What Is an Operating System?

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The operating system controls the operation and resources of the computer by controlling the access to the central processor unit (CPU), memory, file storage and input/output devices. It is responsible for scheduling resources to avoid conflict and interference between processes, managing the structure and content of files stored on non-primary media, and determining which programs are able to utilize hardware components like disk drives or WiFi adaptors. It also provides a way for users who are interactive to connect to the system via either the Graphical User Interface (GUI) or a Command-Line Interface (CLI).

Process Management

Operating systems manage the beginning, stopping, and restarting of applications. It decides which program gets to run first and for how long it is able to use the CPU, and when it’s time to stop. It also allows you to split programs into multiple threads to allow it to run in parallel with more than one processor. Each of these actions is controlled by an operating system program called a process control block.

File management

Operating systems manage the structure and content of files in nonprimary data storage. They can move data between storage and memory when necessary. They can also map virtual memory pages into physical memory pages to speed up access. This is referred to as demand paging.

It also interacts with hardware of the computer through drivers and other interfacing software. If, for example, an application wishes to use a specific piece of hardware, such as a WiFi adaptor, the operating system will install the driver, and then permit it to connect to the hardware. This is done without the programmer needing to write try this out a new piece of code for each Wi-Fi adaptor disk drive, or any other kind of hardware.

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