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What is an Operating System (OS)? Features and Examples

03rd Jan, 2024
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    What is an Operating System (OS)? Features and Examples

    A major computer system component is its operating system (OS). It manages the hardware and software communication, allocates memory, controls data flow, provides security, and detects and corrects errors. A computer would be a little more than a useless computer without an operating system. There are several available, each with its strengths and weaknesses. And at least one operating system must be installed on your computer to run simple programs like browsers.

    This blog will look at some of the most popular OSs on the market and see how they stack up. You will learn what is Linux operating system, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, etc., along with all features, functions, advantages, and disadvantages of an OS.

    And if you want in-depth knowledge about operating systems to pursue a career, you can go for the Best Web Development Course to understand the basics of operating systems and learn how to use advanced tools to design and create dynamic websites. Till then, let’s go through this detailed blog on what is an operating system and related crucial aspects.

    What is Operating System (OS)?

    Operating System

    To answer - what is the operating system? It is a computer program that manages the computer’s hardware and software resources. The OS coordinates between the hardware and software components of the system, allowing them to work together efficiently. It also provides a platform for running applications.

    The most common type of OS is a desktop operating system designed for use on personal computers and laptops. Some examples of desktop operating systems include Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux. Mobile operating systems are also increasingly popular, as they are designed for smartphones and other portable devices. Common mobile operating systems include Android and iOS.

    What is distributed operating system?

    A distributed operating system is a software system that manages computer resources across a network. It allows multiple computers to work together as a single system, sharing resources such as memory, storage, processors, and networking. A distributed operating system typically provides users with a consistent interface for accessing these shared resources, regardless of location. Many popular desktop and server operating systems are designed for distributed environments.

    What is a multitasking operating system?

    A multitasking operating system can perform multiple tasks at the same time. This contrasts with a single-tasking system, which can only do one thing simultaneously. In a multitasking system, each task is given a small amount of time to run, and the operating system then switches between tasks to give the impression that all tasks are running at the same time.

    What is a multi-user operating system?

    The term "multi-user" refers to the ability of the OS to support more than one user at a time. This contrasts with a single-user OS, which can only support one user at a time. Multi-user operating systems are typically used on servers, mainframes, and supercomputers. They are also used on some desktop and laptop computers.

    The most common reason for using a multi-user OS is to allow multiple users to share the same computer. This can be done for reasons such as cost savings, convenience, or increased efficiency.

    What is a real-time operating system?

    RTOSs are operating systems that guarantee real-time applications a certain functionality within a specified period. Examples of real-time operating systems: Command Control Systems, Airlines reservation systems, Network Multimedia Systems, Heart Pacemaker, Robot etc. . Examples of the real-time operating systems: Command Control Systems, Airlines reservation system, Network Multimedia Systems, Heart Pacemaker, Robot, etc.

    History of Operating System [Based on generations]

    After learning what OS is, let’s go through the history of operating systems. The history of operating systems can be divided into four main generations.

    The first generation began with the development of vacuum tubes and plugboards in the early 1940s. These early systems were large and expensive, and they could only be used by trained specialists.

    In the late 1950s, the second generation of operating systems emerged with the introduction of transistors and batch processing. These systems were smaller and cheaper than first-generation systems, allowing businesses to automate their operations.

    In 1965, the third generation of operating systems appeared with the development of integrated circuits and multiprogramming. These new systems made it possible for users to run multiple programs simultaneously. Finally, in the 1980s, the fourth generation of operating systems emerged with the advent of personal computers. These systems made computing power available to individual users for the first time.

    Features of the Operating System

    There are various features of Operating Systems (OS) that make them important. Some of these features are listed below: 

    1. OS provides both protected and supervisor mode

    In protected mode, only certain privileged instructions can be executed, while in supervisor mode, all the instructions can be executed. This distinction is important as it provides security from improper use of some sensitive instructions. On the other hand, privileged instructions can be used for system-level programming tasks such as device drivers and networking. 

