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What are OS and its types and functions?

What are OS and its types and functions?

The Operating System (OS) is the interface between the user and the hardware. A boot program loads an operating system, which is responsible for controlling all other applications. The application requests access to its services through the API (application programming interface) of the defined application program. And for the end experience, the interfaces that interact with the application programs are the GUI (graphical user interface) and CLI (command line interface). In simpler words, hardware can only process machine code. It is not understandable, which won’t make any sense to a layman. Hence, here is where the operating system comes into the picture and makes it easily accessible for the user. The objective of an operating system is to run programs in a smooth and systematic manner.

What is the importance of the operating system?

An operating system enables interaction between an application and the hardware. The operating system manages hardware resources such as CPU, memory, and disk space in order to interact with the application. It acts as the backbone of the computer system and enables it to manage hardware and run applications with a user-friendly experience without the application needing to know any details of the hardware. Without an operating system, the UI of an application would not be accessible or understood by the user. The operating system provides a platform for running the applications. It handles core functions like application development, memory management, and CPU scheduling. It provides networking support, security features, and system services. We will talk about these functions in depth further in the article. An operating system also includes two core components in its software known as the shell and the kernel. A shell and a kernel—let’s have a better look at their functions:

    • Shell:

    • A shell works on the outermost layer; in other words, it handles the user interaction. Shell is responsible for managing how users interact with the operating system. It acts as an interpreter; it processes the user command and executes it in the programming utilities of the operating system. The shell interprets user commands and interacts directly with the kernel.
    • Kernel:

    • A kernel acts as the barrier between the application and the data processing of the hardware. It is responsible for managing system resources. It works in a privileged mode, as it has direct access to the hardware. It has full control over the internal communication between the software systems and the hardware. Every action ordered by the software system is managed and controlled by the kernel.
      While we are talking about the importance of the operating system, let's dive into the types and functions of the operating system.

Functions of Operating Systems:

    • Process Management:

    • The process management in the operating system is responsible for the planning, execution, and management of the resource. A program that is in execution is called Process. Process management manages the resources, as there may exist more than one process running at the same time, and at such time the allocation of resources is vital for the efficient running of the system.
    • Memory Management:

    • Memory management is actually a collection of data in a defined storage format. It stores instructions and processes the data accordingly. The CPU fetches instructions from the memory according to the instructions of the process. It oversees the allocation of the data.
    • File System:

    • A file represents the information in its logical form. The structure of files and directories is handled by operating systems, which also include techniques for data archiving, retrieval, and access control. An operating system decides how the contents of a storage medium can be stored.
    • Device Management:

    • The hardware or virtual devices of a computer or PC is managed by the device management of an operating system. It manages communication with hardware devices, including drivers, input/output operations, and resource allocation.
    • User Interface:

    • The human-computer interaction of a device is called the user interface. The operating system is responsible for managing the commands of the user and providing a user-friendly experience. It allows the user to interact with the computer system and execute tasks efficiently.
    • Security:

    • Access controls, user authentication, and data protection mechanisms are enforced by OSs to guarantee the safety of systems and data. Operating systems security ensures the integrity, and confidentiality of data.

Types of Operating Systems:

    • Single-tasking OS:

    • Operating systems that support only one task at a time are known as single-tasking OSs. These operating systems are simple and are primarily found in embedded systems and early personal computers.
    • Multi-user OS:

    • As the name suggests, multi-user operating systems allow multiple users to access and use a computer system simultaneously. UNIX and Linux are prominent examples. They employ user management mechanisms, such as user accounts and access control, to ensure data security and resource allocation among users.
    • Real-time OS:

    • Real-time operating systems are designed for applications that require precise and immediate responses to external events. They are commonly used in industrial control systems, robotics, and aerospace applications. Real-time OSs prioritize tasks based on their urgency and criticality.
    • Network OS:

    • Network operating systems are specifically designed to facilitate network communication and resource sharing. They allow multiple computers to connect and work together as a cohesive network. Examples include Windows Server and Linux distributions like Ubuntu Server.
    • Mobile OS:

    • Mobile operating systems are tailored for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. They provide features like touch-screen interfaces, mobile app support, and optimized power management. Popular mobile OSs include Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

Some popular operating system examples include:

    • Windows:

    • Microsoft Windows is the most widely used general-purpose OS for personal computers. It offers a user-friendly interface, extensive software compatibility, and a broad range of applications for different purposes.
    • MacOS:

    • Developed by Apple, macOS is the operating system for Macintosh computers. It combines a sleek user interface, advanced multimedia capabilities, and seamless integration with Apple's hardware and software ecosystem.
    • Linux:

    • Linux is an open-source general-purpose OS that offers high levels of customization, stability, and security. It has a large community of developers contributing to various distributions such as Ubuntu, Fedora, and Debian, which cater to diverse user requirements.
    • Unix:

    • Unix is a family of general-purpose operating systems known for their robustness, security, and multitasking capabilities. Variants like FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Solaris find applications on servers, mainframes, and embedded systems.
    • Chrome OS:

    • Chrome OS is a web-centric, lightweight operating system created by Google for gadgets like Chromebooks. It focuses on cloud-based applications and offers fast boot times and simple maintenance.
    • These general purposes operating systems work as the main support of the computer system. Its multi-functional process provides a wide range of features and services including multi-tasking, networking, security, and application support. Establishing a direct interaction between the software systems and the hardware enables users to use the system with ease.


Operating systems manage all the interactions of the application with the hardware and enable easy interaction from the user's end. And as time passes and more technological advancements come our way, we may find better, bigger versions of such operating systems in the near future. Many IT training institutes are providing IT courses, and software engineering courses through which you can learn and upgrade your skills. Likewise, if you are planning to start or soar into your IT career, there couldn't be a better time for the same.