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Choosing Step 9

Operating System


The operating system (OS) is like the middle man between all the components and the programs running on the computer. It uses 'drivers' to translate the language of each component and then pass instructions between the software (programs) and the hardware (components). Think of the operating system like the accelerator in a car. When you push the accelerator lots of complicated things go on in the engine, but you never have to know about them, you simply put your foot down and go! In the same way an operating system does all the complicated stuff behind the scenes so that the user can simply click away.

Everyone will be familiar with the Microsoft‘s Windows operating systems, the latest of which is Vista. Due to Vistas infamous 'teething problems' many people still prefer to use the older Windows XP, and some may even prefer it on a newly built PC. The only other option is the free open source OS called Linux. Popular with enthusiasts, Linux is based on an old server OS called UNIX. Today it comes in many forms, each with a distinctive name (RedHat, Ubunto etc.). Unless you are familiar with Linux, or are willing to learn how to use it, we would recommend choosing a Windows OS.

Although Windows Vista has had a lot of bad press, some of it justified, some not, we would still recommend it for those building a new PC. It provides support for the latest technology and has had enough time to mature into a suitable successor to Windows XP. Having said that if you are set on XP then you can be safe in the knowledge that it will provide a decent platform for a few years to come.


If you do decide to install windows XP on a SATA hard disk drive, you will need a floppy drive so that you can provide windows setup with the SATA drivers before you can install it. Vista also requires these drivers, but you can supply them via the DVD drive or a USB memory stick.

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