    2. OS handles disk access and file systems

    For example, when a user wants to create a new file, the OS determines where on the disk the file should be placed and if enough space exists for it. Furthermore, the OS is also responsible for keeping track of which programs are currently using which files so that computer resources are used efficiently.

    3. Handles I/O operations

    This involves interactions between the computer and external devices such as keyboards, mice, printers, etc. OS handles I/O operations by providing a uniform interface that can be used by all programs to access devices. This allows different programs to share devices without having to worry about compatibility issues.

    4. Manipulation of the file system 

    These include tasks such as creating, deleting, and renaming files and directories. The file system is an important part of the OS as it stores all the data on a computer.

    5. Error detection and handling

    This is another important feature of the OS. Errors can occur for several reasons, such as hardware failures, software bugs, or user mistakes. OS detects errors and then takes appropriate action to handle them so the system can continue running smoothly.

    6. Resource allocation

    Resources such as CPU time, memory, and I/O devices need to be allocated to each program to run properly. If a program does not have enough resources, it may not be able to run at all or may run very slowly. Therefore, proper resource allocation is essential for the optimal performance of the system.

    Functions of the Operating System
     Functions of Operating System

    So, what does an operating system do exactly? There are different types of operating systems, but they all perform the same basic functions. These functions can be divided into several categories: resource management, process management, storage management, security management, file management, device management, network management, and error detection management. Let us take a closer look at each of these functions in turn.

    1. Resource Management

    The first function of an operating system is resource management. This includes managing the CPU time, memory space, disk space, and other hardware resources of the computer. The operating system must ensure that each application has enough resources to run properly and that no two applications are using the same resources at the same time.

    2. Process Management

    What is a process in the operating system? Well, the second function of an operating system is process management. This includes creating, running, and terminating processes which are programs that are running on the computer. The operating system is responsible for allocating resources to each process and ensuring that processes do not interfere with each other.

    3. Storage Management

    Another function of the operating system is storage management. This includes managing the files on the hard disk and providing security to prevent unauthorized access to those files. The operating system is also responsible for backing up files in case of data loss.

    4. Memory Management

    The function of memory management is to keep track of what is stored in memory, both RAM and ROM, and to manage how that memory is used. This includes allocating space for recent programs, deallocating space when no longer needed, and keeping track of where data is located so it can be retrieved quickly.

    5. Security Management

    A fifth function of the operating system is security management. This includes setting permissions for users and applications to access certain files and data. It also includes protection against viruses and other malware.

    6. File Management

    Besides this, another function of the operating system is file management which includes creating, deleting and organizing files on the hard disk. The operating system is also responsible for keeping track of where each file is stored and retrieving files when they are needed by an application. 

    7. Device Management

    A further function of the operating system is device management which involves managing input/output devices such as printers, scanners, and modems. The operating system is responsible for detecting when a new device is connected to the computer and installing the necessary drivers for that device.

    8. Network Management

    First of all, let’s understand what a network operating system is. A network operating system enables multiple autonomous computers to communicate and connect over a network. Thus, in OS, the function of network management is to manage the communication between computers on a network. This includes controlling the flow of data, providing security, and managing resources such as printers and scanners.

    9. Error Detection Management

    The function of error detection management is to identify and correct errors that occur in the system. This entails checking for incorrect input, detecting hardware or software faults, and recovering from errors. 

    Examples of Operating Systems
    Different Types of Operating System

    Curious about what are the operating system examples? Below are the most popular examples:

    1. Microsoft Windows

    So, what is windows OS exactly? Well, Windows is a personal computer operating system developed by Microsoft. It was first released in 1985 and has since been updated numerous times. As of 2022, Windows 11 is the most recent operating system version. Windows 10 includes many new features, such as a fresh start menu, virtual desktops, and an improved taskbar. It also introduces Microsoft Edge, a new web browser.

