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Time Sharing Operating System Overview

A time-sharing operating system, also known as a multitasking operating system, is a type of operating system that allows multiple users or tasks to share a single computer’s resources simultaneously. It does this by dividing the Central Processing Unit (CPU) time into small time slices or time intervals, and then rapidly switching between different tasks or processes. Each user or task gets the illusion that they have dedicated access to the computer’s resources, even though these resources are being shared among many users or tasks.


Time-Sharing Operating System Detail

It is one of the most important types of operating system. This operating system lets people to get connected to various terminals to utilize a particular computer system at a time. It also handles the interaction between the software and the hardware.

The main difference between the Time-Sharing Operating System and the Multi-Programmed Batch Operating System is that the multi-programmed batch operating system will maximize the use of processor and on the other hand the timesharing operating system will minimize response time.

Time sharing operating system lets the user to perform the task one at a time and each task would get same amount of time to execute. Hence, the name is referred as time sharing operating system. Here, the multiple processes are taken care simultaneously that requires adequate management of main memory so that the processes can be swapped in and out within a short period of time.

Examples: Multics, Unix, Linux, Windows NT server, Windows 2000 server, TOPS-10(DEC), TOPS-20 (DEC)

Concepts associated with Time-Sharing Operating Systems


Here are some key concepts associated with Time-Sharing operating systems:

  1. Time Slicing: The CPU allocates small time slices to each active task or process. The operating system’s scheduler determines how long each task can run before switching to the next one. This gives the appearance of parallel or concurrent execution.
  2. Fairness: Time-sharing systems aim to provide fairness by ensuring that each user or task gets a reasonable share of CPU time. This helps prevent any single user or task from monopolizing the system’s resources.
  3. User Interaction: Time-sharing systems are often designed to support interactive tasks, such as command-line interfaces or graphical user interfaces. Users can initiate tasks and switch between them, and the operating system manages the allocation of resources.
  4. Multi-Programming: Multiple programs or processes can be loaded into memory at the same time. When one program is waiting for I/O (input/output) operations, the CPU can switch to executing another program, maximizing CPU utilization.
  5. Resource Management: The operating system must manage resources like CPU, memory, and I/O devices efficiently to ensure smooth operation and prevent conflicts between different tasks.
  6. Context Switching: Context switching is the process of saving the current state of a task, loading the state of another task, and switching the CPU to execute the new task. Context switching is a fundamental operation in time-sharing systems.
  7. Security and Isolation: Time-sharing systems typically provide security and isolation mechanisms to ensure that one user or process cannot interfere with or access the data of another user or process.

Working of Time Sharing OS


Here’s a simplified overview of how a time-sharing OS typically works:

1. User Initialization

  • Upon successful login, the OS assigns a unique user ID and creates a separate process or session for the user.
  • The user’s home directory is set as the current working directory.

2. Submission of User Requests

Users can interact with the system by submitting commands, programs, or requests. These requests are usually made through a command-line interface (CLI) or graphical user interface (GUI).

3. Process Creation

  • When a user submits a request, the OS creates a new process to handle that request.
  • Each process is assigned a priority or time slice for CPU execution.

Time Sharing OS Working

4. Process Scheduling

  • The OS uses a scheduling algorithm (e.g., Round Robin, Priority Scheduling) to determine which process should run next.
  • The scheduler selects a process from the queue of ready-to-run processes and dispatches it for execution.

5. Time Slicing

  • The selected process runs for a predefined time slice (e.g., a few milliseconds).
  • During this time, the process utilizes the CPU for its tasks.

6. Context Switching

  • When a time slice expires or the process voluntarily gives up the CPU (e.g., due to I/O request), a context switch occurs.
  • The OS saves the state of the current process, including registers and program counter.
  • The scheduler selects the next process to run and restores its saved state.
  • The CPU continues executing the new process from where it left off.

7. Resource Management

  • While a process is running, it may request resources such as memory or I/O devices.
  • The OS manages resource allocation, ensuring that multiple processes can share resources without conflicts.

8. Fairness and Prioritization

  • The scheduler ensures fairness by allocating CPU time slices to processes according to their priority or other criteria.
  • Users may set priorities for their processes, which can influence their execution order.

9. Termination and Cleanup

  • When a process completes its tasks, it exits, and the OS reclaims its resources.
  • The OS may also handle unexpected process terminations or system errors.

Features of Time-Sharing OS


  • Time slot for each process is set aside.
  • Same computer can be used by multiple users.
  • Improvement in the interactions between the users and computers.
  • Quick responses for the user’s enquiries.
  • Large number of tasks can be performed quickly.
  • User need not to wait for another process to get complete.


  • Response time is quite quick.
  • It avoids duplication of the software.
  • It also reduces the idle time of CPU.


  • This operating system has its issues in reliability
  • Data communication issues arises.
  • The security and integrity of user programs might be affected.
Read Also:
Batch Operating System Overview
RTOS (Real Time Operating System) – Types, Kernel, How it Works, Uses
Chakrasthitha is a B.E (Medical Electronics) and has work experience in MatLab and Lab View Software as Design Engineer at BCS innovations and Manipal hospital as Biomedical Engineer. She is an author, editor and partner at Electricalfundablog.


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