Understanding the Kernel The Core of Operating Systems Explained

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The kernel is a very important center of a computer operating system (OS). It is a core that provides all the basic services to different parts of the OS. It is the main layer between the OS and the hardware, which also helps with process and memory management, file systems, device control, and networking.

The kernel is commonly compared to a shell, which is actually the outermost part of the OS with which the user’s commands interact. Kernel and shell expert are terms used mostly in Unix OSes, not mostly in IBM mainframes or Microsoft Windows systems.

A kernel should not be confused with a basic input/output system (BIOS), which is an independent program stored on a chip on the computer’s circuit board.

So I thought why not give you complete information about kernel, so that you can understand this basic part. So without further ado, let us begin.

What is Kernel

The operating system provides us a graphic interface through which we can give commands to the computer system. But the system cannot understand these commands directly.

So it is translated as code in binary language. For this, the basic component of the operating system is used, which is called the kernel.


We work with the lowest layer of the kernel and the kernel then works with the system.

The kernel plays the role of an intermediary between system hardware and software. The kernel is not an operating system (OS); Rather it is a core module of the operating system. It is the first program that is loaded into the protected memory area during the booting process. It is located in memory as long as the system is powered on.

This kernel is a low-level state layer. Users operate in the system’s senses to communicate with the system. The system calls to invoke the kernel, and the kernel then executes the user’s operations.

Kernel plays an important role when we use the system. It manages other processes of the system, such as process management, memory management, device management and input-output management.

 What does kernel do?

I have already told that the kernel is the main part of an operating system. Its function is to act as a bridge, where interprocess communication and system calls are used. It acts between applications and data processing at the hardware level.

When we load an operating system into memory, the kernel is loaded first. It remains in memory until the operating system is shut down. The kernel is responsible for all low-level tasks such as disk management, task management and memory management.

Generally, a computer kernel is an interface that provides services to the three main computer hardware components and the user interface/applications, such as the CPU, memory, and other hardware I/O devices.

The kernel also manages computer resources, allowing other programs to run and access these resources.

features of Kernel

Let us know about the features of kernel.

  • The Kernel is a vital part of the Operating System (OS) that it needs to function properly.
  • You can think of the Kernel as the nervous system of the OS.
  • It acts as the central core of the OS, controlling everything that happens within it.
  • The Kernel handles tasks like managing input and output (I/O) and managing different processes.
  • It serves as a bridge between the applications you use and the actual hardware processing happening in your computer.
  • Essentially, the Kernel acts as an interface between your user applications and the hardware of your computer.

What are the Responsibilities of Kernel?

Now let us know about the responsibilities of Kernel.

  1. Central Processing Unit: This Kernel only takes the responsibility that at what time how many running programs should be allocated to the processors.
  2. Random Access Memory: RAM is used to store both program instructions and data. Whereas often multiple programs want to access this memory, while they want more memory which is more than the available memory in the computer.

In such a situation, it is the responsibility of Kernel to allocate which memory which process will use, along with it also deciding what to do when more memory is not available.

  1. Input/output Devices: These Kernel allocate requests from different applications so that I/O can be performed in the right device, along with it also provides convenient methods to use the device.
  2. Memory Management: This Kernel has full access to the system’s memory and it also allows them to access safely when they are needed.
  3. Device Management: Kernel should maintain a list of all available devices. This list is already configured by the user or it is detected by the operating system at run time (normally it is called plug and play).

Features that Kernel provides?

let us now know what are the features that the kernel provides.

1) Scheduling of Process (Dispatching)
2) Interprocess Communication
3) Process Synchronization
4) Context Switching
5) Manipulation of Process Control Blocks
6) Interrupt Handling
7) Process Creation and Destruction
8) Process Suspension and Resumption

Definition of kernel

The function manager of the operating system is the kernel. It controls and manages all the main functions.

Memory Management :The kernel provides virtual and physical memory to processes so that they can do their full work. If a process is not ending up in physical memory, the kernel also provides it with virtual space, which is located on the hard disk, to make it possible to perform tasks stored there.

This is called a type of virtual mapping. When a program needs data that is not currently present in RAM, the CPU signals the kernel for the data and the kernel responds to the CPU, which includes indicating that the contents should be moved to inactive memory. The block is written to disk (a space is created for it depending on the data requirement) and then it is also returned when requested by the program. This scheme is called demand paging.

Scheduler : Kernel acts like a secular which controls the process during its execution. It executes a single process at a time by the processor. The kernel allocates a processor to a program from a list of running applications.

Device Management :The kernel controls the actions of other peripheral devices with the help of device drivers. Device drivers are programs that help the operating system interact with hardware devices.

Device driver programs provide an interface and help the operating system to relate with other peripheral devices like printer, scanner, modem, keyboard, mouse etc.

