The layer between your hardware and software. It manages disk input/output, memory allocation, graphic acceleration, hosting device drivers and various other resources.

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188
votes
19answers
38k views

32-bit vs. 64-bit systems

What are the differences between 32-bit and 64-bit systems? If you have used both of them, what kind of sharp differences have you experienced? Would it be a problem to use 32-bit programs on 64-...
88
votes
4answers
7k views

How does the computer know that the PC was not properly shut down?

Actually, this question struck me because of power cuts in my house. When there is a power cut, there is a sudden loss of power from the computer. How does the computer know that the shutdown was ...
72
votes
12answers
18k views

Does every OS need RAM?

Is there an OS which can be used without RAM, specifically the kind I can create a bootable pendrive from and use it in the computer? This gets awkward, since booting is essentially loading OS in RAM....
72
votes
5answers
9k views

What are the functions of the BIOS while the operating system is running?

I always wondered whether the BIOS (apart from conducting POST, starting the bootloader and passing control to the OS after one presses the power button) has any purpose or function while the ...
68
votes
8answers
17k views

Why is “Everything is a file” unique to the Unix operating systems?

I often hear people say "Unix's unique philosophy is that it treats everything as a file" or "In Unix, everything is a file". But I've never heard anyone explain why it is unique to Unix. So, why is ...
66
votes
6answers
28k views

Does Windows still rely on MS-DOS?

I am just about to start an OS course and as an Apple user I am not very familiar with the underlying details of Windows OS. I was wondering, is MS DOS still used with Windows running on top or is ...
64
votes
3answers
111k views

How can I reinstall Windows 7 if I lost my installation DVD? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Where do I download Windows 7 (legally from Microsoft)? I have lost my Windows 7 installation DVD, but I do have the license key. How can I get a Windows 7 DVD? Can I ...
63
votes
5answers
28k views

What technical reasons exist for not using space characters in file names?

Somebody I know expressed irritation today regarding those of us who tend not to use spaces in our filenames, e.g. NamingThingsLikeThis.txt -- despite most modern operating systems supporting spaces ...
63
votes
6answers
24k views

Using UDF on a USB flash drive

After failing to copy a file bigger than 4G to my 8G USB flash drive, I formatted it as ext3. While this is working fine for me so far, it will cause problems if I want to use it to copy files to ...
60
votes
13answers
8k views

Is Unix not a PC operating system? [closed]

I am doing my bachelor's degree at a university. In a written assignment, the professor posted the task: "Name three PC operating systems". Well, I went on an included a variety of OSes (Linux, ...
50
votes
19answers
50k views

Is it still necessary to shut down computers?

Nowadays with our modern operating systems, is it necessary to fully shutdown computers instead of choosing to stand-by or hibernate computers (desktops and laptops)? Would there be any side-effects ...
50
votes
3answers
91k views

How can I upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 and keep my files and applications?

I want to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8. How can I do this while keeping all of my files in-tact? Is it possible to retain all of my applications and user settings, too?
49
votes
8answers
5k views

Before Operating systems, What concept was used to make them work? [closed]

The Operating systems have been tightly related to the computer architecture.An OS takes care for all input and output in a computer system. It manages users, processes, memory management, printing, ...
47
votes
11answers
21k views

What is the relationship between Unix, Linux, Ubuntu, Debian and Android?

What is the relationship between Unix, Linux, Ubuntu, and Debian? I suspect they are all Operating Systems that are based upon one another - similar to how Windows is based on DOS. Is my suspicion ...
46
votes
11answers
3k views

Was Windows 95 an Operating System? [closed]

This question maybe a bit historical, but we didn't have Superuser at the time. Around 2000 when I was starting my Computer science degree, a subject was Operating systems. The teacher asked us to ...
41
votes
4answers
4k views

How computers display raw, low-level text and graphics

My ever-growing interest in computers is making me ask deeper questions, that we don't seem to have to ask anymore. Our computers, at boot, as far as I understand it, are in text mode, in which a ...
39
votes
10answers
3k views

What does an operating system look like without a shell?

