How Operating Systems Work | HowStuffWorks
When you turn on your computer, it’s nice to think you’re in control. There’s the trusty mouse, which you can move anywhere on the screen, summoning your music library or internet browser at the slightest whim. While it’s easy to feel like a manager in front of your desktop or laptop computer, there’s a lot going on inside, and the real person behind the curtain handling the necessary tasks is the operating system.
Microsoft Windows powers most of the computers we use for business or personal purposes. Macintosh computers are preloaded with macOS. Linux and UNIX operating systems are popular for digital content servers, but many distros or distros have become increasingly popular for everyday use. Whichever you choose, without an operating system, you won’t accomplish anything.
Other devices have their own operating system. Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are the most common smartphone operating systems as of the 2020s, although some manufacturers have developed their own, primarily based on the Android operating system. Apple ships iPads with iPadOS, Apple Watches with watchOS, and Apple TV uses tvOS. And there are all sorts of other devices that have their own operating systems — think Internet of Things devices, smart TVs, and systems that run car infotainment systems. And that doesn’t even include the complex systems needed for self-driving cars.
The purpose of an operating system is to organize and control hardware and software so that the device it lives in behaves in a flexible yet predictable way. In this article, we’ll tell you what software needs to do to be called an operating system, show you how your desktop’s operating system works, and give you some examples of how to take control. of other operating systems around you.