Examples and functions of system software

Most of the end-users don`t interact with the system software directly because some of them are automated or require advanced knowledge to operate.

System software is used to manage the computer system by ensuring it operates optimally. They manage hardware, software, and user needs. they include operating systems, utilities, drivers, middleware, firmware shell, and language processor among others.

Their main characteristic is that they offer features that enable the user to work effectively and efficiently. They are categorized into the following:

1. Operating system (OS)

It is the fundamental program that runs on the computer to interface with the user, hardware, and other computer software. It is the first software that is installed on a computer before the user can start using it. Without an operating system, the majority of users cannot be able to use the computer.

There are many examples of the operating system which includes: Microsoft window versions i.e. window XP, 7, and 8, UNIX-based operating systems, MAC OS, Android used in smartphones, etc.

2. Utility software

They are used to ensure the smooth operation of a computer system in general.

Categories of utility software 

  • Backup programs are used to create a copy of the original work which can be used to retrieve it in case data is lost.
  • File managers are used for managing files and folders by giving options like; open, edit, save, rename, etc.
  • Antivirus is another utility program that is used to scan, detect and remove viruses and all other malware from the computer system.
  • File defragmenters are other utilities that are used to consolidate related files together.
  • Disk partition is used to logically divide a single (physically) disk drive to have partitions that work as a separate disk and store their file separately and an operating system can be mounted on it.
  • Disk cleaner is used to clean the hard disk drive of the unnecessary file and those which were moved to recycle bin. It helps create space in the hard disk.

These are some of the system programs that are used among many others that are not included in the list.

3. Device drivers

These are device-specific software that is used to manage and interface with an operating system. Mostly they come packaged together with the device when you buy. An example, when you buy a printer it comes with a specific printer device that you have to install first before using the printer.

They come mostly on a CD or you can download them from the device manufacturer’s website. They are so specific to the point that devices from the same manufacturer can have different drivers.

4. Firmware software

When any computer is designed the manufacturer installs basic software that identifies basic details about it. The information is stored in ROM which most of the time cannot be changed. It gives basic details of how the computer should boot before the operating system takes over.

5. Middleware

Have you ever asked yourself how application developers can connect programs that are developed using different programming languages? Middleware is your answer.

These are programs that act as “brokers “between different platforms such as:

  • They can be used to link the front-end and backend parts of the application.
  • Integrating applications developed by different organizations i.e. mobile money service providers can be linked with many mobile loans application from different vendors.
  • Allows communication between applications designed using different programming languages.
  • Connecting services that use different protocols to work effectively

6. The Shell

This is a command interpreter mostly used in the command-based type of operating systems. The program links the system user with the operating system kernel by use of commands. Linux types of operating systems use the shell. By default, the shell is loaded into the main memory of the computer when the computer boots.

7. Boot loaders

This is a basic program that helps the computer to boot. The program is usually stored in the first partition of any bootable storage device. When the user press the ON button of the computer the firmware software in the computer is started.

It then passes instructions to the boot loader by first locating where it is stored. The location depends on the boot order that is set in the BIOS, by default CD drive is the first location.

8. Language processors

They are special types of system software that are used to convert high-level or assemble language codes into machine language.  There are 3 main types which include:

  • Assembler

It translates assembler language code into machine language. Assembly is a low-level language.

  • Compiler

It is used to translate high-level language code into machine language. It reads and translates the whole code at once to generate an object code. At the end of compilation, the gives code lines where the errors were identified if any.

  • Interpreter

It translates high-level language into machine language but unlike in compiler, it is done statement by statement. Each code statement is translated at a time and if there is any error it will terminate until it is corrected.