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The hardware components of a computer system are just physical electronic components and would sit there forever doing nothing without being told what to do. It is the role of the systems software to control and manage the hardware components, allow them to communicate with each other and ensure that they function as efficiently as possible.

The operating system is a suite of programs that manages all of the hardware devices and processes running on the computer. For example, if information is to be output by the monitor or the printer, it is the operating system that allows the CPU to communicate with the peripheral devices.

If there are several programs running at once, it is the operating system that manages their access to the CPU and main memory. And it is the operating system that provides an interface to allow human users to interact with the computer system through windows, icons, menus and pointers, allowing the users to tell the system what they want to do without having to learn the specific commands.

Utility systems software keeps the system secure and running smoothly. The suite of programs configures the system, monitors it and optimises it to keep it running efficiently. Utility programs include defragmentation, compression and encryption software.

One of the most important utility systems programs and one which users often overlook is backup software. At some time every user is going to lose a file or find that it is corrupted, resulting in crying or shouting in frustration when they realise they have not backed it up! There is no excuse, as backup programs will run automatically, in the background, without the users having to do anything.
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