CompTIA A+: Understanding Operating Systems

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Module 6:

Operating systems (OS) are the backbone of every computer, serving as a bridge between hardware and software. For CompTIA A+ professionals, having a solid grasp of operating systems is crucial.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is an Operating System?

  • An operating system is software that manages hardware and provides services for software applications. It’s responsible for managing resources, file systems, and user interfaces.

Types of Operating Systems:

  • There are various types of operating systems, including:
    • Windows: Developed by Microsoft, Windows is one of the most widely used OS for desktop and server systems.
    • macOS: Designed by Apple, macOS is the OS for Mac computers.
    • Linux: An open-source OS that comes in many distributions, such as Ubuntu and CentOS.
    • Unix: An OS that has influenced many other OS designs.
    • Mobile OS: OS like Android and iOS are designed for mobile devices.
    • Server OS: OS like Windows Server and Linux server distributions are tailored for server environments.

OS Components:

  • An operating system consists of several key components:
    • Kernel: The core component that manages hardware resources.
    • File System: Manages how data is stored and retrieved on storage devices.
    • User Interface: Provides a way for users to interact with the computer, with options like the command line interface (CLI) and graphical user interface (GUI).

OS Functions:

  • Operating systems perform various functions, including:
    • Process Management: Allocating CPU time to processes.
    • Memory Management: Managing RAM usage.
    • File Management: Handling files and directories.
    • Device Management: Controlling input and output devices.
    • Security: Protecting system resources and data.
    • User Management: Managing user accounts and permissions.

Common OS Tasks:

  • CompTIA A+ professionals often perform tasks like:
    • Installing and Upgrading OS: Guiding users through the installation process and ensuring compatibility.
    • Configuring Hardware: Ensuring hardware is properly recognized by the OS.
    • Software Installation: Installing, updating, and removing software.
    • User Account Management: Creating, modifying, or disabling user accounts.
    • Troubleshooting: Diagnosing and resolving OS-related issues.

OS Troubleshooting:

  • Understanding common OS problems, such as blue screen errors (in Windows) and kernel panics (in macOS), is essential for effective troubleshooting.

Choosing your OS

You have to decide and advise which OS suits your clients’ needs the best.

  • What is the use case.
  • How much power is needed.
  • Graphics.
  • A/V editing.
  • Gaming.
  • Streaming.
  • Virtualization.
  • Cost.
  • Business or Home.
  • Security.

Typical system requirements (2020)

  • 1GHZ Processor or higher.
  • 2GB RAM 64bit/1GB RAM 32bit
  • 20GB RAM 64bit/16GB RAM 32bit

Installation Tips

  • Specify computer name.
  • Determine if there is a work group or domain.
  • Select a partition on HDD.

File Systems

  • NTFS is the newest.
  • exFAT is best for flash drives.
  • FAT32 is compatible across most platforms.

NTFS is the default file system used by windows and it supports large file transfers.

exFAT is an older file system that is optimized for flash drives.

FAT is an older file system which has a maximum of 2gb file size transfer.

FAT32 can transfer up to 4gb file size.

Formatting The File System

  • Quick format erases but does no error checking.
  • Full format checks each cluster and allocation unit to ensure it can reliably hold data.

Common Executable File Extensions

Extension Type Usage
.bat Batch files Sequential Commands in a text file
.cmd Command files Sequential Commands in a text file
.com Command files Used in DOS command shell
.exe Command files Executes a file
.ps1 Powershell script Super Batch files

Common Application File Extensions

  • .doc and .docx .dot and .dotx are common document files
  • .pdf is used for Adobe portable document files
  • .ppt is used for Microsoft power point documents
  • .xls is used for Microsoft Excel documents

Common Compression File Extensions

  • .ace is a WinAce file for high compression
  • .cab is a cabinet file used by Microsoft for distributing software
  • .bak is a backup file for many apps
  • .zip is a compression format file

Common System File Extensions

  • .dat is a data file used within the registry
  • .ddl is a dynamic link library which has code that can be used to reduce the amount of code needed for some applications
  • .msg indicates error messages

Common Graphics File Extensions

  • .bmp is a bitmap image
  • .gif is a common graphic interface format
  • .jpg joint photographic experts group
  • .png portable network graphics
  • .pdf portable document format

Miscellaneous File Extensions

  • .asp a server scripted HTML file
  • .php a hypertext pre-processor
  • .html Hypertext markup language store website data
  • .tmp a temp file for short term storage
  • .txt a text file
  • .wav sound or music file
  • .mp3 sound or music file
  • .mp4 a video file

File Attributes

An attribute defines the properties of an object, element or file. It refers to or sets the specific value for an object, element or file.

  • Read-Only – Files can only be read
  • Hidden – Files which cannot be seen
  • System – Used only by the OS
  • Archive – Used by backup programs to archive data
  • Compression – To compress a file
  • Encryption – Used to protect a file
  • Indexing – Indexes files to speed up processes to find them

By comprehending these fundamental aspects of operating systems, CompTIA A+ professionals can better assist users, troubleshoot issues, and ensure the proper functioning of computer systems. OS knowledge is a cornerstone of IT support and maintenance.

You can find all of our CompTIA A+ guides here:

We also have guides for the CompTIA Security+ here:


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Luke Barber

Hello, fellow tech enthusiasts! I'm Luke, a passionate learner and explorer in the vast realms of technology. Welcome to my digital space where I share the insights and adventures gained from my journey into the fascinating worlds of Arduino, Python, Linux, Ethical Hacking, and beyond. Armed with qualifications including CompTIA A+, Sec+, Cisco CCNA, Unix/Linux and Bash Shell Scripting, JavaScript Application Programming, Python Programming and Ethical Hacking, I thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of coding, computers, and networks. As a tech enthusiast, I'm on a mission to simplify the complexities of technology through my blogs, offering a glimpse into the marvels of Arduino, Python, Linux, and Ethical Hacking techniques. Whether you're a fellow coder or a curious mind, I invite you to join me on this journey of continuous learning and discovery.

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