A shell like the bash or command.com (up to Windows ME) or CMD.EXE (in later versions) provides an interface that (among other things) accepts commands from the user. What does an operating system ...
39
votes
10answers
3k views

Should I install 64-bit versions of operating systems?

With the release of Windows 7 coming up, 64-bit operating systems have caught my attention. What are the main advantages and disadvantages of installing 64-bit Windows 7? What type of compatibility ...
39
votes
1answer
3k views

Do 64bit software/applications require more RAM than their 32bit counterparts?

I just saw these minimum requirements for a game: Memory: 2GB for 32-bit OS or 4GB for 64-bit OS Why does the 64bit OS require more RAM than its 32bit counterpart?
38
votes
4answers
4k views

Linux is to mount as Windows is to _______?

So Linux "mounts" a hard drive to perform some operation such as reading/writing. Does Windows "mount" in the same way? Is it called something different in the context of Microsoft?
38
votes
2answers
3k views

What is there in an Operating System other than the kernel

As I understand it, the kernel does all the interaction with the hardware, and manages the memory, the I/O devices, etc. So the kernel is doing everything, yet it is just a part of the operating ...
37
votes
5answers
36k views

Overriding HOMEDRIVE and HOMEPATH as a Windows 7 user

My employer has an Active Directory group policy which sets my Windows 7 laptop HOMEDRIVE to "M:" (a mapped network drive) and my HOMEPATH to "\". Since I have read-only permissions for the root of ...
35
votes
7answers
10k views

Other benefits of 64-bit OS apart from memory expansion?

I'm trying to convince somebody of the benefits of switching to a 64-bit OS but I'm having a hard time finding arguments other than "you can use more than 3GB RAM". Are there any other clearly-...
34
votes
1answer
3k views

65536 +1 Connection on a system

There are 65536 ports for every system in the network, and every connection or Send/Receive will use one of those. My question is: what happens if we have 65536+1 connections?! I know that it ...
33
votes
6answers
34k views

Why can't a 64 bit OS run a 16 bit application?

Why is it that: a 32-bit OS, when installed on a 64-bit CPU, can run old 16-bit applications, but if you install a 64-bit OS it can't run those applications directly and need some sort of emulation ...
32
votes
5answers
102k views

What would happen if I take my hard drive out of my current PC and put it in a new PC?

Basically, I want to get a new PC, but I have so many software/games installed on my current hard drive, that I don't want to waste the time to re-install/re-configure. Would it work if I just take ...
31
votes
7answers
7k views

How to make VIM settings computer-dependent in .vimrc?

I share my VIM configuration file between several computers. However, I want some settings to be specific for certain computers. For example, font sizes on the high-res laptop should be different to ...
26
votes
3answers
47k views

What's the difference between an Application, Process, and Services?

How are these fundamentally different "things" on Windows? Aren't all running things Processes? It seems that every Application has an associated process that shuts it down if it is shut down. ...
26
votes
1answer
43k views

cat /proc/meminfo what do all those numbers mean

In reading the man page on the free command in Linux. I found that is gets its info from /proc/meminfo. I understand a few of the entries, like MemTotal and MemFree. What do the rest mean. cat /...
24
votes
2answers
34k views

Use physical harddisk in Virtual Box

Using Virtual Box, how can I install an OS to a secondary, physical disk, and boot it in both (at separate times) Virtual Box, and as a typical secondary OS install?
23
votes
13answers
8k views

Non-Windows, non-Unix-like OS's?

Since most operating systems I've heard of besides Windows seem to derive their heritage from Unix, I've been curious whether any OS's with the following characteristics exist: Not generally ...
22
votes
3answers
2k views

Why can't I change the name of a file that's being read on Windows as I can do on Linux/Mac?

One of the things that has puzzled me ever since I started using Linux is the fact that it allows you to change the name of a file or even delete it while it is being read. An example is how I ...
22
votes
4answers
2k views

Can unexpected power loss harm a Linux install?

I am developing an application on a Linux embedded board (runs Debian) e.g. Raspberry Pi, Beagle Board/Bone, or olimex. The boards works on an environment that the electricity is cut unexpectedly (it ...
22
votes
3answers
7k views

What are the technical differences between Windows Vista and Windows 7?

