What is operating system?

What is operating system?

An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common services for computer programs.

Operating system types

As computers have progressed and developed, so have their operating systems. Below is a list of the categories of operating systems and examples of operating systems that fall into each of these categories. Many computer operating systems will fall into more than one of the below types.

GUI – Short for Graphical User Interface, a GUI operating system contains graphics and icons and is commonly navigated by using a computer mouse. See the GUI definition for further information. Examples of GUI operating systems are:

System 7.x
Windows 98
Windows CE

Multi-user – A multi-user operating system allows for multiple users to use the same computer at the same time and different times. See the multi-user definition for a complete definition. Examples of operating systems that would fall into this category are:

Linux
Unix
Windows 2000

Multiprocessing – An operating system capable of supporting and utilizing more than one computer processor. Examples of operating systems that would fall into this category are:

Linux
Unix
Windows XP

Multitasking – An operating system that is capable of allowing multiple software processes to run at the same time. Examples of operating systems that would fall into this category are:

Linux
Unix
Windows 8

Multithreading – Operating systems that allow different parts of a program to run concurrently. Examples of operating systems that would fall into this category are:

Linux
Unix
Windows XP

Windows Operating system

Microsoft Windows, commonly referred to as Windows, is a group of several proprietary graphical operating system families, all of which are developed and marketed by Microsoft. Each family caters to a certain sector of the computing industry. Active Microsoft Windows families include Windows NT and Windows IoT; these may encompass subfamilies, e.g. Windows Server or Windows Embedded Compact (Windows CE). Defunct Microsoft Windows families include Windows 9x, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone.

Define Windows OS version

MS-DOS – Microsoft Disk Operating System (1981)

Originally developed by Microsoft for IBM, MS-DOS was the standard operating system for IBM-compatible personal computers. The initial versions of DOS were very simple and resembled another operating system called CP/M. Subsequent versions have become increasingly sophisticated as they incorporated features of minicomputer operating systems.

Windows 1.0 – 2.0 (1985-1992)

Introduced in 1985, Microsoft Windows 1.0 was named due to the computing boxes, or “windows” that represented a fundamental aspect of the operating system. Instead of typing MS-DOS commands, windows 1.0 allowed users to point and click to access the windows.

In 1987 Microsoft released Windows 2.0, which was designed for the designed for the Intel 286 processor. This version added desktop icons, keyboard shortcuts and improved graphics support.

Windows 3.0 – 3.1 (1990–1994)

Windows 3.0 was released in May, 1900 offering better icons, performance and advanced graphics with 16 colors designed for Intel 386 processors. This version is the first release that provides the standard “look and feel” of Microsoft Windows for many years to come. Windows 3.0 included Program Manager, File Manager and Print Manager and games (Hearts, Minesweeper and Solitaire). Microsoft released Windows 3.1 in 1992.

Windows 95 (August 1995)

Windows 95 was released in 1995 and was a major upgrade to the Windows operating system. This OS was a significant advancement over its precursor, Windows 3.1. In addition to sporting a new user interface, Windows 95 also includes a number of important internal improvements. Perhaps most important, it supports 32-bit applications, which means that applications written specifically for this operating system should run much faster.

Although Windows 95 can run older Windows and DOS applications, it has essentially removed DOS as the underlying platform. This has meant removal of many of the old DOS limitations, such as 640K of main memory and 8-character filenames. Other important features in this operating system are the ability to automatically detect and configure installed hardware (plug and play).

Windows 98 (June 1998)

Windows 98 offers support for a number of new technologies, including FAT32, AGP, MMX, USB, DVD, and ACPI. Its most visible feature, though, is the Active Desktop, which integrates the Web browser (Internet Explorer) with the operating system. From the user’s point of view, there is no difference between accessing a document residing locally on the user’s hard disk or on a Web server halfway around the world.

Windows ME – Millennium Edition (September 2000)

The Windows Millennium Edition, called “Windows Me” was an update to the Windows 98 core and included some features of the Windows 2000  operating system. This version also removed the “boot in DOS” option.

Windows NT 31. – 4.0 (1993-1996)

A version of the Windows operating system. Windows NT (New Technology) is a 32-bit operating system that supports preemptive multitasking. There are actually two versions of Windows NT: Windows NT Server, designed to act as a server in networks, and Windows NT Workstation for stand-alone or client workstations.

