Difference Between Kernel and Operating System

Kernel Vs. Operating System: In this tutorial, we will learn about how a kernel is different from an operating system i.e., the differences between a kernel and an operating system. By Monika Sharma Last updated : May 05, 2023


Overview: Kernel and Operating System

An Operating System is a software which contains different programs in it, and the Kernel is one of them. The Kernel is a programs which is close to the hardware of the system and so, it performs all the tasks of the operating systems which involve a link between both the hardware and the user level applications. The Kernel thus functions at the lowest level of the operating system, performing tasks such as file management, process management, memory management, etc.

OS and Kernel

Whenever the system is turned ON, the Operating system is the first to be loaded into the system, and the Kernel is the first program among all the Programs of the OS to get loaded into the main memory, and then the rest programs of the Operating System are loaded. A system cannot function without the Operating System, and an Operating System cannot exist without the Kernel. Therefore, every Operating System has a Kernel.

Example: Linux is a widely used Kernel which is used by many Operating Systems like Ubuntu, Kali, etc.

Differences Between Kernel and Operating System

The following are the main differences between a kernel and an operating system:

  1. The Operating System is a system software containing various Programs in it while the Kernel is the central Program of the Operating System.
  2. The Kernel performs the lowest level functions of the Operating System like Process management, File management, Memory management, Device management, Input/output communication, etc., while the Operating System performs surplus functions like providing security to the data and files in the system, providing access controls to the User and hence maintaining privacy.
  3. The Kernel acts as an interface between the user level programs and the hardware whereas the Operating System acts as an interface between the user and the hardware. Here, it is important to note that the Operating system can directly interact with the user as it is system software, but the Kernel cannot do so, because it is just a Program. So, for any sort of information exchange with the user, whether it be the input from the user or output to the user, the kernel performs it through the applications, and these applications are again, a part of the Operating System.
  4. Operating System is a System Software which is the first one to get loaded into the main memory as soon as the system is turned on. The Kernel is that Program of the Operating System which gets loaded into the memory before any other Program in the Operating System.

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