Operating System Functions

What is an Operating System

The operating system is the core software component of your computer. It performs many functions and is, in very basic terms, an interface between your computer and the outside world. In the section about hardware, a computer is described as consisting of several component parts including your monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other parts. The operating system provides an interface to these parts using what is referred to as "drivers". This is why sometimes when you install a new printer or other piece of hardware, your system will ask you to install more software called a driver.

What does a driver do?

A driver is a specially written program which understands the operation of the device it interfaces to, such as a printer, video card, sound card or CD ROM drive. It translates commands from the operating system or user into commands understood by the the component computer part it interfaces with. It also translates responses from the component computer part back to responses that can be understood by the operating system, application program, or user. The below diagram gives a graphical depiction of the interfaces between the operating system and the computer component.

Operating System Interfaces

Other Operating System Functions

The operating system provides for several other functions including:

The operating system makes these interfacing functions along with its other functions operate smoothly and these functions are mostly transparent to the user.

Operating System Concerns

As mentioned previously, an operating system is a computer program. Operating systems are written by human programmers who make mistakes. Therefore there can be errors in the code even though there may be some testing before the product is released. Some companies have better software quality control and testing than others so you may notice varying levels of quality from operating system to operating system. Errors in operating systems cause three main types of problems:

Operating System Types

There are many types of operating systems. The most common is the Microsoft suite of operating systems. They include from most recent to the oldest:

There are other worthwhile types of operating systems not made by Microsoft. The greatest problem with these operating systems lies in the fact that not as many application programs are written for them. However if you can get the type of application programs you are looking for, one of the systems listed below may be a good choice.

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