Windows 2000 (February 2000)

Often abbreviated as “W2K,” Windows 2000 is an operating system for business desktop and laptop systems to run software applications, connect to Internet and intranet sites, and access files, printers, and network resources. Microsoft released four versions of Windows 2000: Professional (for business desktop and laptop systems), Server (both a Web server and an office server), Advanced Server (for line-of-business applications) and Datacenter Server (for high-traffic computer networks).

Windows XP (October 2001)

Windows XP was released in 2001. Along with a redesigned look and feel to the user interface, the new operating system is built on the Windows 2000 kernel, giving the user a more stable and reliable environment than previous versions of Windows. Windows XP comes in two versions, Home and Professional.  Microsoft focused on mobility for both editions, including plug and play features for connecting to wireless networks. The operating system also utilizes the 802.11x wireless security standard. Windows XP is one of Microsoft’s best-selling products.

Windows Vista (November 2006)

Windows Vista offered an advancement in reliability, security, ease of deployment, performance and manageability over Windows XP. New in this version was capabilities to detect hardware problems before they occur, security features to protect against the latest generation of threats, faster start-up time and low power consumption of the new sleep state. In many cases, Windows Vista is noticeably more responsive than Windows XP on identical hardware. Windows Vista simplifies and centralizes desktop configuration management, reducing the cost of keeping systems updated.

Windows 7 (October, 2009)

Windows 7 was released by Microsoft on October 22, 2009 as the latest in the 25-year-old line of Windows operating systems and as the successor to Windows Vista (which itself had followed Windows XP). Windows 7 was released in conjunction with Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 7’s server counterpart. Enhancements and new features in Windows 7 include multi-touch support, Internet Explorer 8, improved performance and start-up time, Aero Snap, Aero Shake, support for virtual hard disks, a new and improved Windows Media Center, and improved security.

Windows 8

Windows 8 was released on August. 1, 2012 and is a completely redesigned operating system that’s been developed from the ground up with touchscreen use in mind as well as near-instant-on capabilities that enable a Windows 8 PC to load and start up in a matter of seconds rather than in minutes.

Windows 8 will replace the more traditional Microsoft Windows OS look and feel with a new “Metro” design system interface that first debuted in the Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system. The Metro user interface primarily consists of a “Start screen” made up of “Live Tiles,” which are links to applications and features that are dynamic and update in real time.  Windows 8 supports both x86 PCs and ARM processors.

Windows 10

Windows 10 is Microsoft’s Windows successor to Windows 8. Windows 10 debuted on July 29, 2015, following a “technical preview” beta release of the new operating system that arrived in Fall 2014 and a “consumer preview” beta in early 2015. Microsoft claims Windows 10 features fast start up and resume, built-in security and the return of the Start Menu in an expanded form. This version of Windows will also feature Microsoft Edge, Microsoft’s new browser. Any qualified device (such as tablets, PCs, smartphones and Xbox consoles) can upgrade to Windows 10, including those with pirated copies of Windows.

Microsoft Operating Systems for Servers and Mobile Devices

Aside from operating systems designed for use on personal computers (PCs) and laptops, Microsoft has also developed operating systems for services, handheld devices, and mobile phones.

Windows Server (March 2003)

Windows Server is a series of Microsoft server operating systems. Windows servers are more powerful versions of their desktop operating system counterparts and are designed to more efficiently handle corporate networking, Internet/intranet hosting, databases, enterprise-scale messaging and similar functions.  The Windows Server name made its debut with the release of Windows Server 2003 and continues with the current release, Windows Server 2008 R2, which shares its codebase with Windows 7. Windows Server 2008 R2 debuted in October 2009.

Windows Home Server (January 2007)

Announced in January 2007, Windows Home Server (WHS) is a “consumer server” designed to use with multiple computers connected in the home. Home Server allows you to share files such as digital photos and media files, and also allows you to automatically backup your home networked computers. Through Windows Media Connect, Windows Home Server lets you share any media located on your WHS with compatible devices.

Windows CE (November 2006)

A version of the Windows operating system designed for small devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) (or Handheld PCs in the Microsoft vernacular). The Windows CE graphical user interface (GUI) is very similar to Windows 95 so devices running Windows CE should be easy to operate for anyone familiar with Windows 95.

Windows Mobile (April 2000)

A mobile operating system for smartphones and mobile devices from Microsoft based on the Windows CE kernel and designed to look and operate similar to desktop versions of Microsoft Windows. Windows Mobile has largely been supplanted by Windows Phone 7, although Microsoft did release,  in 2011, Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5, a mobile OS compatible with Windows Mobile 6.5 that’s designed for enterprise mobile and handheld computing devices.