These drivers translate the operating system’s function calls into device-specific calls. Device drivers look for installed devices and recognize them when the system starts up.

this process uses the system call mechanism to interact with the kernel of the operating system. A system call is a service call that allows the kernel to execute a process. A system call is a machine code instruction used by an application program to request permission for a service from the operating system.

Memory Management: This kernel also handles random access memory. It allocates memory for both instruction and data for execution. It decides which process should stay in RAM and how much memory is needed to execute a process. This kernel handles many operations using various mechanisms.

Types of Kernel

Monolithic Kernels

In monolithic kernels, all basic system services such as process and memory management, interrupt handling and I/O communication, file systems, etc., run inside the kernel space.

Monolithic kernels usually provide the highest data throughput of all kernels and hence are used in large servers or job dedicated servers.

Advantages of Monolithic Kernel

  1. They are short in source and compiled form.
  2. Less code means less bugs and less security problems.
  3. Using system calls to perform tasks in the monolithic kernel.
  4. Implementation is very fast.
  5. In this everything happens in kernel itself, so we don’t need any additional mechanism while building application to handle I/O and process.

Diadvantages of Monolithic Kernel

  1.  Coding in kernel space is very difficult as you cannot use common libraries in it.
  2. Debugging is a problem here, as the computer has to be rebooted frequently.
  3. Bugs in one part of the kernel cause lots of side effects.
  4. Kernels usually become large and difficult to maintain.
  5. It is not portable – Monolithic kernels have to be rewritten repeatedly for each new architecture when they are used in operating systems.

Micro Kernel

In a microkernel, the kernel provides the basic functionality that allows the server and individual programs to run. The kernel is divided into separate processes which we call servers. Here some servers run in user area and some in kernel area.

All servers are housed separately and run in separate address spaces. You can usually find microkernels in real-time systems.

Advantages of MicroKernel

  1. You can maintain it very easily, which is a bit easier than Monolithic Kernel.
  2. It is crash resistant, that is, if one server gets damaged, then other servers also continue to work properly.
  3. It is portable.
  4. Its size is small.
  5. It contains less amount of code. This increases both its stability and security.

Hybrid Kernel

It is designed to combine the best of both “monolithic kernel” and “microkernel”.

Monolithic kernels are characterized by “fastness” and “simple design”. And microkernels have the characteristic of “modularity” and “maintainability”.

Here a single kernel cannot be assigned, but the properties of monolithic and microkernel are present.

You’ll commonly find these kernels on desktop, Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.

Nano kernel

This type of kernel only facilitates hardware consecration, does not contain any services and also takes up less kernel space. A nanokernel is based on a hypervisor on top of which you can emulate multiple systems through virtualization. Nanokernels are very well suited for embedded projects.


This kernel is the smallest.Its main work is to do process security and resource handling. When a programmer uses this kernel, it is his responsibility to access the device correctly that he wants to use. 

difference between kernel and operating system

Operating System (OS) is a system software package that helps our computer to run. Its main part is the kernel, which controls all processes and devices.

The operating system acts as a source of communication between the user and the hardware. The kernel is the source of communication between software and hardware.

The kernel helps the program communicate with peripheral devices.

Is Linux a Kernel or an Operating System?

As I already mentioned kernel is the heart of the OS which manages all its main features. And if some useful applications and utilities are added to the kernel, then this complete package is called an OS.

From this it can be said that an operating system has kernel space as well as user space.

This means that Linux is a kernel, as it does not contain other applications such as file system utilities, windowing systems and graphical desktops, system administrator commands, text editors, compilers etc.

Many companies create their own operating system by adding this type of application to Linux Kernel, such as Ubuntu, SuS, CentOS, RedHat etc.

What are Kernel Panics?

The kernel is the part that handles the needs of the computer, so if the kernel crashes, the entire computer will shut down. This negative event is called “kernel panic” in macOS and Unix systems.

This is similar to the Blue Screen of Death in Windows. To get out of this situation you have to restart your computer.

Q1. What is kernel?

The kernel is the critical part of an operating system that manages the communication between hardware, software, and the user. It makes important contributions to security, convenience, and resource management.

Q2. What are the uses of kernel?

Using the kernel, the operating system can be secure, flexible, and resource managed. It helps users to access various applications and services.

Q3. What are the types of kernel?

The major types of kernel are monolithic, microkernel, and hybrid kernel. Each of these has its own unique nature and benefits.

Q4. What can be the disadvantages of kernel?

Using the kernel can also have some disadvantages, such as the possibility of memory congestion, unsupported network protocols, and obsolete drivers. However, these are improving with the latest developments.

Q5. What could be the future of the kernel?

The kernel is an important operating system and it is constantly evolving. In the coming time more latest and advanced kernel versions are expected which can meet our technical and communication needs.


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