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What Is an Operating System?

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Operating systems are the software that runs behind the scenes of an individual computer, and manages various hardware components such as memory files, file systems, and input and output devices like keyboards, monitors printers, modems and keyboards. It also regulates access to the central processor unit, or CPU.

An OS allows multiple programs to be running at once, a concept called multitasking. This is because the OS assigns system resources to the program, for instance memory space and CPU when it is in execution. It monitors the program’s use of these resources and ensures that the program doesn’t interfere with other programs using these same resources.

Operating systems also track the locations and status of the files on the computer’s hard drives. They create an imaginary directory structure, and store the location of each individual file and other metadata, such as the date it was created or modified. Drivers enable an application to easily connect to the hardware of the computer. The drivers translate the hardware’s proprietary language into a standard language that operating systems can recognize.

When an application wants to save a document, it connects to the kernel of the operating system. This is because the program isn’t able to directly access the disk drive, which requires a driver in order to communicate with it. The operating system then creates and transforms the file request into a rational operation, and then the hardware is utilized in accordance with the instructions.