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Table of contents
What is File Management System in Operating System?
Features of File Management in an Operating System
Functions of File Management System in OS
Objectives of File Management in OS
Properties of File Management in Operating System
Advantages of File Management in OS
Disadvantages of File Management in OS
Examples of File Management in OS
Creating a New File
Creating Folders
Moving Files
Copying Files
Renaming Files
Deleting Files
Searching for Files
Backup and Restore
What are the 3 basic types of File Management in an Operating System?
1. Sequential File Management
2. Indexed File Management
3. Direct File Management
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the need of file management in OS?
What are the 4 main file management functions of OS?
What are the different types of file in operating system?
What are the techniques of file management in OS?
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024

File Management in Operating System

Author Sinki Kumari


There can be a huge amount of files in our system. The operating system is responsible for managing the files. The operating system is used to manage computer files. The File Management in operating system manages all files with various extensions.

file management in operating system

Before we dive into file management in the operating system, let us first recap what a file is.

A file is a collection of specific information stored in a computer system's memory. There are various types of files in our computer-like text files, images, audio/video files, etc. All these files have different extensions. The file management system is responsible for the efficient storage, retrieval, and manipulation of files.

What is File Management System in Operating System?

File management is one of the fundamental and crucial components of an operating system. The operating system manages computer system files. Operating systems control all files with various extensions.

File management is formally defined as manipulating files in a computer system, which includes creating, modifying, and deleting files. Therefore, one of the simple but crucial features offered by the operating system is file management. The operating system's file management function entails software that handles or maintains files (binary, text, PDF, docs, audio, video, etc.) included in computer software. 

The operating system's file system has the ability to manage both single files and groups of files that are present in a computer system. All of the files on the computer system with different extensions(such as .exe, .pdf, .txt, .docx, etc.) are managed by the operating system's file management.

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Features of File Management in an Operating System

  1. Provide security to system and application software.
  2. memory management.
  3. disk management.
  4. I/O operations.
  5. file management, etc.

Here are some features of file management in an Operating System:

  • You can add or modify data in a file to create or update its content.
  • We can move files from one folder to another to change their location in the file system.
  • Renaming a file is easy for users, and it would not change the content or properties of the file.
  • You have the option to delete files permanently from the system.
  • File management includes storing and managing details like size, creation date, modification date, and type.
  • Some operating systems can compress files to save storage space.
  • You can search files based on their names, content, or details.
  • Operating systems provide backup and restore options to protect data and recover files in case of data loss.

There are three types of file structures present in the operating systems:

  • Sequential File Structure: In a sequential file structure, data is stored in a linear order, and records are stored one after the other. Accessing data in a sequential file is typically done in a linear manner, meaning you must start at the beginning and read through the records one by one until you reach the desired record. This structure is straightforward but not very efficient for random access.
  • Indexed File Structure: An indexed file structure uses an index to keep track of the location of records within the file. The index contains key values associated with each record, which are used to look up and retrieve specific records quickly. This allows for faster and direct access to records, making it more efficient than sequential access. Common examples include B-trees, hash tables, and other data structures used to build indexes.
  • Random or Direct Access File Structure: In a random or direct access file structure, records can be accessed directly, without the need to traverse the entire file. Each record has a unique identifier or address that can be used to locate it immediately. This is the most efficient method for accessing data but can be more complex to manage.

Functions of File Management System in OS

The file management system is also known as the file system. It is responsible for file management in any system. The various functions involved in file management are as follows:

  • It is responsible for creating new files in the computer system and placing them in specific locations.
  • It is responsible for locating the existing files in the computer system.
  • It facilitates keeping the files in separate folders known as directories. These directories allow users to quickly search for files or organize files based on their types of uses.
  • It enables users to change the data of files or the name of files in directories.

Objectives of File Management in OS

The various objectives of file management in OS are:

  • File retrieval: It stores data in a structured manner for easy access and retrieval.
  • Data security: It provides data security to prevent unauthorized access or accidental loss.
  • Data sharing: It ensures that data remains consistent even when multiple users or processes are accessed simultaneously.
  • File encryption: Manage permissions and access rights to regulate who can read, write, or execute specific files.
  • File organization: Provide efficient search capabilities to locate files based on criteria like name, content, or metadata.
  • Space management: Reduce file sizes to save storage space and enhance data transfer efficiency.
  • File backup: File backup ensures data persistence, integrity, recovery, and security, aligning with the objectives of efficient and reliable file management in an OS
  • File compression: File compression minimizes storage space, accelerates data transfer, and supports efficient storage, contributing to file management objectives in an OS.
  • File versioning: File versioning maintains historical file changes, facilitates collaboration, and ensures data integrity, supporting file management objectives in an OS.
  • File Auditing: File auditing tracks file access and changes, enhancing security, compliance, and accountability in support of file management objectives in an OS.

