What is OS? Learn the Basics of Operating System


Operating System is the main software in a computer. Operating system software creates an interface between the user and the computer. OS controls all the tasks in a computer. It helps different programs and hardware components (like the screen, keyboard, print, memory, processors, etc.) to work together smoothly.

For example, you cannot install any application software such as code editors, project management software, accounting software, and any other productivity software or application on a computer without having an operating system.

In simple words, Operating systems (OS) are essential interfaces (CUI/GUI) that allow users to communicate with their computers. Operating system software serves as the bridge between the computer and the user. Without an OS, a computer has no use.

Types of Operating System Interfaces:

  • CUI (Command-Line User Interface): Uses text-based commands for technical control like MS-DOS, Linux.
  • GUI (Graphical User Interface): Utilizes icons, windows, and menus for a user-friendly experience like macOS, Windows 11, Android, and iOS.

Important Functions of Operating Systems in Computer

There are various essential uses of operating systems in computers. Operating system software allows, monitors, and works together with other software and hardware. It also handles tasks like file management, security, and running various programs in the background and allows the user to install and run compatible software on the computer.

1. Enables users to interact with the computer and instruct it to perform various tasks

The operating system makes it easy for users and developers to operate an instructor’s computer. It hides complex hardware details and offers a simple, consistent way to interact with the computer. Like a translator, it converts user-given software instructions into binary code or language (0s and 1s) that hardware (CPU and Memory) understands, making it hassle-free to use computers and develop applications.

So, the operating system acts as an intermediary or translator between the user software and the hardware. It takes the instructions given by the user through software or written by the software developers (in high-level programming languages like C++, Java, Python etc.) and converts them into binary code that the computer’s hardware can understand and execute.

In this way, the operating system allows software applications to work seamlessly with different hardware configurations. It shields developers and users from having to worry about the specific details of the computer’s hardware and ensures that software can run on various types of computers without requiring modifications for each one.

2. OS handles new and default processes, scheduling, and termination

The OS’s process management ensures a smooth user experience. It allows users to run multiple applications at the same time without any interference. The operating system ensures that all applications get their fair share of CPU time, preventing slowdowns or crashes.

So, users can work on different tasks, like browsing the web, editing documents, and listening to music, all at once without any hassle.

3. Operating System Manage the Computer’s Memory

The operating system handles memory allocation and ensures that applications have access to the required memory to execute their tasks.  When a program needs to run, the operating system assigns it a specific area in the memory to work (a shelf in the storage room). The OS ensures that each program has enough room to perform its tasks without interfering with other programs (no mixing or overwriting of data on the shelves).

It protects processes from accessing each other’s memory, ensuring stability, and security and preventing memory-related crashes and errors.

4. Error Handling:

The operating system detects and handles software and hardware errors that may occur during program execution or while the user using application software. This help to prevent system crashes, auto shutdown, or data loss.

For instance, if a program starts misbehaving or encounters an issue, the OS intervenes to prevent the whole system from crashing.

Similarly, if a hardware component malfunctions, the operating system handles it gracefully, avoiding an automatic shutdown that could lead to data loss or other problems.

In this way, the operating system acts as a reliable safeguard, keeping the computer running smoothly and ensuring a secure and stable environment for both software and users.

5. Power Management

The power management feature is included in modern operating systems such as Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. These operating systems are designed to optimize energy usage and extend the battery life of laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. By efficiently managing power consumption, the OS helps users get the most out of their portable devices without draining the battery quickly.

For example:

  • The OS may automatically reduce the screen brightness when you’re not actively using the phone, saving power without compromising visibility.
  • It can limit the resources used by background apps, preventing them from consuming excessive power when you’re not actively using them.
  • The OS can adjust the CPU speed, slowing it down during less demanding tasks to conserve energy.
  • It may manage network connections, optimizing data usage and Wi-Fi connectivity to save battery.
  • If your phone is idle for a while, the OS may put it into a low-power sleep mode, where it consumes minimal power while still being ready for quick use.

6. User Interface

The operating system provides a user interface through which users can interact with the computer. This can be in the form of a Graphical User Interface (GUI) with icons and menus or a Command-Line Interface (CLI) with text-based commands.

Suppose, you are using a computer with a Graphical User Interface (GUI such as Window 11). You see a desktop with icons representing various applications like a web browser, This PC, email, gallery, camera, and media player.

