Chapter 31: Working with Microsoft Windows

The first piece of software that is added to a computer is an underlying framework that allows all other programs to be easily accessed and configured. This underlying framework is called the operating system (OS).

A computer's operating system controls all the communications between the system's software and its hardware. Its tasks include managing memory and device requests, saving and recalling data files, and enabling networking and security.

For PCs the most popular choice is the Windows operating system created by Microsoft. This chapter looks at the history of the Windows operating system, explains the installation process, loading device drivers and software, and concludes with a look ahead to the Vista version of Windows.

Understanding Operating Systems

Much of the book thus far has focused on hardware, which are the physical components that make up the computer. Hardware includes the computer itself, its keyboard and mouse, and any connected devices such as printers, scanners, and even your iPod.

Another important element of computers is the software. The term software means the programs loaded onto the computer to enable it to do things like send email, view a Web page, compose documents, calculate taxes, and make presentations. Software usually comes on a CD-ROM or a DVD and needs to be installed before it works on your system.

Operating system functionality

In between the hardware and software is an important piece known as the operating system (OS). The operating system has several important tasks that it does including:

  • Managing memory: The operating system controls and manages all the requests for system memory.

  • Controls input/output devices: The operating system handles all data coming from input devices like the keyboard and mouse and all documents being output such as print jobs.

  • Prioritizes system requests: When several hardware requests are made at the same time, the operating system decides which request gets answered first and keeps track of the lower priority requests.

  • Networking: Access to networking systems is made possible through the operating system.

  • Security: Operating systems also include security measures that keep the data safe from unauthorized users.

  • Organizes data and files: All data and files that are written to the hard drive are done through the operating system. This includes writing files and reading them back.

Although the core level functionality of an operating system includes the low-level operations required to do the things listed above, many operating systems also include a host of utility programs that provide an added level of functionality. These utilities can include simple programs such as a calculator, a day planner, and more advanced utilities like file managers and virus checkers.


You can learn more about the available operating system utilities in Chapter 49.

Operating system options

Some operating systems have text-based interface, but recent operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS, and Linux use a Graphical User Interface (GUI). These interfaces let you interact with the operating system by manipulating graphical icons and controls using a mouse device.

Several different operating systems exist, including Windows, Linux, Unix, and Mac OS. Some of these choices are built to operate on a specific computer system. For example, Mac OS is designed to work on Macintosh computers, but others like Linux are system agnostic, meaning they can run on any hardware.


You can read more about the other available operating systems in Chapter 33.

Most PCs come pre-configured with the Windows operating system, but even within the Windows operating system, there are many different versions available. Software is designed to work with only a specific operating system, so if you purchase a copy of Microsoft Office for Windows, it will not work on a Macintosh system and vice versa.

PC User's Bible
PC Users Bible
ISBN: 0470088974
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 372 © 2008-2017.
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