We wonder about all things computer-wise from time to time. We get these ideas and we think about them, asking questions such as what would happen if Windows Update didn’t crash the computer every time?

What about if we actually used no operating system on our computer? Well, that’s a tougher topic, but one that we can answer, unlike the previous one, which is more like a myth at this point. 

A computer can run without an operating system, but it would be problematic and here is why.

What an Operating System Does

Imagine having all sorts of jobs that need to be executed at once. Someone needs to do the dishes, another needs to fix the windows, someone needs to get the materials for building a shed and another team needs to build the said shed. That all seems fine and dandy but if they are not organized, chaos will ensue.

Someone needs to oversee the action, like a foreman, overseer, or contractor. In the case of computers, an operating system acts as a layer between you and the machine, translating simple inputs to something a machine can understand, and then translating the output back so that you can understand it, often in a graphical way.

Operating systems also run a lot of code that helps translate other code. Programs are written in a plethora of languages and compilers need to compile the said code into something that the machine can understand. An OS helps with that. You would have to manually compile everything without an operating system.

Could You Do It?

Yes, a computer could exist without an operating system, but it would be silly. The first computers had no operating system, but they were only used to do a single task. Today’s computers do multiple tasks at the same time, from booting to starting up, opening all the applications you want, checking to synchronize with the internet, for the time, mail and other software you might have open at startup, and so on, and so forth.

Without an operating system, you would have to manually execute all tasks, one by one. You would have to know to tell the machine what to do, which most people don’t, even in the programming world. Machine language and the closest thing to it, assembly, is really hard to learn. 

Should You Do It?

Absolutely not, unless you want to learn how a computer works and what the benefits of an operating system are. If you want to learn, it’s a good exercise, but not if you want to actually try to use a computer. One task at a time is very limiting. You couldn’t view a PDF and have  a clock on at the same time. 

Computers could run without an operating system but they really shouldn’t.