Identifying Your Operating System (OS)

Learning Objectives

  • Determine what operating system you have.

An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware and software resources and provides common services for computer programs. Put simply, this is the system that allows your computer to operate. Every computer has an operating system. The two most common operating systems are Microsoft Windows and Apple’s macOS.

It is important to know which operating system your computer has because the steps to accomplish various tasks varies between operating systems. Reading directions on how to change the desktop background in Windows 10 may not help you if you are running Windows XP, and those directions will be useless if you are using a Mac. However, nearly all versions of Windows and macOS are capable of doing the same things.

Although this class will be focusing on Windows 10 and 7, the things you will learn in this module can be done by any version of Windows or macOS. If you are not running Windows 10 or 7, you can find directions online by searching for the task you are trying to do and the name of your operating system. (For example, you might search for “create folder windows vista.”)

Windows vs. Mac

The Apple logo.

Apple logo

To identify your operating system, start by narrowing down which brand of OS you have. Often you can determine whether you are running Windows or macOS without even turning on your computer:

  • Is there an Apple logo somewhere on your computer?
  • Does your computer have a Command key () on the keyboard?
  • Was your computer purchased at an Apple store?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then you most likely have a computer that runs macOS.

Another good way to see whether you are running Windows or Mac is simply to turn the computer on. As the operating system boots up, it will display a logo. A Windows logo means you are running Windows, while an Apple logo means you are running macOS.

If you have determined that you are running Windows, there are many methods to determine your specific operating system, not all of which are listed here. It doesn’t matter which method you use; what’s important is figuring out which operating system you have. If one method doesn’t work, try another.

Method 1

Press the Windows key (at the bottom of the keyboard, looks like four squares) and R key at the same time to open the Run dialog box. Type in “winver.”

A dialog box called Run that has a text field called Open. In the Open text field is the word winver. The window has option buttons OK, Cancel, and Browse...

 

Click OK. A window should open called About Windows that tells you which operating system you are using.

Notification pop up from the Windows 10 operating system. It's purpose is to let the user know about the Windows system. It contains the version, the copyright certification, and it's licensing source. In the bottom right corner there is a box which is labelled "ok".

This computer is using Windows 10.

Method 2

Open the Start menu by clicking the bottom left-hand corner of your screen. If you see a search text box, select it and then type “about” or “about your pc.” If you do not see a search text box, then just start typing “about” or “about your pc.” Select About your PC. If you do not see About your PC, try a different method.

In the search box type "about". After you hit search a list of 4 options pop up. The first one is "Best Match", the best match is, "About your PC" this is shaded by a tint of gray to signify that the mouse is hovering over this option. The second result down was labelled "Apps", the third, "Settings", and the fourth was the, "Store".

 

This display shows the about menu of the Windows 10 operating system. In this window it describes the edition, the version, the OS build, the product ID, the processor, the installed RAM, and the system type of the Windows 10 PC. The edition and version labels are surrounded by a red box to highlight them. The system type is also surrounded by a red box.

This computer is running Windows 10 Home Version 1607 with a 64-bit operating system.

Method 3

Open the Start menu by clicking the bottom left-hand corner of your screen. Right-click on Computer, then select Properties.

A systems search box is open. On the right hand side of this box are 9 different selections including; user, Documents, Picture, Music, Computer, Control Panel, Devices and Printers, Default Programs, Help and Support. The mouse is hovering over "computer" which is opening a second box to the right. In this new box there are 7 new options including; Open, Manage, Map Network drive, Disconnect Network Drive, Show on Desktop, Rename, and Properties. Select properties.
The control panel is open displaying a series of information regarding the operating system. On this panel are two important things. 1. The Windows edition which is surrounded by a red box and 2. The System type which is also surrounded by a red box.

This computer is running Windows 7 Professional with a 64-bit operating system.

Method 4

Open the Start menu by clicking the bottom left-hand corner of your screen.If you see a search text box, select it and then type “System Information” in the search box. If you do not see a search text box, then just start typing “system” or “system information.” Select System Information under Programs. If you do not see System Information, try a different method.

The systems search panel is open and in the search box is the words system information. Two options are showing, the first one being "Programs" and the second one being "Control Panel". Select system information under programs.
The system information box is open with three important items highlighted in red boxes. The first one highlighted is the OS Name, the second one highlighted is the Version, and the last one highlighted is System Type.

This computer is running Windows 7 Professional with a 64-bit operating system.

Methods 2–4 also provide additional information on your computer that is useful for troubleshooting and determining what programs you will be able to run. For example, many software programs have a version for a x32-based processor and another for a x64-based processor. For the purposes of this course, you only need to know which edition of Windows you have.

Practice Questions

Check Your Understanding

Answer the question(s) below to see how well you understand the topics covered in the previous section. This short quiz does not count toward your grade in the class, and you can retake it an unlimited number of times.

Use this quiz to check your understanding and decide whether to (1) study the previous section further or (2) move on to the next section.