How to Figure Out Which Operating System Is on a Computer

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The operating system is the program that allows you to install, arrange and run all the other programs on your computer, and it provides the interface through which you manipulate those programs. Popular operating systems include Windows, Mac OS and (considerably less popular) Linux, but all of these systems have multiple versions and editions. To see all the specific data there is about your operating system, you can make a request for information to the OS itself.

  • Find out what operating system you're using so that you know what steps to follow to determine the version number. The operating system will usually be Windows or Mac OS, but many computers also run some variant of Unix or Linux. If you have no idea what you're running, watch the monitor when you turn the computer on -- it will display the general name of the operating system as it boots.

  • Determine the version of a Windows installation using the About Windows dialog. Click "Start," then type "winver" and press "Enter." If this doesn't work, click "Run" before typing. A box will appear providing version information on the operating system.

  • Determine the version of a Mac OS installation by opening the Apple menu in the top left and selecting "About This Mac." A window will appear containing the operating system's version number.

  • Determine the version of a Linux or other Unix-based installation by accessing a terminal prompt -- usually accessible through one of the main menus on the screen -- typing "uname a" and pressing "Enter." This will print a line of text on the screen listing the kernel name, the version number, and the operating system shell name, as well as some other fundamental system information.

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