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Operating systems

Your operating system (OS) is an essential part of your computer – it controls the most basic running of your hardware. It allocates memory, performs tasks and acts as the interface for the applications you use. Without an OS, software applications will not work and your hardware is basically useless. The most common operating systems are Microsoft Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Generally any OS is compatible with any computer, with the exception of MacOS, which can only be used on a Macintosh computer. It is more than likely that when you bought your computer the operating system was already installed, and it was probably Windows, although Ubuntu Linux is also gaining in popularity. In order to ensure that the applications you want to use on your computer are compatible with its operating system, you need to know what OS your computer is running. If you are only using a computer for web-browsing, email and creating text documents you needn't worry too much, because all operating systems come with programmes that will allow you to do these things. However, if there are programmes and applications that you prefer to use, you should make sure that they will run on the operating system that comes with your computer. It's important to keep up with updates to your operating system. It is inevitable that some of the software coding that makes the operating system work will contain undiscovered errors, and it is likely that some of these errors could undermine your computer's security. Software developers continue to find these errors and periodically release updates to fix them. It is therefore essential that you frequently update all of the software on your computer, including the operating system.

If Windows is not updating itself automatically, you can configure it to do so by clicking the 'Start' menu, selecting 'All programmes' and clicking 'Windows Update'.

If you ever need to do an actual upgrade to a newer version of your operating system, there are two things to keep in mind:

1. Will the software you've already got installed on the computer be compatible with the new version of the OS? Most developers will release new versions of their software that are compatible with new versions of operating systems, but often they are not ready until after the new OS is released. 2. Will your computer meet the system requirements of the upgrade? Every new OS version requires greater hardware capacity and will be designed to take advantage of the latest components. Always check the system requirements for the upgraded OS and if your computer doesn't meet them, don't upgrade.