In a basic expression, an Operating System is a term used to describe software consisting of data and programs and that runs on a computer to manage its computer hardware resources and to provide common services for the actions of various pieces of application software (such as word processors and media players). As a result, these systems are found in almost all devices that contain some form of computer, such as video game consoles and mobile phones even to web servers and super computers.
Common features of these systems include process management (an integral part of such a system and in which the system allocates resources to processes); Interrupts (asynchronous signals indicating the need for attention); memory management (providing means of allocating memory to programs when required); file systems (methods of storing and organising computer files and their data into a database from which the operating system can then retrieve them); input/output (the communication between an information processing system and the outside world, be it a human or another information processing system); and device drivers (programs that allow higher level computer programs to interact with a hardware device) as well as basic computer security for the protection of data and files.
By comparison, multiple systems can be broken down into four types: Multi user, multi processing, multi tasking and multi threading operating systems. When referring to an ops systems, a ‘multi-user system’ refers to a computer with an incorporated operating system that can support multiple users at different times as well as all at once. For example, a ‘time sharing’ system can be classified as a being ‘multi user’ since such a system enables multiple users to have access to a computer through the sharing of time.
A ‘multi processing ops system’ by comparison is one that is capable of supporting and utilising more than one form of computer processor and, as suggested by the name, a ‘multi tasking operating system’ is a system that allows multiple software processes to run at the same time. ‘Multi-tasking systems’ can be of two types: pre-emptive (in which the operating system slices the central processing unit (CPU)’s time and assigns a single slot to each of the programs) or co-operative (which is achieved by relying on each of the individual processes to give a certain amount of time to the other processes in a defined manner). Finally, a ‘multi threading operating system’ is one that allows the concurrent running of different parts of a software program.