What is an operating system? Does all software need one?

Have you ever used a computer and wondered what an operating system was? Have you ever asked why some software needs an operating system and some does not? This article will provide insight into these questions and more.
Operating systems are integral parts of computers, granting them the ability to run a variety of applications and manage hardware resources. As cited in recent research by Yang et al. (2018), “without an operating system, computers are vulnerable to malicious attacks, and the use of applications and hardware would be limited” (p. 10). Therefore, it’s essential for each computer to have an operating system for it to fully function.
Although computers typically require an operating system, not all software needs one. In fact, as Martin (2012) explains, “software for embedded systems seldom requires an operating system” (p. 13). Embedded software refers to programs written to run specific functions on a machine or device, such as a printer or navigation system. In this case, any embedded software will typically use the functions and capabilities already maintained on the device rather than those of an operating system.
In this article, you will learn about the definitions of operating systems and embedded software and examine why they sometimes require operating systems or not. You will also explore the features of common operating systems and how they interact with hardware resources and software applications. Finally, this article will explore various sophisticated operating systems used in modern computing and the rate of their adoption. With this information, you can better understand the role of an operating system in computer use and why some software programs need them.


Operating system: An operating system is a type of software that enables the user to run programs, install applications, and manage storage and other tasks on a computer or device. It is the backbone of the computer’s operating system, and essentially serves as the basic user interface between the user and the device itself.
Software: Software is a general term used to describe a collection of instructions and programs that a computer system can carry out and execute. It is used to carry out tasks such as word processing, sending emails, playing games, and a variety of other activities.
Does all software need an operating system: Not all software needs an operating system; some software can be designed and coded to function independently. However, most commercial and public-domain software is designed to be able to operate on one or more operating systems.

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Heading 1: What is an Operating System

An operating system (OS) is an essential component in the hardware of a computer. It is a set of software programs that enables the computer hardware, applications, and the user to interact. An operating system provides basic functionalities such as memory management, scheduling of tasks, and the ability to control peripheral devices, such as a printer or hard drive.

The Key Functions of An Operating System

An operating system performs the following tasks to coordinate and control the operations of the computer system:

  • Computer Management: This involves controlling and coordinating the use of the computer’s hardware components such as its memory, processor, and peripherals.
  • Software Management: This involves controlling and managing the different software programs such as databases, programming languages, and application programs.
  • Security Management: This ensures that the system remains secure from outside access as well as validating user access rights

Types of Operating Systems

Different types of operating systems exist for different types of computer hardware. The most common operating systems include Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, and Android. A hybrid operating system combines the features of both the windows and linux systems, such as Chrome OS.
Further types of operating systems are used in embedded systems, such as automotive systems and industrial control systems. Some mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, have their own specialized operating systems based on Linux systems.
An operating system is necessary in order to run many types of software, especially if it involves the user interface or network communication. It provides an integrated environment to manage the software and hardware resources of the computer. Without an operating system, it would be difficult for software developers to create programs to run on different types of computer systems.

Heading 2: Operating System Components

An operating system (OS) is a computer program that manages the hardware and other software on a computer. It is the foundation of a computer system, designed to simplify the process of running programs, managing memory, and handling input and output devices. Operating systems manage computer resources and provide services for application programs.
An operating system performs fundamental tasks such as recognizing input from the keyboard, connecting to the internet, and managing files and folders. It controls the computer’s internal components and external peripherals. It allows multiple processes to run without interfering with each other. The most common operating system is Microsoft Windows.
The main components of an operating system are the kernel, system programs, system utilities, and application programs. The kernel is the heart of the operating system and manages critical tasks, such as managing memory, scheduling tasks, and allocating system resources. System programs include the basic programs such as text editors and compilers that are necessary for the computer to run. System utilities provide a set of services, including copies, manipulates, and deletes files. Application programs are the programs that users interact with, such as word processors, web browsers, and music players.
In order for software to run on a computer, it must be compatible with the operating system. Software that is written for a particular operating system typically will not work on another operating system. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you have the correct version of the operating system for your computer. Additionally, the operating system must be regularly updated with security patches and bug fixes to ensure that your software runs correctly and securely.

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Heading 3: Does All Software Need An Operating System?

An operating system (OS) is a group of software programs that manage a computer’s hardware and enable other programs to run. They act as an interface between software and hardware to manage system resources like memory, disk and CPU time and also help users by providing an effective user interface. A computer cannot run without an operating system and all software must be compatible with the installed operating system.

Key components of an OS

The main components of an OS can be divided into four broad divisions: the kernel, the shell, the graphical user interface (GUI), and utilities. The kernel is the core of the OS, which is responsible for keeping track of files and directories on the filesystem, allocating memory and processor time to programs, and managing system hardware. The shell is the command line interface (CLI) that receives commands from the user and issues commands to the kernel. A GUI is an optional graphical interface which presents information in a more user-friendly way, including mouse control and selection with a pointing device. Finally, utilities are programs designed to make user interaction with the OS easier, like system monitors, memory managers, backup or recovery tools and so on.

Types of Operating Systems

OSs can be broadly classified into two major types of OSs: single user OSs and multi-user OSs. Single user OSs are best suited for personal computers used by one user at a time, such as Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X. Multi-user OSs are designed to support multiple users at the same time and are usually used in networks, e.g. Linux or UNIX.
Finally, embedded OSs are designed specifically for devices other than computers, like digital cameras, cell phones, DVD players, etc. These usually have limited functionality but are optimized for a specific purpose. For example, the software on your digital camera is an embedded OS specifically designed for taking pictures.
In conclusion, an operating system is a group of software that manages system resources, provides a command line interface and graphical user interface and also supports other software programs. While all software applications must be compatible with the installed operating system, not all software needs an OS. Embedded software, for example, operates without an OS as it is designed specifically for a specific purpose.

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To conclude, the operating system is a complex concept that is behind nearly every modern device. An operating system acts as an interface between the hardware and the other software components that reside on a device. This technology is essential for managing different tasks and programs efficiently, so nearly all software requires an operating system to function.
Have you ever wondered which type of operating system suits best your needs? Keep up with our blog to stay on top of the latest news and releases to find the best solutions for your device.
Q: What is an operating system?
A: An operating system is a computer program that manages the hardware and software components of a computer or other device. By providing an interface between users, applications, and hardware, it enables efficient operation of a computer and runs the programs stored in it.
Q: Does all software need an operating system?
A: Yes, most software requires an operating system to run efficiently. Without the operating system, software components and hardware resources would not be managed efficiently, so the software would not be able to function as desired.
Q: What does an operating system do?
A: The operating system is responsible for device management, program execution, memory management, communication between different devices and programs, security, and much more. It acts as an interface between the user, applications, and the device’s hardware.
Q: What are the most popular operating systems?
A: The most popular operating systems include Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and Chrome OS. Each of these systems provides a different user experience, so you should choose the one that best suits your needs.
Q: What is the difference between an operating system and an application?
A: An operating system is responsible for managing the resources of a device, while an application is a program designed to perform a specific task. The operating system allows applications to access the resources of the device, whereas applications provide the user with the ability to perform various tasks.