Whether you're a gamer, graphic designer, developer, or medical professional, you use a personal computer (whether desktop or laptop), tablet, and/or mobile device to complete tasks, store files, and use various applications. Without an operating system, you wouldn't be able to do any of that.
Your laptop or mobile device already has an operating system that lets you access and use the device. However, sometimes you need to upgrade or change the operating system to a more advanced version that continues to meet your needs over time.
Operating systems (OS) act as a bridge between the physical components of a computer or device and the programs and applications you use on it. An OS provides the interface for users to control and communicate with the device. These systems are capable of managing computer hardware, data, and program files.
Whatever computers or devices you use, we created this buyers guide to provide all the essential information you need to choose or upgrade to the right operating system.
Here’s what we'll cover:
What is an operating system?
Operating systems act as a platform for other software to run. These systems provide an interface to connect computers/devices with other tech such as scanners, printers, and copiers. The typical OS can simultaneously handle and run operations such as storage/memory management, file management, security, processor management, and device management.
User interface in CentOS Linux Software (Source)
Common features of operating systems
||Allocate portions of memory/storage space to programs and reallocate that space when no longer needed.
||Improve or make changes to the current version based on user feedback, trends, and other factors. This functionality provides fixes for features that aren't working as intended, adds minor software enhancements and compatibility, addresses security issues, and improves hardware operation.
||Allow users to interact with their computer, device, or application. This interface connects the user and system, allowing them to exchange information and instructions with minimum user effort to achieve the desired outcome.
||Manage the operation, maintenance, versioning, and upgrading of an application throughout its lifecycle. Monitor all components of an application to see if they are up and running.
||Secure information and confidential data by providing strong authorized keys to users or by encrypting data stored in the system. This allows the software to rectify errors as soon as possible and prevent malware attacks.
||Manage files in the system by allowing users to create, modify, and delete files. This functionality also allows users to create new files, locate and share them with other users, or transfer them to connected devices.
What type of buyer are you?
Before purchasing an operating system, you should determine your buyer category so you can choose the right tool. Most buyers fall into the following categories:
- For personal use: These buyers use laptops and devices for recreational purposes such as gaming, storing personal files, and research purposes. Often, such buyers don't use the same applications required by businesses and prefer an operating system that is easy to use.
Some free operating systems offer features such as file and application management, user-friendly interfaces, memory management, and system updates, and can work for such buyers.
- For businesses: Organizations using a network of computers and devices to run their business require multiple applications. These buyers often have a server in place to handle user connections, storage, and multiple computers and devices. These users require an OS that provides security and privacy, remote access, support for mobile devices, file and printer sharing, backups, and more.
Buyers in this category often need to pay for their operating systems, which can be tailored to their unique business needs. Some systems even offer features such as advanced threat protection. These buyers should look for scalable systems that are compatible with any applications and hardware they already use. Scalability allows users to increase or decrease system performance pending on changes in application and processing demands.
Benefits of operating systems software
- Graphical user interface (GUI): Most operating systems now have a graphical user interface (GUI) that lets you interact with your device via visual representations such as menus, icons, and buttons. This is an improvement over the traditional interface that required users to write commands in order to access system functionalities.
- Data safety: An operating system allows users to access data stored in computers or devices, and is responsible for managing data safely and securely. The OS tracks all data and program file names as well as location, and performs common functions such as copying/erasing/backing up. Most operating systems have built-in tools to protect against security threats, including virus scanning utilities and setting up a firewall to block suspicious network activity.
- Sharing of resources: Operating systems provide network services and file-sharing capabilities so you can share resources such as printers, scanners, and modems with other users. You can even transfer files such as videos, images, and applications to connected devices, and send data to multiple users using built-in email functionality if included.
Market trend to understand:
- Virtual reality operating systems (VR-OS): Virtual reality technology is causing major disruptions in multiple industries, including gaming, healthcare, events, engineering, and education. In response, operating system vendors need to create solutions that can support 2D apps and 3D immersive content. These VR-OS enable users to work in an empty space using a wearable device such as a head-mounted display connected to a wireless mouse/keyboard and don't require a laptop or desktop to function. Big players are working on creating their own VR operating systems as virtual reality technology is gaining speed; software vendors are expected to follow suit.
Note: The application selected in this article is an example to show a feature in context and is not intended as an endorsement or recommendation. It has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.