If the Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the brain behind the functioning of the computer, the Operating System (OS) is the heart of the appliance.
An OS is the most important software that runs on the computer. In addition to managing the computer’s memory and processes, it also takes care of the software and hardware installed on the system. It serves as a communicative medium between the user and the machine. A PC/laptop is useless without the OS.
There are different types of operating systems. Before going into these details, let us have a brief understanding of the job of the OS.
The job of the Operating system
Your PC/laptop operating system has to manage the software and hardware installed on the computer. Usually, you will have several programmes running simultaneously.
All these programmes need to access the CPU, memory, and storage. The responsibility of the operating system is to coordinate all these programmes and ensure the proper functioning of the computer/laptop.
Different types of Operating Systems
Operating systems are of broadly two types.
- Normal Operating System
- Real-Time Operating System
The Normal operating system comprises two types of OS
- Character User Interface Operating System (CUI OS)
- Graphical User Interface Operating System (GUI OS)
Character User Interface Operating System
The GUI operating system is a simple text-based operating system. You need to type out commands on the keyboard to interact with the software or files. The prime examples of CUI OS are DOS and UNIX.
It is an advanced operating system in many ways. The present-day advanced command line operating system is comparatively faster than the GUI OS.
Graphical User Interface Operating System
In this OS, you make use of the keyboard as well as the mouse to interact with the computer software. You can open and close files without typing out commands on the keyboard. A mere click of the mouse is enough to perform various tasks or operations.
The examples of the GUI OS are Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and so on. However, the advanced GUI OS is slower than the command line OS (CUI OS).
The GUI OS is further classified into the following sub-divisions
Single User – Single Task
As the name suggests, one user will be able to do only one task at a time on such OS. The best example of such an OS is the Palm OS used in handheld computers.
Single User – Multi-Tasking
Most of the people use this type of OS on their laptops/PC. The examples of such OS are MS Windows, Apple’s Mac OS, and so on. This OS allows a single user to do multitasking. In other words, you can have several programs in operation at the same time. You can type in MS Word, listen to music, and download files from the internet simultaneously.
In this type of OS, you have multiple users on various computers at the same time. The OS allows different users to take advantage of the computer resources simultaneously. The OS must ensure that it meets the resource requirements of multiple users in such a way that a problem faced by one user does not affect the others. The best examples of multi-user OS are UNIX, VMS, and mainframe operating systems.
Understand that a multi-user operating system is different from the single-user operating system that supports networking. Many people confuse Windows 2000 and Novell Netware as multi-user OS. Yes, these systems can support thousands of networked users at a time, but the system administrator is the only user for this OS.
Real Time Operating System (RTOS)
An RTOS does not have end-user utilities as the system comes in a sealed box ready for use. It has the minimal user-interface capability. The RTOS has utility in controlling scientific instruments, industrial systems, robots, and so on.
Managing the resources of the computer is the critical aspect of the RTOS. The system is such that a particular operation should execute in the same amount of time every time it occurs. The examples of RTOS are RTLinux, VxWorks, TRON, and Windows CE.
Choosing the right OS
Choosing between different types of OS is not a new issue. People have been facing this problem for decades. It is because they have a choice between different OS. Some OS are good for gaming whereas some are great for web development and programming.
Similarly, the needs of students are different from that of casual users of computers. You also have professionals engaged in jobs like video editing. You need a different kind of OS to perform such functions. Let us explore the different types of OS and understand its features and functions.
We shall now look at the most commonly used OS in PC/Laptops.
As on date Microsoft Windows 10 holds about 90% of the PC and laptop market share worldwide. It means that out of every ten laptops/PCs sold in the market, nine are compatible with Windows 10. It is because Windows has the hardware and software variety.
Microsoft sells Windows licenses to any PC manufacturer for loading on to the desktops, laptops, tablets, and so on. Hence, you get a Windows machine in almost any shape, size, and price range you want.
Also, Microsoft sells Windows on its own thereby enabling consumers and businesses to load it manually onto their hardware. This approach has allowed Windows to dominate the market.
Windows is available worldwide and has a long life. Also, Windows has the largest software library in the world. Every Windows user might not get access to all the new applications that come into the market. However, Windows is the OS to have on your computer/laptop if you are into activities like media, gaming, multimedia, enterprise, and general consumer use.
