Operating systems are what most people use to interact with computers today. Desktop and laptop computers come with pre-loaded operating systems, and it is through these that the users interact with the software and applications. The operating system also takes care of all the processes so the user doesn't have to be a computer expert to use his machine. Operating systems are all about making computers available to the average person, with little technical knowledge required.
Just as there are many types of computers, there are different types of operating systems. Most people know about single-user, multi-tasking operating systems, such as like Windows and Mac OS, which are on desktop and laptop personal computers. These systems are designed for one person to use to run many applications at once. (Coustan and Franklin)
It is not just personal computers that have operating systems, however. Operating systems that have virtually no user interface capability and are running machines that are imbedded in various objects, like computers in cars, are known as real-time operating systems. Cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDA) use single-user, single task operating systems, as the equipment is designed to perform only one task at a time. There are also multi-user operating systems that allow many users to use the machine at the same time. A mainframe computer system is an example of this. (Coustan and Franklin)
A single-user, multi-tasking o...
(Coustan and Franklin)
In managing the processor, the operating system has to make sure that the processor's power is being allocated around in the most efficient way possible. The operating system gives priority to background processes that need to run, such as virus checking and memory management. Applications are the programs with which the user is directly working, such as an internet browser, word processing program, or a video game. By managing the processor, the operating system will not allow the applications to take processor power away from the processes that need to run for the system to function properly. (Coustan and Franklin)
Memory management goes hand in hand with processor management, as the operating system needs to allocate memory for the processes and applications to run efficiently. The operating system and drivers for hardware take up memory, and the operating system must allocate the remaining memory needed for applications. There are four different types of memory that all must be managed:
Disk storage - The operating system allocates data to available spots on the hard disk, a practice known as virtual memory management
High-speed cache - The operating system predicts which pieces of data the computer will need to access and stores them in this fast, temporary cache for quicker performance.
Main memory - This is the RAM that specifies how much memory your machine has when you buy a new computer.
Secondary memory - This is the memory that keeps the data from active applications available. (Coustan and Franklin)
In device management, the operating system also talks to the hardware in the computer by way of programs called drivers. Drivers are used so that the operating system doesn't have to keep track of hundreds of