You can simply click or touch on these icons to open and interact with the programs. The GUI allows you to use the computer visually, with mouse clicks and touch gestures, making it easy and intuitive to navigate through different tasks.

7. Input/output Management

The OS manages input and output operations between the computer and its peripherals. It coordinates data transfer between devices like keyboards, mice, monitors, and storage devices.

For example, When you plug in the USB device, the operating system takes charge of Input/Output Management. It detects the USB drive and establishes communication with it. When you initiate the file transfer, the OS coordinates the data transfer between your computer and the USB device.

8. Security and Permissions

Operating systems enforce security measures to protect the system and user data. They control access to resources and ensure that only authorized users and processes can perform certain actions.

When you download and run the installer for the software, the operating system enforces security measures. It may display a warning or ask for permission before allowing the installer to proceed. This step ensures that only trusted and authorized software is installed on your computer.

Read More: 20 Ways to optimize your computer’s performance

9. Device Management

The OS manages communication with hardware devices like printers, scanners, keyboards, and network cards. It uses device drivers to enable software applications to interact with these hardware components effectively.

For example, when you want to print a document, the operating system calls upon the printer driver to convey the print job accurately to the printer. Similarly, when you scan an image, the OS utilizes the scanner driver to interpret the scan command and receive the scanned data.

10. Virtualization

Operating systems can provide virtualization features, allowing multiple virtual machines or containers to run on the same physical hardware, each with its own isolated environment. Virtualization is like giving your PC magical powers to emulate a different operating system, such as Androidâ„¢ or Linux in Windows 11. By enabling virtualization in Windows 11, you unlock a larger library of apps that you can use and install on your computer.

Importance of Operating Systems in Computer

So, after reading the above function of the operating system in a computer, I expect you learned or understand the importance of OS in a computer. Still, below are some real-life examples or quotes to understand the importance of operating systems in computers.

  • Operating System is the backbone of any computer, mobile and digital device that enables software execution and hardware coordination.
  • An operating system is like a hotel manager who oversees and coordinates all the activities in a hotel, ensuring smooth operations and satisfying guests’ needs. Similarly, the operating system is like a computer manager which is crucial for a computer because it manages and optimizes hardware resources, enables software compatibility, and provides a user-friendly interface for efficient and enjoyable computing experiences.
  • Imagine a computer as a body and the operating system as its soul. Just like a soul gives life and purpose to a body, the operating system brings life to a computer by managing all its functions, enabling software to run, and ensuring seamless interactions between the user and the hardware.

How Operating Systems are Created?

OS was developed using programming languages like C, C++, C#, Java, Python, and Swift. For example, the macOS operating system, developed by Apple Inc. for their Mac computers, is primarily built using a combination of programming languages, including C, C++, Objective-C, and Swift. https://developer.apple.com/documentation/

While Microsoft Windows 11 is made of C, C++, C#, Rust, and assembly language more about Windows 11.

Role of Operating System in Software Development

The role of the operating system in software development is crucial, as it provides a foundation and environment for developers to create, test, and run software applications. It manages resources, provides standardized interfaces, and handles hardware complexities, making it an indispensable component in the software development process.

When undertaking a software development project, it is vital to consider various factors related to the operating system and the overall development process such as target OS, development environment, user interface (different in each OS), hardware compatibility, security, document, and support etc.

Why it is important to continuously learn more about Operating Systems?

Learning about operating systems is essential for students who are studying computer science or related fields for several reasons:

  • Fundamental Understanding: Operating systems are at the core of modern computing. Understanding OS concepts is crucial to grasp the fundamental principles of how computers work and interact with users and software.
  • Software Development: Aspiring software developers students need to comprehend OS functionalities to write efficient and compatible applications. Knowledge of memory management, process handling, and file systems aids in creating optimized software.
  • Career Opportunities: Many job roles, such as software engineers, system administrators, cybersecurity analysts, and IT consultants, require a deep understanding of operating systems.

In summary, learning about operating systems is crucial for students pursuing careers in computer science or related fields. It equips them with essential knowledge to build efficient software, manage computer systems, and solve complex problems in the digital world.

Staying updated on operating systems can be achieved through various online sources. Here are some effective ways and sources to stay informed about the latest OS developments:

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