    2. macOS

    macOS is a UNIX-based graphical user interface (GUI) operating system developed by Apple Inc. It was first released in 1984 and is the second most popular desktop operating system after Windows. The latest version of macOS is macOS Monterey. 

    3. Linux

    Linux is a free and open-source operating system that was first released in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. Linux is typically packaged in a Linux distribution, which includes the kernel as well as other software, such as system libraries and applications. Some of the most popular Linux distributions are Ubuntu, Debian, Mint, CentOS, and Fedora.

    4. Android

    What is Android OS? Well, Android is a mobile operating system developed by Google. It was first released in 2008 and has since been used on billions of devices worldwide. Android is based on Linux but has been modified to work on smartphones and tablets. The latest version of Android is Android 12, which was released in 2021. 

    5. iOS

    iOS is a mobile operating system developed by Apple Inc. It was first released in 2007 and is used exclusively on Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The latest version of iOS is 16.0.3.

    These are just five examples of popular operating systems; there are many others available depending on your needs. When choosing an OS for your device, be sure to do your research on what is the best operating system and find the one that best suits your needs.

    Advantages of Operating System

    Now let’s go through some advantages and disadvantages of operating systems to help you understand the concept in detail. Beginning with the advantages: 

    1. Computing Source

    Operating systems, such as Windows or macOS, play a vital role in modern computing. They manage the resources of a computer, allowing for efficient communication between hardware and software. This not only improves the performance of the device but also allows for multiple programs to run simultaneously without crashing.

    2. User-Friendly Interface

    A user-friendly interface is one of the most important aspects of an operating system. It is the part of the OS that the user interacts with. A user-friendly interface makes it easy for the user to understand how to use the OS and its features. A good interface will be well-organized and easy to navigate. It will also provide clear instructions on how to use the various features of the OS.

    If the idea of creating apps and websites with user-friendly interfaces intrigues you, you can go for a Full Stack Developer Certification to gain knowledge of how to build, implement, secure and manage programs and build proficiency across the business logic, user interface, and database stacks.

    3. Resource Sharing

    Operating systems provide a way for different programs to share resources with each other. This is important because it allows programs to run more efficiently by sharing resources such as memory and processing power. Resource sharing also allows different programs to communicate with each other so that they can work together to perform tasks.

    4. No Coding Lines

    Operating systems provide a graphical user interface (GUI) that allows users to interact with the OS without having to write code. This is important because it makes using a computer much easier for people who are not familiar with coding languages. GUIs also make it possible for people with disabilities to use computers by providing an alternative way to interact with the OS.

    5. Safeguard of Data

    Operating systems provide a number of features that help protect users' data from being lost or corrupted. These features include file permissions, which restrict access to files; backup utilities, which create copies of files so that they can be restored if they are lost or corrupted; and antivirus software, which scans files for viruses and removes them if they are found.

    6. Software Update

    Operating systems are constantly being updated with new features and security patches. These updates are important because they help keep the OS secure from attackers and improve its overall performance. In some cases, updates may be required in order for certain programs to work properly on an OS. For example, many video games will only run on versions of Windows that are up-to-date with the latest security patches.

    7. Multitasking

    Multitasking is a feature of modern operating systems that allows multiple programs to run at the same time. This is important because it allows users to perform multiple tasks simultaneously without closing one program before opening another. Multitasking also makes it possible for programs to run in the background while the user works on something else. For example, a word processor can save a document while the user is printing it out or browsing the internet. 

    Disadvantages of Operating System

    While operating systems offer many benefits, there are also several disadvantages that should be considered before purchasing one for your computer. These disadvantages include their high cost, complexity, and susceptibility to viruses. Let’s go through them in detail.

    1. Expensive

    One of the biggest disadvantages of operating systems is that they can be very expensive. The initial cost of purchasing an operating system can be high, and if you need to upgrade your system, the costs can increase even more. In addition, if you need to purchase additional software to run on your system, the costs can quickly add up.

