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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What are the basic functions of an operating system?

Operating system is the program that takes care of all the computer operations. It acts like a software link between the computer hardware and you. The link that it provides is nothing but an interface via which several other programs are managed. Computer systems come pre-installed with an OS. The place of storage of the operating system is the hard disk drive of the computer system. As soon as you boot in or turn on the computer system, the operating system is the first thing to be loaded in to the memory. Bootstrap loader is the program responsible for carrying out this task and this whole process is termed as booting. The bootstrap loader resides permanently in the electronic circuitry of the computer i.e., on the ROM chip to be more precise. There are various functions of an operating system about which we will be discussing in this article. 

Every system has an OS and every OS has some basic functions that do not depend up on its size or complexity.

1. Management of the resources: 
- Every OS has some managing resources through which it manages all the resources attached to a computer such as keyboard, mouse and monitor (at which you are looking presently) etc. plus it also manages the memory. 
- A file structure is created on the hard drive of the system which becomes a place for storage and retrieval of data. 
- Whenever a file is created, it is named by the OS and assigned an address in order to remember where it has been stored.
- This makes it easy to be accessed in the future. 
- This system is called the file system and this is usually hierarchical in nature. - Here the files are organized in directories or folders.

2. Provides a user interface: 
- Through user interface, the user is able to interact with the hardware resources and other software applications in a system.
- Almost all the operating systems that we have today come with a GUI or graphical user interface.
- In such as interface icons are the graphical objects that represent most of the features.

3. Execution of the processes: 
- It is the operating system that is responsible for the execution of the applications. 
- Multi – tasking is a major feature of today’s operating systems.
- Multi –tasking is the ability of an OS for running a number of tasks simultaneously. 
- Whenever a program is requested by the user, it located by the OS and loaded in to the system’s main memory i.e., RAM. 
- As more and more programs are requested, OS allocates resources to them.

4. Provides support for the utility programs: 
- Utilities are the programs that perform the repair and maintenance tasks on a computer system. 
- With these programs, back up of data can be taken, damaged files can be repaired, lost files can be located, other problems can be identified. 
- One example of such utility is the disk de-fragmenter.

5. Controls the hardware: 
- Operating system lies between the application software and the basic input and output system or BIOS. 
- This is the system that maintains a control over the hardware resources and their functioning. 
- All the hardware processes need to undergo processing via the OS. 
- Device driver help OS access the hardware via BIOS.

The nature of the OS required depends up on the application for which it is required. For example, OS required for running an airline seat reservation system differs from that required by the scientific experiments. And so its design is also defined by the application. 

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