The advantage with Windows is that it is compatible with all kinds of software. It assumes great significance because the other competitive OS like Chrome is not very compatible with hardware/software for media, video editing, gaming, and computer-aided design.
Windows OS is also compatible with almost all types of accessories like mouse, keyboards, storage drives, graphics tablets, printers, scanners, monitors, microphones, and so on. Yes, the Mac OS also displays similar ability but you cannot say the same about Chrome OS.
As far as updates are concerned, Windows does them regularly. You get timely updates with advanced features. Windows has a bi-annual update schedule as compared to Mac OS that has an annual updating schedule. Yes, Google Chrome OS has many updates as well, but they do not introduce significant new features.
- Excellent selection of software coupled with the widest variety of hardware
- Can work on almost any device like desktops, tablets, laptops, notebooks, and so on
- Windows 10 is the best OS for gaming enthusiasts
- It can work with all kinds of accessories
- You have new features introduced twice a year
- Biannual updating schedules are great, but they can be confusing as well
- There are compatibility issues with some hardware
- There are different versions of Windows 10 that can confuse users
- Not very good OS for writing apps
As compared to Windows 10, Mac OS has restricted use. You can use the Mac OS only on Apple devices. Therefore, buying an Apple machine is the only legitimate way to access Mac OS. Initially, it was known as OS X.
As Mac OS can run on a relatively small variety of computers and parts, it is easy to control the system as compared to Windows 10. Therefore, it allows Apple to do intensive testing of their products and optimise software for a few appliances alone.
It also allows Apple to offer targeted services to diagnose and fix problems with a higher degree of accuracy and speed than Windows 10. Hence, it lives up to its official slogan, “It just works.”
Mac OS is a user-friendly OS. Even MS Windows 10 has a simple user interface, but there are many deep layers of menu beneath the surface. Mac OS is comparatively easier to use.
People used to Windows 10 can take some time to adjust to the Mac OS interface. You can take the example of Mac OS file explorer known as Finder. It can take time for the Windows user to understand the Mac OS terms.
Compared to Windows 10, Mac OS does not have a broad software market. However, Apple has many in-house programs for performing basic tasks.
Mac OS is also compatible with third-party software like Google’s Chrome Browser. Microsoft has also produced its version of the Office application suite exclusively for Apple hardware. Design and media production businesses prefer the Mac OS as many art-focussed applications are available only on Mac. One such application is Apple’s Final Cut Pro video editing suite.
Mac OS is not very popular among gaming enthusiasts because most of the new games are not available on this platform. Usually, the games release on the Windows platform because of its greater reach.
However, Mac OS users have a way out. They can install the Apple’s Bootcamp application and prepare any Mac computer to run on Windows. Therefore, accessing games and other specific Windows applications become easy.
You will need a separate Windows 10 licence to run Windows on Bootcamp. However, you can run Linux as well on it. Yes, Windows machines also allow you to boot Linux and other third-party OS but you cannot use Mac OS on non-Apple hardware.
The most significant advantage of Mac OS is that it works perfectly with Apple iOS products such as iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch. People having the iOS products and Mac OS can enjoy the benefit of a unified design language. They can also enjoy the services of tools like Apple Pay and Siri.
This integration of the Mac OS and iOS allows the users to pick up where you leave in a document on any device, and take phone calls or answer text on your Mac. Apple Watch owners can also log into the latest version of Mac OS without using a password. You do not find this flexibility and dexterity on the Windows 10 devices.
Apple does not offer many product lines running Mac OS. Also, the hardware is comparatively expensive. The hardware does not fit your needs at all times. For example, you do not have any 17-inch MacBook. There is no touchscreen device in Mac OS.
However, Apple has now introduced a more powerful iMac Pro line, a design with 18 processor cores and powerful AMD Vega Graphics. It is to retain professionals who wean away from Mac Os towards Windows 10.
Mac Computers and Mac OS are for users seeking a premium desktop experience. Many people are dedicated Apple product fans. As they use the iPhone and iPads regularly, they would naturally prefer to have Mac OS on their laptops and PCs.
- The Mac OS has a simple and user-friendly design
- Apple’s Top-down software and hardware approach enables Mac OS users to get the best services
- Compatible with iPhones and iPads
- It is possible to run Windows on Mac Computers using Boot Camp
- Compared to Windows 10, Mac OS is expensive
- There are fewer software options in Mac OS
- Gamers usually find disappointment with Mac OS
- There is no touchscreen support
- Mac OS has not impressed users with its recent updates.
