Operating system

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Key points

An operating system (OS) is software that manages computer hardware and software resources and provides common services for computer programs. The operating system is an essential component of the system software in a computer system. Application programs usually require an operating system to function.

An operating system has several vital functions:

  • Command interpretation: responding to user events such as key presses, clicks, selections or text commands.
  • File management: Organising files in the computer’s backing storage, and providing access to them for reading and writing.
  • Memory management: Loading programs and data from backing storage to RAM and tidying up memory when programs are finished running.
  • Input and output management: Receiving and processing input from devices such as keyboard and mouse, and providing output through the speakers, screen and printer.
  • Kernel operations: Controlling the scheduling of processes and the usage of resources for the whole OS, and providing feedback when errors occur.

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