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What is an Operating System

Find out everything you need to know about operating systems, how they work and which one is best for you with our helpful guide.

An operating system (OS) manages all of the hardware and software on your desktop or laptop. Popular examples of operating systems include Windows, used across many computers and tablets; macOS, used on Apple devices; and ChromeOS, which is exclusive to Chromebooks. Each one has their own look, feel and capabilities, and will appeal to people for different reasons.

Get the lowdown on desktop and laptop operating systems


The operating system driving approximately 90% of computers today is Microsoft Windows, which tells you just how powerful and flexible it is. The latest version, Windows 10, is jam packed with amazing features that will help you get the most out of your device. It’s supported by loads of different applications, so whether you want to work, browse or play, you’ll find something you love on Windows. And you’ll no longer have to buy a new laptop to benefit from the latest operating system, because Microsoft will update Windows 10 for free.

More about Windows

Certain Windows programs are also available on Mac devices too – so don’t rule it out if you’re using an Apple product.



This operating system, made by Apple, can only be found on Mac devices. It’s fast and efficient, and it’s often favoured by creative professionals, with a growing library of apps to help you get the job done. If you’re editing photos and videos, or doing some design work, then MacOS may just be the one for you.

macOS also works seamlessly when paired with other Apple products like your iPhone and iPad to sync all your data with iCloud, an online storage platform. With iCloud, you can organise your files, contacts and mail online from any device.

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Google’s Chromebooks have their own operating system, ChromeOS. This OS is based online as it uses apps and information that is stored in the cloud, but don’t let that put you off, as it can still be used offline. It is designed to do everything faster, offering alternatives to your favourite applications that are specifically for Google products, such as Google Docs and Hangouts (replacing Word and Skype). The laptops that come with ChromeOS are extremely affordable, and come with virus protection built in.

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Tablets have operating systems too


Android is the bestselling operating system for tablets and offers a vast amount of apps. It is also extremely flexible when it comes to customising your device, as you can choose different icons for your apps. If you have multiple Android devices, they can interact with each other so that you can sync up your storage and share files, photos and videos more easily. If this OS floats your boat, check out Samsung’s impressive line of tablets, as they all run on a version of Android.

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    For their handheld devices, Apple use iOS. This operating system brings the same elegant and intuitive design of macOS to the iPhone and iPad. iOS allows people to use their tablets for more than just watching films.

    Finish your work on your tablet, edit photos and videos and research your next big project away from your desktop or laptop.

    So all in all, the operating system you choose depends on what you use your device for. If you know what brand of computer or tablet you want, then that may help you whittle down your options. All operating systems will let you work and play, it all comes down to what you think will work best for your needs.

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