What Is an Operating System?

The operating system (OS) is a fully integrated set of specialized software that manages the overall computer operations and resources. From a user’s perspective viewpoint the OS is not visible — however, it provides applications with the services they need to make hardware and software more usable.

Access to the data stored on disks is a crucial operating system function, and requires the OS to have a method of organizing the contents of each file, thereby improving speed, reliability, and storage efficiency. This structure is called a file system. It permits files to be given names and attributes as well as to be organized into directories or folders, forming the directory tree.

The majority of computers are fitted with a variety of hardware devices like keyboards, printers, mice, and various other peripherals. These devices rely on driver software for the device to communicate with the operating system. The operating system installs, configures and manages these drivers to offer the correct service to the applications. It also hides hardware information from the users so that they can interact with their system, without knowing the exact configuration of their hardware.

Process Management

OSs track all the programs running on a PC and decide how much time each application will get when it is multitasking. It also controls the interruptions that programs cause to divert processors’ focus and ensures there is enough memory to allow an application to finish its task without interfering with other processes.

Operating systems also perform other functions that are related to the overall functioning of the computer, such as maintaining the primary memory containing huge byte arrays or word files with each having an address. The OS will track the number of bytes being used by various programs and then move, delete, or reorganize these bytes to free up space.

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