What is Operating System – List, Types, Features & Work Principle

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What is operating system? The functionality of any computer depends on the Operating system, or, in short, the OS. An operating system was first manufactured in the 1950s, and was designed to manage tape storage as its primary function.

Over time, the manufacturers enhanced the functionality of the operating systems and have now made it into software that performs all crucial functions of a computer to provide the desired outcome while computing. These functions include:

  • Providing all common and specific services based on the computer programs
  • Managing all different hardware components of the computer and
  • Utilizing all of the available resources of the devices at its best.

A few of the operating systems may also work on a time-sharing basis.

These systems are specifically designed to schedule different tasks of the computer so that the system can be used most efficiently and at the right times.

To name a few of these specific scheduled tasks, the list includes:

  • Mass storage
  • Managing the accounting software
  • Allocating cost for the processor time
  • Printing and several other crucial resources.

The OS also performs some special functions for the hardware such as acting as an intermediary between it and the software programs used in the computer as well as making proper allocation of input, output and memory.

The operating system works on the basis of different application codes. These codes are directly executed by the different hardware of the computer systems.

This is a process that involves making system calls frequently as well to the OS function, especially when the functions of the operating system are interrupted.

What is Operating System in Computer?

What is Operating System in Computer

Any device that has a computer in it will have an operating system. This means that your smartphone is also a computer, just as the web servers, several different video game consoles and supercomputers.

Considering the current business scenario, the market of operating systems for different manufacturers are as follows:

  • The most popular operating system for the desktop computers is Microsoft Windows. This brand dominates the market with a total share of about 82.74%.
  • Following Microsoft Windows is the Mac operating system, designed and developed by Apple, with a market share of 13.23%.
  • The third place in the OS market is occupied by the wide variety of Linux operating systems with a collective market share of 1.57%.

On the other hand, when you consider the mobile devices sector that includes tablets, smartphones and others, the market share of Android is the highest with 70%, and that was the figure in 2017.

The growth chart of the Android operating system is also impressive at a rate of 10.3% every year, followed by iOS of Apple Inc.

As for the supercomputers and server sectors, it is Linux distributions that dominate the market. This company is known to make some of the most specialized operating systems such as real-time and embedded systems, used for several specialized applications.

Irrespective of the make, model and brand, the basic job for any operating system is to manage the processes, memory, all hardware and software of a computer.

This ensures that the user communicates with the computing system without needing to know or speak the language of the computer, which by itself is complex.

In short, if a computer does not have a suitable operating system then it can be considered as useless. This is the most important interface acting between the hardware of the computer and the end user to run the system and perform several tasks.

The vital component of any operating system is the kernel. The primary job of it is to manage the communication between the different hardware and software installed in a computer.

The two most popular and common kernels used today are Micro and Monolithic Kernels. These help the operating system to perform all of the crucial functions that includes managing:

  • The device
  • The process
  • The files
  • The secondary storage
  • The I/O and
  • The memory, to name a few.

There are different other advantages of using a suitable operating system in your computer such as:

  • It helps to create an abstraction that will allow you to hide the details of hardware
  • It is easy to use with any type of GUI
  • It creates a perfect setting to execute different apps and software programs and
  • The easy-to-use format of the operating system provides all the useful resources to the computer system.

Besides its merits, you should select the right type of OS for your computer system depending on your needs, or else face the following consequences:

  • You may lose all data and information stored in your computer in case there is an issue in the operating system and
  • There may be a threat of attack to your system.

As such, an operating system is never secure by itself. Therefore, you will need to use your computer responsibly to make the best use of the OS and get the best ROI, which is fairly high, especially for any small business organization.

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Different Types of Operating System

According to your needs, you can choose from a large variety of operating systems. The list of different types of operating systems includes:

  • Batch
  • Network
  • Multiprocessing
  • Distributed
  • Real Time
  • Mobile and
  • Multitasking or Time Sharing.

Each of these types of operating systems have different features, functionality, and, of course, a price tag. For example:

  • Single and multi-tasking OS

When you use a single tasking operating system in your computer, the functions of your computer will be limited to running only one program at any given point of time.

On the other hand, when you use a multitasking operating system, you will be privileged to run several different programs as per your need, all at the same time.

The difference between a single-tasking and multitasking OS is that the latter can divide a process into multiple numbers due to the advanced processor.

This is a process that the OS achieves by time sharing and with the help of a dedicated subsystem for scheduling different tasks of the computer in diverse time slices that can be continually interrupted.

  • Single user and multi-user OS 

Using a single user OS means that the system will not have the ability to differentiate between the users.

However, the features of this specific type of operating system will let you run several programs on your computer concurrently.

The multi user OS, on the other hand, uses the fundamental concept of multi-tasking.

It comes with several useful features such as different disc spaces dedicated to the numerous users.