    2. System Failure

    Another disadvantage of operating systems is that they can sometimes fail. If an operating system fails, it can take your entire computer down with it. This can cause you to lose data and may even require you to reinstall your operating system.

    3. Highly Complex

    Operating systems are very complex and can be difficult to understand. They are constantly evolving and expanding in order to keep up with the ever-changing needs of users and computers. As a result, they can be difficult to troubleshoot and may require the assistance of a trained professional when something goes wrong.  

    4. Virus Threats

    Operating systems are also susceptible to virus attacks. Viruses can corrupt or delete critical files, which can render your system inoperable. In addition, viruses can spread from one computer to another, causing widespread damage. As a result, it is important to have a good antivirus program installed on your system in order to protect it from these threats.

    5. Fragmentation

    Over time, an operating system can become fragmented due to the installation and uninstallation of software programs. When this happens, the performance of your system can suffer as the operating system has difficulty accessing the files it needs. As a result, it is important to periodically defragment your hard drive to keep your system running smoothly.

    Despite these drawbacks, operating systems remain an essential part of any computer system.

    Difference Between 32-Bit and 64-Bit Operating Systems
    32 Bit vs 64 Bit Operating System


    What is a 64-bit operating system, and how does it differ from a 32-bit OS? Here is a detailed answer. What is a 64-bit operating system, and how does it differ from a 32-bit OS? Here is a detailed answer.

    32-bit vs 64-bit Operating Systems

    One of the key differences between 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems is the amount of RAM they can support. A 32-bit operating system can support up to 4GB of RAM, while a 64-bit operating system can support up to more. So, if you plan on using your computer for resource-intensive tasks, you'll need a 64-bit operating system.

    1. Processor

    Another key difference has to do with the processor. A 32-bit processor can only handle 32 bits of information at a time, while a 64-bit processor can handle twice that amount - 64 bits of information. So, if you use a 32-bit processor, you will want to use a 32-bit operating system. If you are using a 64-bit processor, you can use either a 32 or 64-bit operating system. However, if you're using certain 64-bit applications, you must use a 64-bit operating system.

    2. Performance Differences

    So, now that we know how 32 and 64-bit systems differ in terms of processor, what does that mean for performance? Generally speaking, a 64-bit system will be faster and more responsive than a 32-bit system because it can handle more information at any given time.

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    To sum up, an operating system is a program needed to manage all the hardware and other software on a computer. The most popular personal computer operating systems are Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, Linux, Android and iOS. Most computers come with a pre-installed operating system that you can choose to use or not. You can also buy an Operating System separately and install it on your computer yourself.

    We hope you found this blog helpful in understanding what is Operating System in computers and other related aspects. If you are interested in learning more about OS and how they work, you can go for KnowledgeHut’s best Web Development course. There, you will find everything you need to know about developing apps for different platforms and acquiring top tech skills like React, Node.js, Full-Stack, JavaScript, etc.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What is the Purpose of an Operating System?

    Many users ask - what is the main purpose of an operating system? Well, the purpose of an operating system is to provide a platform for running applications. It performs essential tasks such as a file, handling input and output, memory and process management, and controlling disk drives and printers, etc.

    2What is Kernel in Operating System?

    A kernel is an important component of every operating system as it manages the operations of computers and hardware. By understanding what kernel is and how it works, you can get a better grasp of how your computer operates.

    3What is the Difference Between Operating System And Firmware?

    Firmware is like the brain of your hardware, and the OS is like the heart. Both are essential for survival, but they serve very different purposes. Firmware keeps your hardware running smoothly and efficiently, while the OS allows you to interact with your devices and perform various tasks. 


    Abhresh Sugandhi


    Abhresh is specialized as a corporate trainer, He has a decade of experience in technical training blended with virtual webinars and instructor-led session created courses, tutorials, and articles for organizations. He is also the founder of, which offers multiple services in technical training, project consulting, content development, etc.

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