I'm interested in finding an unabridged technical manual documenting all of the differences between the two operating systems. In Tanenbaum's latest edition of Modern Operating Systems (3rd Edition), ...
21
votes
4answers
5k views

Why does Linux use a swap partition when the kernel supports paging/virtual memory anyway?

As far as I understand paging and swapping, they're completely different concepts. While swapping means, that a process is either completely in physical memory or on the hard drive, with paging parts ...
20
votes
2answers
6k views

How can the BIOS block virtualization?

I'm starting to work with Docker and after a few hours of trying to make it work, I found out that my BIOS was blocking it and that I needed to adjust the BIOS settings. I was told that the BIOS is ...
20
votes
2answers
3k views

Why are operating systems (usually?) unable to access BIOS settings?

Does the motherboard not provide a bus between the CPU and BIOS chip after bootup? If so, why not? If the CPU can control fan speed, I don't see why it shouldn't be able to control the BIOS config.
20
votes
7answers
90k views

What is the maximum number of partitions that can be made on a hard drive?

What is the maximum number of partitions we can make on hard disk in Windows? If it is limited to some particular number, why can we assign all the letters C through Z to drives? If it is a special ...
20
votes
2answers
341 views

What is it that makes Windows require constant rebooting while Linux does not? [duplicate]

Like many people, I run dual systems on my computer. Important updates require constant reboots on Windows, while I don't think this ever happened to me on Linux. What properties of each OS decides ...
20
votes
7answers
30k views

Are we supposed to manually delete the contents of /tmp?

I was under the impression that “old” files in /tmp will be regularly deleted. However, it seems to me that /tmp will just grow as long as it wants to, and nothing will be deleted. Some people say it’...
19
votes
5answers
667 views

Why does VM software need to know which OS will be running inside the VM?

When I create a new VM (with VirtualBox) it will ask me what OS will run inside the VM. Why does it need (or like) to know that? Will it result in better performance? Will some things work / not work?...
18
votes
3answers
11k views

What does “Windows is not a real-time operating system” mean?

I came across an application called LatencyMon, that apparently does latency monitoring. I have always understood that the more of a load you put on the processor, the less responsive, or more ...
18
votes
2answers
21k views

A Dark Theme for Windows 8

Is there any way for me to use Windows 8 in a dark environment? For a long time I had headaches that I couldn't fid their cause. Now, I'm using a dark visual style for my Windows 7 and since then, I ...
17
votes
5answers
4k views

Does dual-booting an OS require a dual-core processor?

My friend claims that dual booting, using two different OSes, requires a multi-core or multi-threaded processor. Is this true? And if I install additional OSes, will my computer slow down any?
17
votes
4answers
74k views

Can a 32 bit OS run in a 64 bit processor?

What's the difference between 32 bit OS and 64 bit OS? Can a 32 bit OS run in a 64 bit processor?
16
votes
7answers
4k views

Why does Windows not recognize files inside Linux partitions?

I dual booted my Windows XP, installing Linux Mint. I found out that when using Linux Mint, I could see and open files installed on Windows XP, but when using Windows XP, I can't see and open files ...
16
votes
2answers
2k views

Computer architecture: Are USB keyboards less responsive due to narrow IRQ range?

Here is a statement I just thought of. Can anyone tell me whether, and why, it is true? Statement: Because USB keyboards rely on a USB generic driver and architecture that has only access to lower ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

Is killing a process still considered bad for memory management?

So I am having a little discussion with my boss about memory management. I've been told that killing a process does not allow it to deallocate memory. Is that still the case, or was that years ago? ...
15
votes
3answers
66k views

Should I install my operating system on my SSD or HDD?

I'm currently deciding whether to install my Operating System on my SSD (solid state drive) or HD (hard drive). Will I be having programs on the HDD and the OS on the SSD or vice verca? Which will ...
14
votes
5answers
5k views

What is the difference between 64-bit and 32-bit Operating systems? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: 32-bit vs. 64-bit systems I know that there are 2 types of OSs, 64 bit and 32 bit What is the main differences between them? And if I am buying a new laptop, which one ...