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An operating system is a set of programs that acts as an interface between the applications that are running on a computer and the computer's hardware. Operating systems perform actions such as:

  • Receiving user input from input hardware devices such as the keyboard or mouse
  • Sending user output to output hardware devices such as the monitor or a printer
  • Controlling the use of processing devices by applications
  • Serving as a platform for applications
  • Moderating hardware
  • Providing security
  • Managing the file system

Some operating systems also have attributes such as the following:

  • Multi-processing is the ability to use multiple processing devices.
  • Multi-tasking is the ability to run multiple applications simultaneously. Two common variations are:
    • Cooperative multitasking means that multiple processes must work together for the operating system to work effectively.
    • Pre-emptive multi-tasking forces applications to share the CPU.
  • Multi-threading is the ability to run multiple parts of an application simultaneously.

The parts of an operating system are as follows:

Part Description
Kernel The kernel is the core of the operating system that is loaded into memory when the system boots up. It is responsible for controlling security, managing the file system, and providing a platform for applications to run on. The user rarely interacts directly with the kernel.

A driver is a type of computer program that enables the operating system to interact with hardware devices.

Interface An interface is what allows the user to interact with the kernel and the utilities. There are two main types of interfaces:
  • In command line interfaces, commands are executed through instructions written into a command line. Examples of command line-based interfaces are MS-DOS and aspects of Linux.
  • In a Graphical User Interface (GUI), the user executes commands by clicking on graphics and symbols. An example of graphical user interface is Windows.
Utilities Utilities are the features or programs included with an operating system that perform system-related tasks. Common Windows utilities are My Computer and the Control Panel.
Applications An application is a subclass computer program that is designed for end users. Examples are database, spreadsheet, and word processing programs. Applications frequently come in suites.

In this course, you will learn about the following Windows operating systems:

  • Windows 2000 Professional
  • Windows XP (Home and Professional)
  • Windows Vista (Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate)
  • Windows 7 (Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate)