An operating system is a special piece of software that manages the general operation of a computer system:
  • It provides a user interface so that we can interact with the computer
  • It manages applications that are running on the computer, starting them when the user requests, and stopping them when they are no longer needed
  • It manages files, helping us save our work, organise our files, find files that we have saved and load files
  • It manages the computers memory, deciding what should be loaded into memory and what should be removed
  • It looks after computer security, preventing unauthorised access to the system
  • It manages the computer’s input and output hardware such as printers, etc.
Without an operating system, a computer is of little use.

But, just having an operating system running alone on a computer is also not very useful - we need to have application software (such as Word, Excel, etc.) so that we can actually do useful tasks with the computer.
An operating system is a bit like the manager of a factory - the manager’s job is to keep the factory running smoothly, to make sure all the sections of the factory work together, to check that deliveries arrive on time, etc.

But, for the factory to actually make anything, other people (the workers) are required - the manager cannot make anything him/herself.


On its own, the hardware of a computer is a fairly useless lump of plastic and metal!
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It Works!

(But it's not very useful)

Add in an operating system and you have a computer that actually works.
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To do any useful work you will also have to add application software.
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Operating systems that you may have heard of:
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista
  • Mac OS X
  • Linux

Sorry to ask you this, but...


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