Software & Apps Apps 564 564 people found this article helpful Operating System Operating system definition and examples of modern operating systems by Tim Fisher General Manager, VP, Lifewire.com Tim Fisher has 30+ years' professional technology support experience. He writes troubleshooting content and is the General Manager of Lifewire. our editorial process Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Tim Fisher Updated on May 21, 2020 reviewed by Ryan Perian Lifewire Tech Review Board Member Ryan Perian is a certified IT specialist who holds numerous IT certifications and has 12+ years' experience working in the IT industry support and management positions. our review board Article reviewed on Feb 15, 2020 Ryan Perian Apps Best Apps Tweet Share Email An operating system is a powerful, and usually large, program that controls and manages the hardware and other software on a computer. All computers and computer-like devices require operating systems, including your laptop, tablet, desktop, smartphone, smartwatch, and router. Not sure what operating system you're running? Use the Lifewire System Info Tool below to find out! Examples of Operating Systems Laptops, tablets, and desktop computers all run operating systems that you've probably heard of. Some examples include versions of Microsoft Windows (like Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP), Apple's macOS (formerly OS X), Chrome OS, BlackBerry Tablet OS, and flavors of Linux, an open source operating system. Microsoft Windows 10. Your smartphone runs a mobile operating system, probably either Apple's iOS or Google's Android. Both are household names but you may not have realized that they are the operating systems running on those devices. Servers, like those that host the websites you visit or serve the videos you watch, typically run specialized operating systems, designed and optimized to run the special software required to make them do what they do. Some examples include Windows Server, Linux, and FreeBSD. Linux Mint. Software & Operating Systems Most software applications are designed to work with just one company's operating system, like just Windows (Microsoft) or just macOS (Apple). A piece of software will clearly say which operating systems it supports and will get very specific if necessary. For example, a video production software program might say it supports Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7, but does not support older versions of Windows like Windows Vista and XP. Software developers also often release additional versions of their software that work with other operating systems. Coming back to the video production program example, that company might also release another version of the program with exactly the same features but that only works with macOS. It's also important to know whether your operating system is 32-bit or 64-bit. It's a common question you're asked when downloading software. See How to Tell If You Have Windows 64-bit or 32-bit if you need help. Special types of software called virtual machines can actually mimic "real" computers and run different operating systems from within them. See What Is a Virtual Machine? for more on this feature. Operating System Errors There are a number of ways that an operating system itself can become corrupted or damaged but these issues are relatively rare. In Windows, the most severe is the Operating System Not Found error message and implies that one can't even be found! Operating System Updates All modern operating systems have a built-in mechanism to keep the software updated. In Windows, this is done through Windows Update. Other operating systems work similarly, like when you update the Android OS or install iOS updates. Keeping an operating system up to date with the newest features is important so that you're getting the most out of what you paid for. Getting security fixes is another crucial reason to make sure your OS is always updated; this can help prevent hackers from getting into your device.