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An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common services for computer programs.
An operating system is the level of programming that lets you do things with your computer. The operating system interacts with a computer's hardware on a basic level, transmitting your commands into language the hardware can interpret. The OS acts as a platform for all other applications on your machine. Without it, your computer would just be a paperweight. (read more below)