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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
What is a Multi-user operating system?
3.
Examples of Multi-User Operating Systems
3.1.
Unix
3.2.
Multiple Virtual Storage
3.3.
Shared Computing
4.
Functionality of a Multi-User Operating System
5.
Features of the Multi-user Operating System
6.
Components of Multi-User Operating System
6.1.
Memory
6.2.
Kernel
6.3.
Processor
6.4.
Device Handler
6.5.
Spooler
7.
Types of Multi-User Operating Systems
7.1.
Distributed System
7.2.
Time-Sliced System
7.3.
Multiprocessor System
8.
Characteristics of Multi-User Operating Systems
8.1.
Resource Sharing
8.2.
Multitasking
8.3.
Background Processing
8.4.
Time-Sharing
8.5.
Invisibility
9.
Advantages of Multi-User Operating System
10.
Disadvantages of Multi-User Operating System
11.
Single User vs Multi-user Operating System
12.
Frequently Asked Questions
12.1.
What are the benefits of multi-user system?
12.2.
What is a multi-user OS example?
12.3.
Is UNIX a multi-user operating system?
12.4.
Is Windows a multi-user OS?
13.
Conclusion
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024
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Multi-User Operating System

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Introduction

A computer has multiple components, such as input/output devices and a CPU. A computer understands machine language only, because of this, it is difficult for the user to directly interact with the computer. Therefore we use an operating system to make the interaction with the computer user-friendly. 

multi user operating system

An operating system is a program that acts as an interface between the user and the hardware. It performs all the basic tasks such as file management, memory management, handling input and output, and controls peripheral devices such as printers. The multi-user operating system is a type of operating system that allows more than one user to interact with the same system.

What is a Multi-user operating system?

A multi-user operating system is a type of operating system that allows multiple users to use/access the same system running to a single operating system. In simpler words, it is an operating system that more than one user can use at a time on the same machine. In this, different users access the machine running the operating system through networked terminals in which the operating system handles requests from users by taking turns.

What is a Multi-user operating system

The main idea of developing a multi-user operating system is to use it for time-sharing and batch processing on mainframe computers. 

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Examples of Multi-User Operating Systems

Some examples of multi-user operating systems are:

Unix

Unix is a highly dependable open system architecture suitable for small and medium business computing systems. Major tech giants like AIX, Solarix, etc., have their own version of Unix.

Multiple Virtual Storage

IBM developed an operating system for mainframe systems. Its most common application is enterprise computing, requiring high-intensity input/output tasks such as insurance, aviation business, etc.

Shared Computing

A multi-user operating system is used for servers that support most webmail apps. Webmail applications require hundreds of computers, each one of which runs a multi-user operating system capable of various users simultaneously.

Functionality of a Multi-User Operating System

A multi-user operating system enables multiple users to use the same computer simultaneously. It provides features like user account management, access control, and resource sharing, ensuring privacy and security. Users can run applications, store files, and have personalized settings while the OS manages resource allocation and prevents conflicts. This functionality is crucial for shared computers, servers, and networked environments, where different users need access to the same resources while maintaining isolation and data protection.

Features of the Multi-user Operating System

  • A multi-user operating system is a type of operating system that allows multiple users to access a computer system simultaneously. This type of operating system has several features that are specifically designed to support multiple users.
     
  • One of the key features of a multi-user operating system is user management. The system administrator is able to create and manage user accounts, assigning each user a unique username and password to log into the system. The system administrator can also set user permissions and access levels to ensure that users can only access the files and applications that they are authorized to use.
     
  • Another important feature of a multi-user operating system is resource allocation. The system administrator can allocate system resources, such as CPU time, memory, and storage space, to different users. This ensures that each user has access to the resources they need to complete their tasks.
     
  • A multi-user operating system also supports concurrent access, which means that multiple users can access the system at the same time. This allows users to work on different tasks simultaneously without interfering with each other.
     
  • Remote access is another important feature of a multi-user operating system. Users can access the system remotely, logging in from a remote location using a network connection. This makes it possible for users to work from home or while travelling.
     
  • Security is also a critical feature of a multi-user operating system. The operating system has robust security features, such as user authentication and encryption, to protect the system from unauthorized access.

Components of Multi-User Operating System

The major components of the multi-user operating system are:

Memory

The main memory determines how many programs can be executed simultaneously, hence the degree of multi-programming. RAM, which is the physical memory, is present inside the system where the programs are stored. Any program that needs to be executed must be copied from secondary storage like a hard disk to RAM.

Kernel

This is used to interact with the system's hardware directly. It is embedded in the computer's main memory and is in a low-level language.

Processor

The CPU or Central Processing Unit is known as the computer's brain. In the case of large machines, the CPU necessitates more ICS, whereas, in smaller computers, the CPU is mapped into a single chip known as the microprocessor.