This helps the operating system to identify the resources along with the processes followed, which, in turn, allows all the users to communicate with the different components of the computer at the same time.

  • Distributed system 

The primary function of this specific type of operating system is to manage diverse groups separately. It also governs the functions and resources of all the computers connected to a specific network.

This enables all these connected computers to function in perfect sync, so much so that it looks like the entire job is done by a single computer.

In short, the distributed operating system is that which distributes or divides all computation jobs among all computers integrated to the network system.

  • Templated

This type of OS typically creates a virtual image.

This machine created image, in turn, acts as a guest operating system, especially in cloud computing, visualization and distributed operating context of the system.

This image is then saved and used later on as a tool when it is required to run the system as multiple virtual machines running in tandem.

This is an operating system that is essential for those big server silos.

  • Embedded OS 

This particular operating system is especially designed for the small machines.

This OS will ensure that these smaller machines that come will have less PDAs or autonomy, work well while creating designs making the best use of the limited resources available.

The compact design and useful features of these embedded systems namely, Minix 3 and Windows CE, make them one of the most efficient operating systems of today.

  • Real-time operating systems 

These operating systems come with special features that allow them to process any given data, information, and even events, instantaneously.

You will get these real-time operating systems normally in two variants namely, single-tasking and multitasking.

However, you will be better off if you use the multi-tasking variant because it comes with dedicated scheduling algorithms.

This will help you to accomplish a behavior and result that is more realistic and deterministic in nature.

The most significant aspect of these event-driven operating systems is that they can switch different tasks depending on the external factors of the event as well as your task priorities, as opposed to the clock interrupts, which is the common working principle of the time-sharing operating systems.

  • Library

Finally, this operating system is known to provide services that are common for any average OS, for example, a networking system.

However, the most significant difference in operation of this OS and other standard operating systems is that every service provided here are in the library form.

These libraries are further composed with the help of several assorted and dedicated configuration codes and applications.

This eventually helps the OS to build a Uni-kernel or machine image that is specific for a particular process and uses one particular address space.

Thereafter, this machine image is effectively used in different embedded or cloud settings, as and when required.

Apart from these basic types of operating systems, there are also other types of OS namely, the client-server systems, peer-to-peer systems, clustered and handheld systems.

The client-server operating systems are more centralized. The main objective of these specialized operating systems of today is to meet with the varied requests and demands generated by the systems of the clients. These systems can be broadly classified into two distinct heads.

  • One is the File Servers that comes with a file system interface which allows the users to create, read, edit, update and delete files.
  • Two, the Compute Servers that have an interface where the clients can send their specific requests for a particular action which is executed in these servers and the result is sent back to the clients who sent the request.
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The peer-to-peer systems, on the other hand, is the answer to the computer networks such as the World Wide Web or www and the Internet.

The specialized features of this specific operating system help the users in performing several tasks such as sending electronic mails and FTPs.

  • This OS has helped to add functionality to the modern computers which are much more than standalone computers basically designed for personal use.
  • This operating system comes with a number of processors and each of these processors has local memory of its own.

This means that these processors do not share the clock or memory to communicate with each other. Instead, the processors use several different communication lines such as telephone and high-speed buses.

The clustered operating systems, on the other hand, are those systems that work parallelly for completing any computation by gathering information and signals from different CPUs together.

However, these systems differ from the parallel systems in its design where two or more distinct systems are coupled or composed together.

Since these systems are connected closely through the Local Area Networks, it shares storage and ensures high and easy availability.

There are different layers of software in each of the nodes of the cluster that can monitor the nodes of others.

These monitoring machines take the responsibility of storing the data and info, in case there is a failure in the monitored machines, and will restart the apps that were running in the failed machines.

There will only be a short pause in the service but the users can use the network with the failed machine remaining down.

Different types of clustered operating systems offer different types of clustering such as:

  • Asymmetric clustering, where one machine is in standby mode while the other runs an application, and when it fails, the host machine acts as the active server.
  • Symmetric clustering, where there are two or more host machines working on the same application while monitoring the activities of each other. This process is much more efficient and productive because all available hardware of the computer is utilized at their best.
  • Parallel clustering, where storage is shared by a number of host machines to access and work on the same data by using special software and apps.

Ideally, a clustered operating system will help in expanding Storage Area Network or SAN considerably allowing easy connectivity of several host machines to the numerous storage units.

Finally, there are the handheld operating systems that are usually found in cellular phones and palm-pilots, including PDAs or Personal Digital Assistants.

This helps in establishing connection to the Internet or any other network. These systems are very small in size, and, therefore, have small memory, slow processors, and small display screens.

Most of these operating systems available now do not have any virtual memory but use wireless technology like Bluetooth. This helps in web browsing and sending emails with remote access.

Features of OS

Most of the operating systems now come with a supervisor and protector mode. This helps in accessing the different file systems by the disks used in the computer.

