An operating system or OS is a software on the hard drive that enables the computer hardware to communicate and operate with the computer software. Without a computer operating system, a computer and software programs would be useless. The picture to the right is an example of Microsoft Windows XP, a popular operating system and what the box may look like if you were to purchase it from a local retail store.
Operating System types
As computers have progressed and developed, so have the operating systems. Below is a basic list of the types of operating systems and a few examples of operating systems that fall into each of the types. 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 a complete definition. Examples of GUI operating systems are:
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:
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:
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:
Multithreading - Operating systems that allow different parts of a software program to run concurrently. Examples of operating systems that would fall into this category are:
Common questions and answers to operating systems in general can be found in the below operating system question and answers section. All other questions relating to an operating system in particular can be found through its corresponding operating system page link below.
Operating System listing
Below is a listing of many of the different operating systems available today, the dates they were released, the platforms they have been developed for, and who developed them.
Common operating system questions and answers
- Full listing of all terms relating to computer operating systems.
- How do I determine what operating system I'm using?
- Missing operating system.
- Linux vs. Windows
- Command line vs. GUI.
- See our operating system definition for further information and related links on this term.