People who are regularly active on the internet would love to use the Chrome OS. It is perfect for such users because it is an ideal extension of the Chrome desktop browser. Chrome hardware, also known as Chromebook or Chromebox is ideal for people who rely primarily on the web and rarely use the complicated desktop software.
Compared to MS Windows 10 and Apple’s Mac OS, the Chrome OS is a simple environment. Yes, it supports all Android applications thereby expanding its utility when you are offline. Chrome OS revolves around its browser. Hence, it is the least complex of all the OS available on the market.
The Chrome OS includes basic tools like File Manager and Photo Viewer. However, its primary focus is content on the web. The compatibility with the Android apps will change this focus now.
The Chrome OS is an extremely user-friendly OS. The interface is such that it gets the viewers to the web as quickly as possible. This OS is excellent for web browsing, streaming videos, music, chatting, and video conferencing.
It can also handle advanced Flash and Java applications. Though it can change the interface and add more functionality, it lacks the power user options of both Windows and Mac OS.
It is natural for Chrome OS to rely on Google tools in the same way Mac OS relies on Apple and Windows 10 relies on MS software. As Chrome OS focuses more on the web, it can run on low-power and inexpensive hardware. Laptops with cheap processors and small solid-state drives prefer to work on Chrome OS. Laptops with minimal RAM can also run smoothly on Chrome OS.
Chrome OS provides the same experience on Chromebook as well as Chromebox. It does not have the ‘bloatware’ problem in spite of being sold by third-party manufacturers like Samsung, Dell, and Toshiba. Chrome OS offers easy administration. Therefore, it is extremely popular in educational environments.
Usually, Chrome OS is an inexpensive system. However, you have expensive models that offer high-resolution screens, backlit keyboards, fold-back touch screens, and so on.
In the initial stages, Chrome OS did not provide compatibility with external software, but things have changed now with Google providing access to Android-powered Play Store. Chromebooks do not work with advanced accessories like USB monitors or complex gaming hardware.
You do not have access to the huge number of games available on Windows, but there are thousands of games that run well on the latest Chromebooks and Chromeboxes.
- User-friendly OS
- Extremely lightweight software
- Inexpensive hardware options
- Access to Android apps is a vital advantage
- Limited applications as compared to “real” PCs
- Chrome OS does not offer much space as compared to Windows or Mac OS
- Poor compatibility with various accessories
- Over-reliance of Google tools
Launched in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, Linux is an open source OS as compared to the Windows or Mac OS. Hence, anyone can tweak the OS according to their usability. Compared to Windows, Linux has a complex version structure.
The open-source nature of Linux has resulted in the introduction of hundreds of Linux-based OS known as ‘distros’. Choosing between them is difficult. Comparatively, it is easier to choose between Windows 7, 8 or 10.
However, distros have their benefits as well. You can get an OS that suits your style effortlessly. If you prefer a Mac OS-style UI, you have the Elementary OS in Linux. Similarly, the Q40S OS can deliver an experience similar to that of Windows XP. You have super-secure distros that you can boot from USB drives. It keeps you safe when using an unfamiliar PC.
People new to Linux can start with Ubuntu as it is more user-friendly than even Windows. It has many features and is a versatile OS.
Installing Linux is also very easy. The advantage of Linux OS is that you can ‘live’ boot them. You need not install the OS in the machine. You can boot your device from a DVD or USB image. Thus, you can run it for as long as you like. Ubuntu is very easy to set up, but other distros need a bit of technical knowledge to set up.
Usually, you have more software compatible with Windows as compared to any other OS. Nevertheless, you have some software with Linux compatibility as well. Many people having a Linux system prefer to install a free, open-source alternative.
In other words, Windows has the best software compatibility. Hence, Windows users do not have much trouble in installing new software. Support wise, Linux has a lot of information to fall back on such as tips, tricks, tutorials, and forums from other users and developers.
Linux is the most secure OS of all. Hence, the IT community prefers to have a Linux OS as compared to Windows. The most significant advantage of Linux OS is that it does not grant full administrator or root access to the users like Windows does.
Hence, the accounts are at a lower level having no privileges with the broader system. It enables you to limit the damages caused by viruses. In case of a virus attack, it only affects the files and the folders on the individual machine and not the entire network.
