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multitasking

Multitasking, in an operating system, is allowing a user to perform more than one computer task (such as the operation of an application program) at a time. The operating system is able to keep track of where you are in these tasks and go from one to the other without losing information. Microsoft Windows 2000, IBM's OS/390, and Linux are examples of operating systems that can do multitasking (almost all of today's operating systems can). When you open your Web browser and then open Word at the same time, you are causing the operating system to do multitasking.

Being able to do multitasking doesn't mean that an unlimited number of tasks can be juggled at the same time. Each task consumes system storage and other resources. As more tasks are started, the system may slow down or begin to run out of shared storage.

It is easy to confuse multitasking with multithreading, a somewhat different idea.

This was last updated in September 2006

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