of its applications are free and it is always getting updated and there is always new software out for it.

Comment 2: Changing From Vista to XP. it all depends really if you want to keep Vista?

anon58900
Post 24

I have lost my audio input and output and don't know where to find them on my computer. my microphone and speakers no longer work.

anon56385
Post 21

how can i change my operating system?

anon52633
Post 20

there is a lot to explore. the links in the site are very useful.

anon49572
Post 19

What are some examples of an operating system.

anon46669
Post 13

this website is the best website for help on computers.

princepats17
Post 9

what is (DOS)? and what are

its functions?

CarHow9
Post 7

I have a brand new hp computer I bought at Best Buy and I am a work at home agent. The problem is most of the customer service inbound or outbound calling systems aren't compatible with windows vista yet. Is there any way I can change the operating system of my computer to a more easier system to work with? Such as is there a disc I can buy to run to install windows xp and run it sometimes when I need it? Or is none of this possible?

anon14594
Post 4

the latest operating system today????

theni
Post 3

operation system is the device that controls all the applications and software.

anon7461
Post 2

How can i change my operating system from vista to window xp professional?

anon4140
Post 1

Thanks for your help!

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