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Computer Operating System

An operating system (OS) is the software that manages the sharing of the resources of a computer and provides programmers with an interface used to access those resources. An operating system processes system data and user input, and responds by allocating and managing tasks and internal system resources as a service to users and programs of the system.

The most commonly-used contemporary desktop and laptop (notebook) OS is Microsoft Windows. More powerful servers often employ Linux, FreeBSD, and other Unix-like systems. However, these operating systems, especially Mac OS X, are also used on personal computers.

Most operating systems come with an application that provides a user interface for managing the operating system, such as a command line interpreter or graphical user interface. The operating system forms a platform for other system software and for application software.

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Every program running on a computer, be it a service or an application, is a process. As long as a von Neumann architecture is used to build computers, only one process per CPU can be run at a time.[citation needed] Older microcomputer OSes such as MS-DOS did not attempt to bypass this limit, with the exception of interrupt processing, and only one process could be run under them (although DOS itself featured TSR as a very partial and not too easy to use solution).

There is a speed penalty associated with using disks or other slower storage as memory if running processes require significantly more RAM than is available, the system may start thrashing. This can happen either because one process requires a large amount of RAM or because two or more processes compete for a larger amount of memory than is available. This then leads to constant transfer of each process's data to slower storage.


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Modern file systems comprise a hierarchy of directories. While the idea is conceptually similar across all general-purpose file systems, some differences in implementation exist. Two noticeable examples of this are the character used to separate directories, and case sensitivity.

Common to all these (and other) operating systems is support for file systems typically found on removable media. FAT12 is the file system most commonly found on floppy discs. ISO 9660 and Universal Disk Format are two common formats that target Compact Discs and DVDs, respectively. Mount Rainier is a newer extension to UDF supported by Linux 2.6 kernels and Windows Vista that facilitates rewriting to DVDs in the same fashion as has been possible with floppy disks.

Most current operating systems are capable of using the TCP/IP networking protocols. This means that computers running dissimilar operating systems can participate in a common network for sharing resources such as computing, files, printers, and scanners using either wired or wireless connections.