Tasks Performed by an Operating System

More recently, operating systems have started to pop up in smaller computers as well. If you like to tinker with electronic devices, you're probably pleased that operating systems can now be found on many of the devices we use every day, from cell phones to wireless access points. The computers used in these little devices have gotten so powerful that they can now actually run an operating system and applications. The computer in a typical modern cell phone is now more powerful than a desktop computer from 20 years ago, so this progression makes sense and is a natural development.

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 but predictable way. In this article, we'll tell you what a piece of software must do to be called an operating system, show you how the operating system in your desktop computer works and give you some examples of how to take control of the other operating systems around you.

For other devices, an operating system creates the ability to:

  • serve a variety of purposes
  • interact with users in more complicated ways
  • keep up with needs that change over time


For a desktop computer user, this means you can add a new security update, system patch, new application or even an entirely new operating system rather than junk your computer and start again with a new one when you need to make a change. As long as you understand how an operating system works and how to get at it, in many cases you can change some of the ways it behaves. The same thing goes for your phone, too. Regardless of what device an operating system runs, what exactly can it do?

The operating system's tasks, in the most general sense, fall into five categories:
  1. Processor management
  2. Memory management
  3. Device management
  4. Storage management
  5. Application interface


Process management involves various tasks like creation, scheduling, termination of processes, and a deadlock. Process is a program that is under execution, which is an important part of modern-day operating systems. The OS must allocate resources that enable processes to share and exchange information. It also protects the resources of each process from other methods and allows synchronization among processes. It is the job of the OS to manage all the running processes of the system. It handles operations by performing tasks like process scheduling and such as resource allocation.

Memory management is the functionality of an operating system which handles or manages primary memory and moves processes back and forth between main memory and disk during execution. Memory management keeps track of each and every memory location, regardless of either it is allocated to some process or it is free. It checks how much memory is to be allocated to processes. It decides which process will get memory at what time. It tracks whenever some memory gets freed or unallocated and correspondingly it updates the status.

Device Management is another important function of the operating system. Device management is responsible for managing all the hardware devices of the computer system. It may also include the management of the storage device as well as the management of all the input and output devices of the computer system. It is the responsibility of the operating system to keep track of the status of all the devices in the computer system. The status of any computing devices, internal or external may be either free or busy. If a device requested by a process is free at a specific instant of time, the operating system allocates it to the process.

Storage Management is another important function of the operating system. Since main memory is usually too small to accommodate all the data and programs permanently, the computer system must provide secondary storage to back up main memory. Modern computer systems use disks as the primary on-line storage medium for information (both programs and data). The file system provides the mechanism for on-line storage of and access to both data and programs residing on the disks. A file is a collection of related information defined by its creator. The files are mapped by the operating system onto physical devices. Files are normally f organized into directories for ease of use. The devices that attach to a computer vary in many aspects. Some devices transfer a character or a block of characters at a time. Some can be accessed only sequentially, others randomly. Some transfer data synchronously, others asynchronously. Some are dedicated, some shared. They can be read-only or read-write. They vary greatly in speed. In many ways, they are also the slowest major component of the computer. Because of all this device variation, the operating system needs to provide a wide range of functionality to applications, to allow them to control all aspects of the devices. One key goal of an operating system's I/O subsystem is to provide the simplest interface possible to the rest of the system. Because devices are a performance bottleneck, another key is to optimize I/O for maximum concurrency.

Application Interface is an Important task of OS. Operating system APIs are typically integrated into the software development kit for the corresponding program. For example, Apple's Xcode IDE allows developers to drag and drop elements into an application's interface. It also provides a list of available functions and includes syntax highlighting for known elements and commands. While operating system APIs have a robust set of features, other types of APIs are much more basic. For example, a website may provide an API for web developers that allows them to access specific information from the site. A website API may be as simple as a set of XML elements with a few basic commands for retrieving the information.

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