The open source code works to its benefit because you have more people scanning the OS for flaws. Secondly, there is the compatibility issue. As all software is written for Windows, the same is the case with malware as well. Therefore the incompatibility with specific software helps it remain free from virus attacks.
Many distros provide a variety of choices for the Linux user. Hence, Linus scores very high on the layout, design, and user interface front, especially with corporate-backed offerings like Ubuntu and Fedora.
Performance wise, Linux is capable of outperforming Windows over a more extended period. Windows tends to bloat. It is not the case with Linux. The Linux OS is less-demanding software. However, no one can come near Windows as far as user-friendliness is concerned. Maybe, the reason is that they are in the business since 1985. Secondly, Linux is not a widely used OS. Hence, there is a need to train users to operate Linux.
Linux is the perfect OS if the security of data is of prime importance. Hence, you find the banks and other financial institutions use Linux OS instead of Windows. These organisations can afford to have a dedicated IT Department to take care of hardware and software problems. Smaller businesses would prefer to have Windows OS over Linux.
- Linux is an open source OS
- It is the best OS as far as security is concerned
- The availability of distros makes it a popular software
- There is no need to install the OS for booting purposes
- It is not a widely used OS
- It takes time for people to master the features of Linux
- Software compatibility is a significant issue
- Gamers and video editing professionals would any day prefer Windows or Mac OS respectively as compared to Linux
MS-DOS is a non-graphical command line operating system as opposed to Windows. You can navigate, open, and manipulate files using MS-DOS. However, not many people use MS-DOS today. Nevertheless, it is present in every Windows OS computer. You can open the Windows Command prompt Window and use MS-DOS.
Nowadays, users are more comfortable using the mouse to navigate through the system. You can double click on the folder or the file to open it. In MS-DOS you have to use the cd command and list out the files using the dir command.
Let us compare the Command Line Interface with the Graphic User Interface to understand MS-DOS better.
|Topic||Command Line Interface||Graphics User Interface|
|Ease of operation||Comparatively tricky because you have to memorise many terms and commands||Easier to use because it is visually intuitive|
|Control||Users can have good control over both the file and operating systems. However, it is not as user-friendly as GUI||GUI is extremely user-friendly as it offers access to files, software features, and OS as a whole|
|Multi-Tasking||Not so easy||Very easy|
|Speed||Users need to utilise the keyboard and navigate the interface. Hence, it ensures faster performance||Comparatively, GUI is slower than CLI|
|Resources||Uses fewer resources than the GUI||Needs more resources as many elements require loading|
|Scripting||New users can find it difficult||In comparison to CLI, it is easy as programmers can write the scripts without knowing all commands and syntax.|
|Remote access||If you know the commands, it is easy to access other devices over a network||Comparatively, it is easier to gain remote access to other computers on the network|
|Diversity||If you know the commands, it is easy to access other devices over a network||Comparatively, it is easier to gain remote access to other computers on the network|
|Strain||Once you learn how to navigate, it is not going to change much||Here, every GUI has a different design and structure|
We shall now look at which of the OS described above are the best for various purposes.
Windows 10 is the best for gaming as it has a wide selection of games. Secondly, most of the games perform better on Windows as compared to Linux and Mac OS.
Linux OS is the best OS for programming primarily because of the security and encryption features.
Linux distros like Ubuntu are great for doing basic stuff like photo editing. However, if you want to become creative, you need to use Photoshop. Under such circumstances, Mac OS is the best with Linux not being very far behind.
All the three principal OS like Windows, Mac, and Linux are suitable for students. It depends on what stream you are studying. The advantage of Mac OS is that you can have Windows as a second OS on the system. However, you cannot use Mac OS on other computers. As far as the availability of software is concerned, Windows is the best.
Chrome OS is the simplest OS for web development. Linux is arguably the most difficult system to use.
We have seen PC/laptop OS in detail. There are many other operating systems available as well. However, the most popular ones are Windows and Mac OS. Chrome OS is becoming a popular one because of the ease of using it.
Nowadays, people use their smartphones more than the laptops. It is also a significant reason for the increase in the popularity of Chrome OS. Linux is excellent software for businesses, especially the financial sector because of the enhanced security levels. This article should clear out any doubts you had in your mind regarding operating systems in laptops and PCs.
Srinivasa is Vsbytes’s Editor-In-Chief. He Is A Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert And Has Been Interested In Computer Hardware, Software, And Gaming Right Since The Time He Was A Child.