Windows Phone (November 2010)

A mobile operating system for smartphones and mobile devices that serves as the successor to Microsoft’s initial mobile OS platform system, Windows Mobile. Unlike Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7 (also referred to as WinPhone7) is targeted more to the consumer market than the enterprise market, and it replaces the more traditional Microsoft Windows OS look and feel with a new “Metro” design system user interface.

Windows Phone 7 features a multi-tab Internet Explorer Mobile Web browser that uses a rendering engine based on Internet Explorer 9 as well Microsoft Office Mobile, a version of Microsoft Office that’s tailored for mobile devices. Its successors include Windows Phone 8 and Windows 10 Mobile.

Best Features of Windows Operating System

1. Speed

Even aside from incompatibilities and other issues that many people had with Vista, one of the most straightforward was speed – it just felt too sluggish compared to XP, even on pumped up hardware. Windows 7 brings a more responsive and sprightly feel and Microsoft has spent a lot of time and effort getting the Start Menu response just right.

Microsoft has also recognized the need for improved desktop responsiveness, which gives the impression that the computer is responding to the user and that they are in control – something that was often lacking with Vista.

You can also expect faster boot times. And the boot sequence is now not only prettier than it was with Vista, but it’s speedier too.

2. Compatibility

In simple terms, compatibility on Windows 7 will be far better than it was with Vista. Many programs that individuals and companies used on Windows XP did not work immediately and required updates, but with Windows 7 almost all applications that work on Vista should still run.

3. Lower Hardware Requirements

Vista gained a reputation for making even the beefiest hardware look rather ordinary. Windows 7, however, will run well on lower end hardware, making the transition from Window XP less painful.

Microsoft is even pushing Windows 7 for netbooks. This could provide a modern replacement for Windows XP, which has found a new lease of life as the OS of choice on netbooks, supplanting Linux. The downside is that Windows 7 Starter Edition, as it will be called, will be limited to only three applications running at the same time.

4. Search and Organization

One of the best things about Windows 7 is the improved search tool, which now rivals Mac OS X’s Spotlight to be able to find what you need quickly and easily. For example, typing ‘mouse’ will bring up the mouse option within the control panel or typing a word will display it and split it up neatly into files, folders and applications.

Also introduced is the concept of Libraries, which takes the ‘My Documents’ concept a stage further. The various Libraries, such as Documents and Pictures, will watch multiple locations which you can add yourself, so you don’t have to keep everything in one place.

5. Safety and Security

New security features in Windows include two new authentication methods tailored towards touchscreens (PINs and picture passwords), the addition of antivirus capabilities to Windows Defender (bringing it in parity with Microsoft Security Essentials) Smart Screen filtering integrated into Windows, and support for the “Secure Boot” functionality on UEFI systems to protect against malware infecting the boot process. Family Safety offers Parental controls, which allows parents to monitor and manage their children’s activities on a device with activity reports and safety controls. Windows 8 also provides integrated system recovery through the new “Refresh” and “Reset” functions, including system recovery from USB drive. Windows 8’s first security patches would be released on November 13, 2012; it would contain three fixes deemed “critical” by the company.

6. Interface and Desktop

Windows introduces significant changes to the operating system’s user interface, many of which are aimed at improving its experience on tablet computers and other touchscreen devices. The new user interface is based on Microsoft’s Metro design language, and uses a Start screen similar to that of Windows Phone as the primary means of launching applications. The Start screen displays a customizable array of tiles linking to various apps and desktop programs, some of which can display constantly updated information and content through “live tiles”. As a form of multitasking, apps can be snapped to the side of a screen. Alongside the traditional Control Panel, a new simplified and touch-optimized settings app known as “PC Settings” is used for basic configuration and user settings. It does not include many of the advanced options still accessible from the normal Control Panel.

7. Taskbar/Start menu

At first glance, the task bar looks like nothing has much has changed since Vista. In fact, that’s not the case and it’s a lot more powerful. Microsoft is now making best use of its aero technology. By default, taskbar icons are now larger and items are grouped together and are not labelled with clumsy text.

If you have multiple Word documents or Windows Explorer windows open then you’ll see a stack appear on the task bar. Hover the mouse over the app and each Window will be visible in a thumbnail. Hover over each thumbnail and it will become visible, while all other open windows temporarily disappear, save for their outlines. You can close each document or Window down from the thumbnail directly or click on it to bring it to the front.

In the Start menu, a small arrow to the right of applications such as Word now expands to give a list of recent documents and any can be pinned so you can keep one permanently on the list.

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