Properties of File Management in Operating System

File management in an operating system involves various properties and characteristics to effectively handle data and files. Some of these properties include:

  • Organization: Files are organized into a hierarchical directory structure to enable efficient storage and retrieval.
  • Access Control: Access permissions are assigned to files and directories to control who can read, write, or execute them.
  • Data Persistence: Files remain intact even after system shutdowns or crashes.
  • Data Integrity: Files are protected against corruption and errors.
  • Version Control: Multiple versions of files are managed to track changes and revisions.
  • Backup and Recovery: Regular backups are taken to prevent data loss, and recovery mechanisms are in place.
  • Security: Security measures, including encryption and user authentication, are implemented to protect files.
  • Duplication and Deduplication: Redundant data is managed efficiently to save storage space.
  • Scalability: The file management system can accommodate growing data and storage demands.
  • Optimization: File management operations are optimized for performance and resource utilization.
  • Monitoring and Auditing: File access and changes are monitored and audited for security and compliance.
  • Search and Retrieval: Efficient search mechanisms allow users to locate and access files quickly.
  • Compression: Data can be compressed to save storage space.
  • Compatibility: Support for various file formats and file systems to ensure interoperability.
  • User Interface: A user-friendly interface for interacting with files and directories.
  • Concurrency and Locking: Support for multiple users and processes accessing files simultaneously, with mechanisms for handling conflicts.

Advantages of File Management in OS

  • It keeps data organized and easy to find.
  • It ensures that data stays safe even when the system is off.
  • It allows sharing of data with others easily.
  • Controls who can access specific files to protect privacy.
  • Saves storage space by compressing files.
  • It helps back up essential data so you do not lose it.

Disadvantages of File Management in OS

  • Data can be lost if something goes wrong with the file system.
  • Errors in the file system can cause problems.
  • Files might not work well on different devices.
  • Files can be at risk of viruses.
  • Backing up and restoring data can take time and effort.
  • Unexpected power loss can damage files and data.
  • Recovering lost data can be expensive.

Examples of File Management in OS

Creating a New File

Creating a new file involves allocating storage space and assigning a unique name to it within the file system. This operation typically requires interaction with the file system's directory structure and updating metadata associated with the new file.

Creating Folders

Creating folders, also known as directories, involves creating a new directory entry within the file system to organize files hierarchically. This operation requires specifying a name for the new folder and updating the directory structure accordingly.

Moving Files

Moving files involves transferring a file from one location to another within the file system. This operation requires updating directory entries to reflect the new file path while preserving file data.

Copying Files

Copying files involves creating a duplicate of a file in a different location within the file system. This operation requires allocating storage space for the duplicate file and copying file data from the source to the destination.

Renaming Files

Renaming files involves changing the name of a file while preserving its content and metadata. This operation requires updating the file's directory entry with the new name while retaining its original data.

Deleting Files

Deleting files involves removing a file from the file system, freeing up storage space, and removing associated metadata. This operation may involve updating directory entries and deallocating storage space occupied by the deleted file.

Searching for Files

Searching for files involves locating files within the file system based on specified criteria, such as file name, size, or content. This operation requires traversing the file system's directory structure and examining file attributes to match search criteria.

Backup and Restore

Backup and restore operations involve creating copies of files and file system metadata to safeguard against data loss or corruption. Backup involves copying files to an external storage device or remote server, while restore involves recovering files from backup copies in the event of data loss or system failure.

Examples of file browsers are

  1. Windows file manager (This PC)
  2. Finder
  3. Dolphin
  4. One Drive
  5. GNOME Files, etc
  6. Cloud-based file storage services:
  7. Content management systems (CMS):
  8. Source code management systems: 
  9. Database management systems: 
  10. Cloud-based file storage services
  11. Network-attached storage (NAS)
  12. File Manager on Linux: 

What are the 3 basic types of File Management in an Operating System?

The three types of file management in an Operating System are:

1. Sequential File Management

  • Data is stored one after another in a line.
  • To find something, you must go through the whole list until you reach it.

2. Indexed File Management

  • A special list index tells you where particular data is located in the file.
  • You use this index to quickly find the needed data without searching through everything.

3. Direct File Management

  • Each piece of data has its unique address, like a home address.
  • You can go to the address to find your desired data without searching or reading everything.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the need of file management in OS?

File management in an operating system is important because it helps keep your files organized, secure, and easy to find. It makes it simple to work with files, share them, and ensure they are safe. 

What are the 4 main file management functions of OS?

  1. File Creation: Create and allocate storage for new files.
  2. File Access: Read, write, and execute files, enforcing access permissions.
  3. File Modification: Edit, update, or delete files.
  4. File Organization: Maintain file hierarchy and provide directory management.

What are the different types of file in operating system?

File types in an OS: Regular, Directory, Special (Device, Named Pipes, Socket, Symbolic Links), System, Hidden, Data, Executable, Compressed, Archive, Temporary, Database, Log.

What are the techniques of file management in OS?

The file management techniques in an operating system include sequential access, indexed access, and direct access. Sequential access reads files one after another, indexed access uses a special list to find files quickly, and direct access accessing files directly using unique addresses.


In this article, we have extensively discussed file management in operating systems. 

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