What is an Operating System?

An operating system (or, as you'll often see it called an "OS") is a software program that manages a computer's hardware and software resources.

It acts as a bridge between users and the computer hardware.

When using a computer or your phone, you've used an operating system, even if you don't know what it is yet.

An operating system is crucial for making your device function smoothly and for operating a computer easily. It manages resources, makes it easy to use your device and security.

Let's dive into how in a little more detail:

What does your OS handle?

Understanding a little more about the different problems our operating systems handle will give you insight into how they fundamentally change how we work with computer hardware.

User Interface

Probably the main reason we love our operating systems (and why you will see people being fans of certain operating systems) is because it helps you with managing input and output operations with your computer.

Whether you're tapping on a touchscreen, typing on a keyboard, speaking into a microphone, or listening through headphones, the OS interprets your actions and coordinates the appropriate responses.

It also manages the display of information on the screen, providing you with a seamless and intuitive user experience.

So, if you are trying to open a folder, the operating system gives it an image that looks like a real folder and gives you feedback when you take action.

Without the operating system, managing this input and output would be very complicated. A good Operating System can make it intuitive and even fun to interact with our computers.

Resource Management

At its core, an operating system efficiently manages your device's resources. This includes using your central processing unit (CPU), allocating memory, saving things on storage, scheduling tasks, and optimizing performance to ensure smooth operation.

When you open and close applications, your operating system allocates memory and resources to your machine to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

Process Management

Think of the operating system as a traffic controller for the computer. It keeps track of all the different tasks (or processes) that need to be done, decides when each task should run, and makes sure that tasks don't crash into each other.

This helps the computer do many things at once without problems.

Memory Management

The operating system also acts like a librarian for the computer's memory. It decides where to store information and ensures that each program gets the space it needs.

This helps prevent the computer from getting confused or running out of memory space.

File System Management

Imagine the operating system as an organizer for your digital files. It helps you save, find, and open files on your computer, like documents, photos, and videos.

In short, it keeps creates simple order to deal with files. Ensuring you don't lose files, making it easy to delete and sort easily.

Device Management

The operating system is like a translator that helps the computer talk to its different parts, like the keyboard, mouse, and printer.

Without an operating system, making random devices that we plug into our computers useful could be a lot of work.

It automatically ensures that these devices work properly and can communicate with the computer so that you can use them effectively.

Security and Access Control

The operating system is also a security guard for your computer. It helps protect your information and prevents unwanted people or software from accessing your computer without permission.

It tries to ensure that only you and the people you trust can use your computer and its data by adding passwords and other security layers to your computer hardware.


The operating system helps your computer connect to other computers and the internet.

It manages these connections, allowing you to share files, use online services, and communicate with others through networks. This makes it possible for your computer to be part of a larger digital world.

After all, without access to the internet, you couldn't even read this!

Examples of Operating Systems

To finish up, you might have a better grasp of what an OS actually is.

Let's look at some examples. If you recognize the name or have used one or more, you'll understand that they all have differences in how you use the systems.


Developed by Microsoft, Windows is like a versatile tool belt, catering to a wide range of users with its user-friendly interface and extensive compatibility with software and hardware devices.

Whether you're a casual user or a business professional, Windows provides a familiar environment for productivity and entertainment.


macOS, the brainchild of Apple, is like a sleek and sophisticated workspace, offering seamless integration with other Apple devices and robust security features.

It's like having a high-end designer outfit tailored to your exact measurements. It provides a premium computing experience for creative professionals and everyday users alike.


Linux, an open-source OS, is like a blank canvas, allowing users to customize and tailor their computing environment to their specific needs. You can download different Linux flavors depending on your needs.

But it's sort of like having a DIY project where you can build your own masterpiece, empowering developers, enthusiasts, and even businesses to innovate and explore new possibilities.

Mobile Operating System Examples


Android, developed by Google, offers a feature-rich experience to users across a wide range of devices.

With its flexibility, customization options, and vast ecosystem of apps, Android caters to users' diverse needs, from communication to entertainment.


iOS, the brainchild of Apple, delivers a seamless and intuitive experience across iPhone and iPad devices.

Renowned for its simplicity, security, and integration with other Apple products, iOS provides a premium mobile experience for users who value performance and reliability.

Avatar for Niall Maher

Written by Niall Maher

Founder of Codú - The web developer community! I've worked in nearly every corner of technology businesses; Lead Developer, Software Architect, Product Manager, CTO and now happily a Founder.


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