Device Handler

The purpose of a device handler is to provide all the requests from the whole device request queue pool. Each input/output device requires its own device handler. The device handler works in a continuous cycle mode.

Spooler

The full form of the spooler is Simultaneous Peripheral Output on Line. A spooler runs all the computer processes and outputs the results simultaneously.

Types of Multi-User Operating Systems

Some of the types of Multi-User Operating systems are :

  1. Distributed System
     
  2. Time sliced system
     
  3. Multiprocessor system

Distributed System

Distributed operating system is a collection of multiple components are distributed over multiple computers that interact and coordinate with each other like a single coherent system. In simpler words, multiple computers are managed in such a way that they appear as a single computer. Distributed systems are also known as distributed computing. 

Time-Sliced System

In such a system, each user's job gets a specified amount of time from the CPU. An internal component known as the Scheduler decides which job to run next. The scheduler decides and executes the job that needs to be performed based on the priority cycle.

Multiprocessor System

In such a system, multiple processors are used, which helps improve the system's overall performance. In case one of the processors fails, the system does not collapses, the other processors are responsible for completing its tasks.

Characteristics of Multi-User Operating Systems

Some of the characteristics offered by the Multi-User Operating System are:

Resource Sharing

Various output and memory resources such as printers, fax machines, and hard drives can be shared among multiple users using this operating system. Using this functionality, users can share their documents. Each user gets a small slice of CPU time in this operating system.

Multitasking

Multiple tasks can be performed at the same time using the multi-user operating system.

Background Processing

It means that commands are not processed but executed in the background while any other program is interacting with the system in real-time. 

Time-Sharing

It is a strategy that is used by multi-user operating systems to operate on several users' requests simultaneously by switching between the jobs at short time intervals.

Invisibility

Many functions of the multi-user operating system are hidden due to factors such as OS being instinctive or happening at the lower end such as disk formatting, etc.

Advantages of Multi-User Operating System

The advantages of using a Multi-User Operating System are:

  • In case one computer on the network grid goes down due to some issue, the rest of the computers on the network stay unaffected. The system can be handled efficiently.
     
  • Multiple users can access the same documents on their systems. For example, if one of the computers has a pdf file or a word document that the other users want to access, then the other users can access that file easily.
     
  • Using the multi-user operating system, resources can be shared. For example, it can be used in the printing process, in which multiple users can access the same printer.
     
  • It is used by Airlines for different functions such as ticket reservations.
     
  • They are extensively used in educational institutions and libraries. For example, they can store and handle searching for books. In order to do so, the book record is stored in one computer while the other systems which are connected to it can access that computer for any query related to the book.

Disadvantages of Multi-User Operating System

The disadvantages of using a Multi-User Operating System are:

  • Sharing of data sometimes becomes dangerous when you share your files, your private data files also get shared
     
  • Multiple accounts on a single computer may not be suitable for all.
     
  • If a computer gets attacked by a virus, then it will spread to the entire network to which that infected computer is connected.

Single User vs Multi-user Operating System

Here is the comparison table of differences between multi-user and single-user operating system
 

Basis Single-User Operating System Multi-User Operating System
Users Single-User Operating System is designed for a single user. Multi-User Operating System supports multiple users.
Resources All system resources are dedicated to one user. Resources shared among multiple users.
Access Control Limited access control is required. Robust access control and security measures to protect user data and privacy.
Use Cases It is used on personal computers and devices. It is used on servers and networked environments.
Examples Windows, MacOS are examples of single-user operating systems. Linux, Unix, Windows server, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of multi-user system?

Multi-user systems allow multiple users to access and use the system's resources simultaneously, enhancing collaboration, optimizing hardware utilization, improving cost-efficiency, and enabling centralized management and security control.

What is a multi-user OS example?

An example of a multi-user operating system is Linux. It allows multiple users to simultaneously use and access the system, each with their own accounts and privileges.

Is UNIX a multi-user operating system?

Yes, UNIX is a multi-user operating system. It was designed from the ground up to support multiple users. UNIX has been used extensively in business, education, and government settings for this reason.

Is Windows a multi-user OS?

Yes, Windows is a multi-user operating system. It supports multiple user accounts, allowing different users to have their own profiles, settings, and data on the same computer.

Conclusion

In this article, we have extensively discussed the Multi-User operating system, its types, characteristics, and advantages/disadvantages.

Recommended Readings:

 

Also check out some of the Guided Paths on topics such as Data Structure and Algorithms, Competitive Programming, System Design, etc. as well as some Test Series, and Interview Experiences curated by top Industry Experts only on Coding Ninjas Studio. You can also consider our Operating System Course to give your career an edge over others.

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