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1.5: What is an Operating System?

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    An operating system is a computer program that runs on a computer. It manages all the hardware of the computer and the applications which run on a computer. An operating system makes sure all the hardware and software are working together in harmony. Every computer has some sort of operating system. Listed below in table 1.1 are examples of Operating Systems per type of computer.

    Table 1.1: Operating System Examples By Computer
    Type of Computer Examples of Operating Systems
    Desktop & Laptop



    Linux (many distributions)





    WatchOS (Apple)

    WearOS (Android)



    Android TV



    Unless you are building your own computer, an operating system is installed on the computer you purchase. All consumer operating systems use a graphical user interface or GUI. A GUI lets you use your mouse to select icons, buttons, and menus. Everything is displayed on the screen using a combination of graphics and text. Each operating system's GUI has a different look and feel, so if you switch to a different operating system it may seem unfamiliar at first. For the purposes of this course, we will study the Windows Operating System (Windows 10). Obviously, there are many vibrant and fully-functional operating systems available to users in a variety of form factors. While all operating systems perform similar functions, how they perform those functions can very slightly. This text will focus on Windows 10 as it is the preferred operating system in the professional and business world.

    Microsoft Windows

    The most common operating system is Microsoft Windows. While there have been many different versions of Windows, the current version is Windows 10.. Windows comes pre-loaded on most new PCs, which helps to make it the most popular operating system in the world. We will be studying Windows 10 in the next chapter. In general, most PC’s built since 2011 are capable of running Windows 10 in varying performance capacities.

    This page titled 1.5: What is an Operating System? is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Nick Heisserer (Minnesota State Opendora) .

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