Multitasking

The ability to execute more than one task at the same time, a task being a program. The terms multitasking and multiprocessing are often used interchangeably, although multiprocessing implies that more than one CPUis involved.

In multitasking, only one CPU is involved, but it switches from one program to another so quickly that it gives the appearance of executing all of the programs at the same time.

There are two basic types of multitasking: preemptive and cooperative. In preemptive multitasking, the operating system parcels out CPU time slices to each program. In cooperative multitasking, each program can control the CPU for as long as it needs it. If a program is not using the CPU, however, it can allow another program to use it temporarily. OS/2, Windows 95, Windows NT, the Amiga operating system and UNIX use preemptive multitasking, whereas Microsoft Windows 3.x and the MultiFinder (for Macintosh computers) use cooperative multitasking.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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