The operating system on your computer has many functions. While you may not be aware of what many of them are or actually do, the operating system helps you navigate your computer more easily and allows you to manage programs and functions with the computer system itself.
One function of your operating system is process management. Every program running on a computer – whether it is in the background or the foreground – is a process. Generally, only one process per CPU can run at one time. However, multiple processes can run through multi-tasking which entails switching processes very quickly. The operating system makes this type of multi-tasking possible.
A second function of the operating system is memory management. Computer memory is arranged in a hierarchical manner with the fastest registers first followed by the CPU cache, random access memory, and then disk storage. The operating system’s memory manager coordinates the use of these various types of memory by tracking which one is available, which is to be allocated or de-allocated and how to move data between them. This activity, usually referred to as virtual memory management, increases the amount of memory available for each process by making the disk storage seem like main memory.
All operating systems include support for a variety of file systems which makes disk and file management another important function of your operating system. Most file systems are composed of a hierarchy of directories. The idea is conceptually the same across operating systems, but differences do exist. The main differences are the character that is used to separate directories and case sensitivity.
Most current operating systems are capable of using the TCP/IP networking protocols. This means that one system can appear on a network of the other and share resources such as files, printers, and scanners using either wired or wireless connections. Many operating systems also support one or more vendor-specific legacy networking protocols as well. That makes networking another operating system function.
Security is an issue that is very important to all computer users. The security function of your operating system is also very important to the programmers. The system will often use an allow/disallow protocol when other systems are trying to access resources on your computer. Still others will require the use of a user name and password to keep your system secure.
These are just a few of the functions of an operating system. The software that is used to run your computer is really a sophisticated set of programs that allows you to do things online that you wouldn’t be able to do without the operating system.
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