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kernelWhen referring to an operating system, the kernel is the first section of the operating system to load into memory. As the center of the operating system, the kernel need to be small, efficient and loaded into a protected area in the memory; so as not to be overwritten. It can be responsible for such things as disk drive management, interrupt handler, file management, memory management, process management, etc.

Also see: Mach kernel, Microkernel, Operating system terms