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Functions of Operating System

Last Updated on April 26, 2023 by Prepbytes

An operating system is a software program that is responsible for managing various tasks such as organizing and accessing files, overseeing the usage of memory, regulating processes, facilitating input and output operations, and governing peripheral devices such as printers and disk drives. Here we will discuss what are the functions of Operating system. So, let’s get started. But first, let’s recap what an operating system is.

What is an Operating System?

An Operating System is an interface between the user (i.e. us who use the computer) and the hardware. Operating System enables the user to access hardware by utilizing certain application programs, such as Word or PowerPoint presentations.

The primary goal of an operating system is human convenience. The way an operating system acts as an interface between the user and the hardware is shown below.

So, now that we have understood the meaning of an operating system, let us now study the functions of operating system.

What are the Functions of Operating System?

The functions of operating System are given below in detail.

1. Execution of Programs
Programs can be of 2 types; user programs and system programs. The user programs are the tasks assigned by the user to the computer. For instance, when a user clicks a folder, he/she provides the task of opening that folder to the computer. The system programs are the programs that are operating system specific. For instance, when we delete a file, it gets backed up in the recycle bin, and it is not done by us. So, the operating system is responsible for program execution, be it user programs or system programs. So, the execution of programs is one of the important functions of operating system.

2. I/O Operations
One of the very basic functions of operating system is to handle the inputs and give outputs. So, the operating system is responsible for handling the inputs from all the devices, be it a mouse or a keyboard or a writing tab, etc. Also, it is the responsibility of the operating system to ask the appropriate device to return the output. For instance, if we click on a folder, the input is the mouse click and the output should be displayed on the desktop whereas if we print something, we should get the correct print from the printer.

3. Allocation of Resources
Allocation of resources is another function of operating system. An operating system is responsible for the allocation of resources to different processes. Different processes are running and waiting in a processor. It is one of the most important functions of an operating system to allocate and deallocate the resources from the processes so that there is no conflict between them.

4. Security and Protection
A very basic example of security can be seen when we start our laptops/PCs or even phones. It asks us to enter a password. However, security and protection are more than just entering a password using the device. There can be some processes that might harm the other process only. So, for this, we need inter-process security also. This is also provided by the operating system.

5. Process Management
Process Management is one of the most important functions of operating system. We all open more than one application on our devices. For instance, let us say that we have to write an article. So, we open Microsoft word for it. Now, if we want to get some ideas about the article that we are going to write, we open Google Chrome. So, we open 2 apps together. We can even open a music app and work while listening to the music. However, the processor is able to handle only one process at a time.

We don’t realize this because of the speed of Context Switching. Context switching refers to the process where the processor rapidly alternates between different programs, creating the illusion of multiple programs running simultaneously. An operating system is responsible for this context switching and it achieves this using various CPU Scheduling Algorithms like Shortest Job First (SJF), Round-Robin, Priority Scheduling, etc.

6. Memory Management
Memory management is one of the most important functions of operating system after process management. Basically, through process management, we manage the order and nature of Context Switching, however, through memory management, the operating system manages the way memory is utilized by these different processes. A process can only be executed if some part of the main memory (RAM) gets allocated to it. A process gets some main memory allocated when it requests it and the part of the main memory occupied by this process gets deallocated when the process terminates.
This allocation and deallocation of the main memory are managed by the Operating System only.

7. Storage Management or File Management
The terms storage management and memory management can be confusing a lot of times. However, let us clarify the difference between these 2 terms. Memory management is defined as the management of the allocation and deallocation of the main memory by the operating system. On the other hand, storage management deals with the management of secondary storage. As we see in our devices, the operating system divides the data into files and directories (folders). The folders can contain more folders and files. So, the operating system is responsible for managing this secondary storage, knowing the exact division of the storage and the locations of files and directories on the disk.

8. Application Management
Apart from the system software, there is other application software installed in a device. For instance, a user interacts with Google Chrome which is an application software installed on the device by the user. An operating system makes it possible for the user to interact with these application softwares smoothly by acting as a layer between the hardware and these application softwares.

9. Error Handling
One of the functions of operating system is to detect, prevent, and report errors. For instance, it might happen sometimes that we try to open a file or a folder and we get the message with some particular hex code that a particular DLL is not present. An example is shown below.

So, this is a part of error handling by the operating system. It is reporting the error so that the user can rectify this error by downloading the required DLL file and can then start the application.

10. Taking Care of the System Health
One of the most underrated functions of operating system is taking care of the system’s health. Troubleshooting problems for improving overall performance is one of the most important factors in the System’s Health.

Services provided by Operating System

The operating system provides various services to the computer system, which include:

  • Program Execution: The OS is responsible for executing all types of programs, whether they are user or system programs, and ensuring that they perform efficiently using various resources.
  • Input/Output Handling: The operating system manages input operations from various sources, such as the keyboard, mouse, and desktop, and handles all interfaces appropriately depending on the nature of the peripheral device.
  • File System Management: The OS determines where data or files should be stored, such as on a floppy disk, hard disk, or pen drive, and decides how data should be stored and managed.
  • Error Detection and Handling: The operating system is equipped to detect any errors or flaws that may occur during any task, and can also act as a countermeasure against intrusion into the computer system from external sources.
  • Resource Allocation: The operating system allocates resources by deciding which resource should be used by whom and for how long, ensuring that all available resources are used properly. The operating system makes all of the necessary decisions.

In this article, we learned what are the functions of operating systems. Although there can be a lot more large and small functionalities of an operating system, these are the major 10 functions of operating system that we have talked about. We have also discussed various services that are offered by the operating system. We hope that you have understood the functions of operating system and have liked the discussion too. We hope to see you again soon at PrepBytes.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions related to “Functions of Operating System”.

Ques 1. What are the primary functions of operating system?
Ans. The primary functions of operating systems include memory management, process management, file management, security, device management, and network management.

Ques 2. What is a file system in an operating system?
Ans. A file system is a method used by an operating system to organize and manage files stored on a computer’s storage devices.

Ques 3. What is multi-tasking in an operating system?
Ans. Multi-tasking is the ability of an operating system to run multiple processes simultaneously.

Ques 4. What is multi-threading in an operating system?
Ans. Multi-threading is the ability of an operating system to run multiple threads of execution within a single process, allowing for parallel execution of code.

Ques 5. What is a process in an operating system?
Ans. A process is an instance of a program that is being executed by a computer’s operating system.

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