Back to Basics: Browser Versus Operating System

Back to Basics: Browser Versus Operating System

I’ve had some conversations this week during which I was trying to figure out what operating system that folks with a problem were using. When I asked, they responded with answers such as Internet Explorer, Safari, and Chrome. (This was for a phone and not a netbook, so I knew they wasn’t the right answers.) The problem with those answers is that none of those programs is an operating system; they are all browsers. Now, before you think I’m picking on senior citizens and their tech know-how, let me tell you that the age range in this sample was from seventeen to eighty.

Let’s take a look at the differences between a browser and your operating system, or OS. The OS is the software that controls your device’s basic functions, such as running programs, controlling peripherals like a keyboard, and allowing your device to understand what you want when you tap the touchscreen. Popular operating systems for PCs are Windows and Linux.

The most popular operating systems for smartphones and tablets are Android and iOS (found on iPhones and iPads). There is also a Windows Phone operating system.

Chromebook devices have an operating system called Chrome. Chromebooks are very much like a tablet in a laptop’s body.

A browser is a program that allows you to use the Internet. You turn on your device and then select an icon like the ones shown below to go online.

Now, for many folks these days, their browser may be the only app they ever open on their PC. You might go straight online to check mail and read the news or watch a video.

Popular browsers include Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Safari. You can’t run every browser on every operating system. You might choose to run Chrome on a Windows, Mac, or Linux operating system, but you can’t run Internet Explorer or Edge on anything but a Windows computer. Plus, Edge runs only on Windows 10.

Chrome is the most popular browser. It’s used on PCs, Macs, and mobile devices. The default browser for Mac computers is Safari.

Why does this matter? If you’re looking to add a program or a peripheral to your device, you have to know the operating system, just like when you want to buy a car part you need to know the make and model of the car. You need to know what’s making that thing run.

To check your OS on a Windows system, type computer in your search box, then right-click on the result and choose Properties. Your operating system will be displayed.

For a Mac, choose the Apple Menu and About This Mac.

For Android phones, check under Settings and look for About Phone. For iPhones, you’ll need to go to Settings, then click General and then About.

~ Cynthia
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