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microkernel

(1) The foundation part of an operating system that is designed for the hardware it runs in. The other components of the OS interact with the microkernel in a message-based relationship and do not have to be rewritten if the OS is ported to new hardware. Only the hardware-dependent microkernel must be reprogrammed. Contrast with monolithic kernel. See kernel.

(2) A small control program designed to perform a limited set of functions in one hardware platform.



kernel

The nucleus of an operating system. It is the closest part to the machine level and may activate the hardware directly or interface to another software layer that drives the hardware. The kernel orchestrates the entire operation of the computer by slicing time for each system function and each application as well as managing all the computer's resources. It typically resides in memory at all times. See microkernel, monolithic kernel, kernel space and kernel panic.



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