System Components

Even though, not all systems have the same structure many modern operating systems share the same goal of supporting the following types of system components.

Process Management

The operating system manages many kinds of activities ranging from user programs to system programs like printer spooler, name servers, file server etc. Each of these activities is encapsulated in a process. A process includes the complete execution context (code, data, PC, registers, OS resources in use etc.).

It is important to note that a process is not a program. A process is only ONE instant of a program in execution. There are many processes can be running the same program. The five major activities of an operating system in regard to process management are

  • Creation and deletion of user and system processes.
  • Suspension and resumption of processes.
  • A mechanism for process synchronization.
  • A mechanism for process communication.
  • A mechanism for deadlock handling. 

Main-Memory Management

Primary-Memory or Main-Memory is a large array of words or bytes. Each word or byte has its own address. Main-memory provides storage that can be access directly by the CPU. That is to say for a program to be executed, it must in the main memory.

The major activities of an operating in regard to memory-management are:

  • Keep track of which part of memory are currently being used and by whom.
  • Decide which process are loaded into memory when memory space becomes available.
  • Allocate and deallocate memory space as needed. 

File Management

A file is a collected of related information defined by its creator. Computer can store files on the disk (secondary storage), which provide long term storage. Some examples of storage media are magnetic tape, magnetic disk and optical disk. Each of these media has its own properties like speed, capacity, data transfer rate and access methods.

A file systems normally organized into directories to ease their use. These directories may contain files and other directions.

The five main major activities of an operating system in regard to file management are

  1. The creation and deletion of files.
  2. The creation and deletion of directions.
  3. The support of primitives for manipulating files and directions.
  4. The mapping of files onto secondary storage.
  5. The back up of files on stable storage media. 

I/O System Management

I/O subsystem hides the peculiarities of specific hardware devices from the user. Only the device driver knows the peculiarities of the specific device to whom it is assigned. 

Secondary-Storage Management

Generally speaking, systems have several levels of storage, including primary storage, secondary storage and cache storage. Instructions and data must be placed in primary storage or cache to be referenced by a running program. Because main memory is too small to accommodate all data and programs, and its data are lost when power is lost, the computer system must provide secondary storage to back up main memory. Secondary storage consists of tapes, disks, and other media designed to hold information that will eventually be accessed in primary storage (primary, secondary, cache) is ordinarily divided into bytes or words consisting of a fixed number of bytes. Each location in storage has an address; the set of all addresses available to a program is called an address space.

The three major activities of an operating system in regard to secondary storage management are:

  1. Managing the free space available on the secondary-storage device.
  2. Allocation of storage space when new files have to be written.
  3. Scheduling the requests for memory access.


A distributed systems is a collection of processors that do not share memory, peripheral devices, or a clock. The processors communicate with one another through communication lines called network. The communication-network design must consider routing and connection strategies, and the problems of contention and security. 

Protection System

If a computer systems has multiple users and allows the concurrent execution of multiple processes, then the various processes must be protected from one another's activities. Protection refers to mechanism for controlling the access of programs, processes, or users to the resources defined by a computer systems. 

Command Interpreter System

A command interpreter is an interface of the operating system with the user. The user gives commands with are executed by operating system (usually by turning them into system calls). The main function of a command interpreter is to get and execute the next user specified command. Command-Interpreter is usually not part of the kernel, since multiple command interpreters (shell, in UNIX terminology) may be support by an operating system, and they do not really need to run in kernel mode. There are two main advantages to separating the command interpreter from the kernel.

  1. If we want to change the way the command interpreter looks, i.e., I want to change the interface of command interpreter, I am able to do that if the command interpreter is separate from the kernel. I cannot change the code of the kernel so I cannot modify the interface.
  2. If the command interpreter is a part of the kernel it is possible for a malicious process to gain access to certain part of the kernel that it showed not have to avoid this ugly scenario it is advantageous to have the command interpreter separate from kernel.