Operating System

The Operating System (OS) is a vital software component responsible for ensuring the efficient functioning of a computer and managing the diverse hardware and software resources on it. One of its primary functions is to handle fundamental tasks such as controlling, allocating, and utilising the computer’s memory.

The OS is also responsible for managing input and output devices, expediting networking, and ensuring the smooth management of files on the computer. In essence, it sets tasks to be executed by the computer, acting as a mediator between the user and the hardware.

As the most important program on any computer, the OS manages other programs on the computer and allocates the resources required for their proper functioning. This is the first software loaded when the computer is turned on, and it is essential for running other applications and programs.

The OS is a critical component of the system software, shielding the user from the low-level details of how the computer operates. All requests to use the computer resources must go through the OS, and it ensures the availability of the computer to the user.

Examples of operating systems 

Microsoft Disk Operating System (MSDOS)

Microsoft Disk Operating System (MSDOS) was the inaugural Operating System created by Microsoft Corporation. It belongs to the Command Line category of Operating Systems, where users type commands at the cursor prompt displayed on the computer screen.

Operating System

MSDOS was initially introduced in the early 1980s, and it was widely used until the arrival of more advanced Operating Systems with graphical user interfaces. It utilises a text-based interface that displays a command prompt, where users can input commands to execute various tasks.

The user inputs commands into the command prompt, which are then interpreted by the Operating System, and the corresponding actions are executed. This enables users to interact with the computer at a more fundamental level, with greater control over the system’s functionality.

Despite being a more basic Operating System than its modern counterparts, MSDOS was highly regarded for its stability and reliability. Its command-line interface made it popular with developers and advanced users who needed greater control over their computer systems.

  Graphical User Interface (GUI) Operating System

The Microsoft Windows Operating System is a prime example of a Graphical User Interface (GUI) Operating System developed by Microsoft Corporation. It utilises a graphical interface with images and icons that provide an attractive and user-friendly experience. Compared to MSDOS, it is easier to use, particularly for novice users who may not have a strong technical background.

Operating System

Windows Operating System is available in various versions, including Windows 2000, Windows 98, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows 7, among others. Each new version introduces new features and improvements to the interface and functionality.

The Windows Operating System has become one of the most popular Operating Systems worldwide, primarily due to its user-friendliness and compatibility with a wide range of software and hardware. It has become the standard Operating System for personal computers, and many businesses also use it extensively.


Linux is an example of a GUI Operating System developed as a free and open-source software. This means that the Operating System is free to use, modify and distribute. Linux has gained widespread popularity, particularly among software developers and IT professionals, who value its flexibility, security, and customisation options.

Operating System

Linux provides a wide range of features and tools for users, including a graphical user interface and a command-line interface. It is also available in various distributions or “distros,” each with its unique features and customisations. Some of the most popular Linux distributions include Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Linux is widely used in web servers, cloud computing, and high-performance computing, among other applications. It is also used on personal computers and mobile devices, particularly in emerging markets, where the cost of proprietary software can be a significant barrier to entry.

Functions of Operating systems 

  1. An Operating System performs several other essential functions. These functions are critical to the efficient operation of a computer and ensure that the user can interact with the system effectively.
  2. One of the primary functions of an Operating System is to manage and control the allocation of memory resources. It ensures that all running processes have access to the necessary memory required for their execution. The Operating System also manages the allocation of other system resources, such as processing power, storage, and input/output devices, ensuring that all resources are used efficiently.
  3. Another critical function of the Operating System is to manage the user interface. The user interface is the primary point of interaction between the user and the computer system. The Operating System ensures that the user interface is accessible and easy to use, enabling users to interact with the system without difficulty.
  4. The Operating System also manages the file system, ensuring that files are organised, stored, and retrieved efficiently. It is responsible for creating, modifying, and deleting files, as well as managing file permissions and access control.
  5. The Operating System provides a platform for running other software applications. It manages the execution of software programs, ensuring that they run smoothly and efficiently. It also provides a standardised environment for software developers, making it easier to develop, test and distribute software across different hardware and software configurations.
  6. The following functions of the Operating System are also run by the operating system.
  7. The Operating System not only manages the computer’s resources but also coordinates every activity carried out by the user through software and hardware. It makes computer components such as memory accessible to the user and shields them from dealing with the complexities of machine language.
  8. It facilitates the recognition of input from any device connected to the computer, such as the keyboard or mouse. For instance, when a user presses a key on the keyboard, the Operating System recognises the pressed key and passes the information to the next point in the computer to execute the instruction.
  9. The Operating System determines the output needed to display the result of the computer’s processing and transmits the results to output devices such as printers, monitors, and speakers.
  10. It keeps track of the files and directories stored on the disk, allowing for easy access to the files and folders.
  11. The Operating System controls peripheral devices such as disk drives and printers. It identifies each peripheral device attached to the computer and sends jobs to each one as requested by the user.
  12. It controls the running of application software on the computer by tracking any software that is open, minimized, or closed.
  13. It manages computer memory, both internal (RAM and ROM) and external memory, by allocating the required amount of memory to run each program and automatically assigning the appropriate memory space to each program on the computer. This allows for efficient use of computer resources and enhances the computer’s performance.
  14. The Operating System manages system security by controlling access to resources on the computer. It sets user permissions and passwords to prevent unauthorized access and protects the computer from malware and viruses.
  15. It provides a platform for software development by offering a set of services and libraries that developers can use to create and run their programs. The Operating System also provides tools for debugging and testing software.
  16. The Operating System manages the power consumption of the computer, including the CPU, display, and other components, to optimize battery life in laptops and other mobile devices. It can also initiate power-saving modes, such as sleep and hibernation, to conserve energy when the computer is not in use.

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