Operating systems

An operating system (or 'OS') controls the general operation of a computer, and provides an easy way for us to interact with computers and run applications.

Graphic illustrating different software interfaces

On some computers it is possible to run a choice of operating systems. Games consoles have their own unique operating systems.

There are a few common operating systems available:

  • Mac OS X
  • Linux
  • Windows
  • Android (based on Linux)
  • iOS

Functions of the operating system

The operating system performs several key functions:

  • interface - provides a user interface so it is easy to interact with the computer
  • manages the CPU - runs applications and executes and cancels processes
  • multi-tasks - allows multiple applications to run at the same time
  • manages memory - transfers programs into and out of memory, allocates free space between programs, and keeps track of memory usage
  • manages peripherals - opens, closes and writes to peripheral devices such as storage attached to the computer
  • organises - creates a file system to organise files and directories
  • security - provides security through user accounts and passwords
  • utilities - provides tools for managing and organising hardware