An operating system, sometimes called an OS, is the foundation of all system software on your computer. It is the part of your computer that is responsible for controlling input and output devices, managing files and prioritizing system requests, as well as controlling and allocating memory. If your computer didn’t have a working operating system, it would basically be a big paperweight.
Computers usually report the operating system name when the computer starts up.
If you have problems with your computer and need to call a tech support hotline, you will likely be asked which operating system you are running. The easiest way to determine which operating system your computer is running is to look at what appears when you start your computer. In most cases, the computer will display the logo of the operating system running for a short time before loading all the software.
The computer’s operating system is the foundation of all system software on a computer.
Microsoft Windows dominates the personal computer market, although there are several different versions of the Windows operating system available. If your computer is running Microsoft Windows, you can go to START > RUN and type “winver.exe” in the open field to be taken to a dialog box that describes which version of Windows is on your computer.
If your computer is running Mac OS X, you can determine which operating system version you have by selecting “About This Mac” from the Apple menu. A small window will appear displaying your version number.
Linux is the name commonly given to any Unix-like operating system that runs using the Linux kernel. Linux operating systems are primarily used by servers, but can also be found in video game systems, cell phones, e-book readers, and DVRs. The Linux operating system is unique in that all underlying source code can be freely used, modified and redistributed by anyone.
While technical troubleshooting is an example of a situation where it is helpful to know your computer’s operating system, knowing what your operating system is is also useful when purchasing new software for your computer. Some games and desktop publishing or personal accounting programs are only compatible with certain operating systems. For example, your purchase may not work if you are running a version of Windows that is considered outdated. However, for general web browsing and emailing friends and family, any operating system that allows your computer to run efficiently is sufficient. An update is only necessary when you start having problems that interfere with your productivity.
You may need to know your computer’s operating system if you call a technical support hotline.