Functions of an Operating System

Windows Environment

An operating system is a very special computer program that allows you to make best use of computer hardware.

An operating system provides five key roles for the user:

  1. It provides an interface through which the user interact with the different parts of the computing system, both hardware and software. In the past this interface was a Command Line Interface (CLI) where users had to type commands at the keyboard. Nowadays you are more likely to be using a Graphical User Interface (GUI), such as Windows.
  2. It protects the user from the hardware within the system by removing the need for the user to carry out complicated tasks, for example, in order to print something out the operating system will communicate with the printer in order to make the task of printing as straight forward as possible.
  3. It provides ways for the user to customise and set up the system as they wish. This includes changing the desktop background and letting the user create folders for their files and data.
  4. It manages and controls the software installed on the system and acts as an interface between programs and the hardware that the programs use, for example, the operating system may assist a computer program that is designed to burn CDs and DVDs.
  5. It provides options and assistance for connecting the computer equipment to a network. This may be a home network (LAN) or the Internet (WAN). The operating system will monitor and control network access and most modern operating systems will have anti-virus and firewall software installed as standard in order to protect you from Internet threats.

Operating Systems Exercise

Task 1 – Revise

Use this link to the BBC BiteSize website and review the notes on Operating Systems.

Task 2 – Test

Use this link to the BBC BiteSize website and have a go at the Test.


Next: Main Components of the Interface