It comes with the unique Device Drivers Networking Security or DDNS that helps in executing any program, simple or complex, big or small.

The features also include:

  • Memory management
  • I/O operations handling
  • Multitasking virtual memory
  • Identifying error and rectifying
  • Manipulating different file systems and
  • Resource allocation.

In short, the useful and innovative features of modern operating systems ensure optimal protection, operation, communication, execution and transfer of information, data and resources.

OS List

The operating systems can be characterized on the basis of different factors such as technology, usage, ownership, working state, licensing and more. Though there are several different operating systems, there are a few specific names and brands that feature at the top of the list.

As for the desktop computers, the list of operating systems may include:

  • Windows

Built by Microsoft, this operating system currently runs on more than 350 million devices, and that is just considering the latest Windows 10 version.

As for the other versions such as Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Windows Vista, Windows 2000, Windows XP, when taken together, the usage figure will come up to 1.25 billion active users all over the world.

This particular operating system is available in 107 languages and used across 140 countries all over the world, indicating its popularity and effectiveness.

  • Mac OS 

Designed and manufactured by Apple Inc, this is typically used in the Apple computers and are very specific and clear in operation and functionality.

The original version of this Mac OS that came preinstalled on all Macintosh devices before is now replaced by Mac OS X. The Mac OS X Server 1.0 is, however, used specially by the server computers.

  • Linux 

This OS is typically favored by the tech-savvy users. This OS can be downloaded and installed in a computer easily, provided the hardware in your computer supports this OS. This is a UNIX-based OS that uses web-based software making it more functional and usable.

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This desktop operating system functions with the help of the Google Chrome web browser. To use it or to expand it, you will need to search for a Chrome app. Check out Best Chrome OS Desktop Computers.

You can do anything using this operating system except running Mac or Windows desktop software. However, you can run Linux software only after you set the Chrome book to the developer mode.

  • Android 

Though this is an operating system specially designed for the smartphones, there are a few convertible tablets that can be used as an Android computer by adding the keyboard. This particular operating system will provide your computer with more mobility and flexibility.

On the other hand, if you consider the operating systems that can be used in the smartphones, the top five names in the list will include:

  • Google Android 

Developed by Google, this operating system is built on Linux kernel. This is one of the most popular and common mobile OS with a market share in excess of 80%.

It is not only easy to use but it also comes with a lot of customization opportunities. With a large number of Android app developers available, you will find the perfect solution for your specific needs.

  • Apple iOS 

Available on Apple phones, this operating system resembles Mac OS. However, the quality of performance of this OS is significantly better with its multi-tasking abilities.

It is compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Apple TV. With its second largest customer base, it allows access to the numerous apps available in the Apple App Store.

  • Windows Mobile

Also known as Windows Phone previously, this mobile operating system is the third popular one.

Created by Microsoft, it comes with an interface that is the same as the Windows 8 Metro.

  • Blackberry OS 

Owned by Research in Motion or RIM who are the manufacturer of Blackberry phones, this is one of the oldest mobile operating systems, and especially favored for its business applications.

  • Firefox OS

This is an operating system designed by Mozilla. This open source OS uses Firefox browser. The operating system makes the open web much more competitive.

No matter whichever operating system you choose for your computing device, if it supports the hardware of your computing device, it will give you the value for your money.

The Working Principle

It is the software of the operating system that makes it work, and works perfectly in compliance with the available resources and protocols. The process involves different aspects that are overseen, executed and governed by the specific software.

  • Process management is the function where processes are either created or deleted. Communication and synchronization are also ensured by its different mechanisms.
  • Memory management is another module of the working of an OS that involves allocation of tasks and deallocation of the memory space for those specific programs that need this resource.
  • File management is related to the activities performed by the operating systems to manage, create and delete files along with naming the files, sharing and protecting them, and their storage and retrieval.
  • Device management means keeping the track of the device or devices used in a network system along with allocation and de-allocation of tasks to these connected devices.
  • I/O system management involves hiding the peculiarities of the hardware devices from the end users.
  • Secondary storage management includes storing data in primary and cache memory for any program to use it as a reference while running.
  • Security is that specific work module of the operating system that provides protection to the information and data stored in the computer and also to prevent unauthorized access, malware and hacking threats.
  • Command interpretation is the job done by the OS of an active system to process the common commands using relevant resources.
  • Networking is the specific job performed by the distributed operating system that ensures better and proper communication with each of the processors of all of the devices connected to the specific network.
  • Job accounting involves keeping track of a specific job, the resources needed and used along with the time taken to execute a specific task.

Finally, the job of the OS involves communication management. This is where the operating system assigns and coordinates interpreters, compilers, different users of the computing systems and software resources.

The Final Words

An operating system is what helps the computing devices to function. These systems are diverse in nature and functions and also comes with their characteristic pros and cons.

Selecting and installing the right operating system according to your computing needs as well as the type of device you use is therefore extremely important.