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Windows, Linux or Mac OS X are operating systems. They are the backbone of a computer system managing the computer hardware and software. It controls the computer after the BIOS has been loaded by loading drivers to support the hardware and software programs that run on the hardware. A computer usually comes with an operating system preinstalled. The type of operating system depends on the computer that has been purchased. Generally most computers come with a Microsoft Windows operating system. There are two other operating systems that compete on the market, Apples OS X and the various Linux distributions. Unix and Linux dominate the server market on the other hand. While operating systems are usually associated with computers they can be found in many other electronic devices from cell phones over video game consoles to PDAs. The operating system is the core of a computer system. It manages how the hardware and software interacts some would say communicates with each other. It is responsible for the smooth operation of the system and has to ensure that software and hardware will not interfere with each others operations. So called drivers are used so that the operating system can interact and work with the computers hardware such as the video card or computer memory. The software programs that run on the operating system receive the hardware information from it without having to use their own functions to interact with the hardware directly. All hardware of the computer is managed by the operating system. As the central component of a computer system the operating system manages data transfer between hardware and software. Pressing a key on the keyboard is for instance directed to several hardware components like the processor and video card so that the result can be outputted on the computer screen. Operating systems make use of user groups and users. This is being used to give users access to specific parts of the operating system. It can also prevent certain users and user groups from accessing parts of the operating system, software or hardware. -by Martin Brinkmann