Comparing OS with Kernel and Distro…

A lot of people seem to be confused with the terms OS, Kernel, and Distro. Today, we’ll be comparing OS with Kernel and Distro in this tutorial. We’ll look into each term deeply and will try to understand the similarities and differences between them.

Comparing OS with Kernel and Distro
Comparing OS with Kernel and Distro

Introduction to Operating Systems (OS)

Operating systems are just an interface between computer hardware and users. It acts as an intermediary between computer hardware and the user. OS is a combination of Kernel and Shell that works together. Simply, an operating system is a software program that controls computer hardware. It manages hardwares, software and provides common services for computer programs. Operaring systems allows us to access disks and file systems, error detection and handling, handling I/O operations, multitasking, manipulating file systems, etc. It is impossible to install the application software on computer systems without an Operating System. Windows, macOS, iOS are popular examples of Operating Systems.

Introduction to Kernel

Kernel is the central part of the operating system that has complete control over everything in the computer system. An operating system cannot function without a kernel. Kernel performs various hardware management tasks like disk management, process management, memory management, etc. Kernel means “seed or core” in nanotechnology and that is why it is named so. All operating system requires a kernel to work and they cannot run without a kernel. Linux is initially a kernel not an Operating System, it is further supplied with GNU to be an OS, giving the name GNU/Linux.

When a process makes a call to the kernel, it is called a System Call. Every computer is provided with a separate Kernel Space which cannot be used by any other applications. When a computer boots up, the first program to load is Operating System but when a Operating System loads, the first program to load is the Kernel. Kernels are only of two types: Monolithic and Micro Kernels.

Introduction to Distributions (generally called as Distro)

Distros are specific versions of OS built from common OS package adding additional packages and features. Eg: Debian, SuSe, Red Hat, Android are distros derived from Linux Operating System and are based Linux Kernel with specific additional features. Generally, Linux Distros are open-source, easy to make and work on and that is why they are more popular and easily available. Other operating systems like Windows and MacOS are not open-source and that is why they do not has distribution packages.

Linux, being open-source, a lot of popular distribution packages like Debian, Red Hat, etc. are derived and customized from it for specific tasks like desktop systems, server systems, etc. Furthermore, Linux distribution packages like Debian are more customized into Kali Linux, ParrotOS, etc. for specific tasks like hacking, cybersecurity, etc. Anyone can download opensource files of Debian and other Linux distributions, customize it as per need and create their own OS distro.

Every distro is an OS in itself working on same or different kernels to manage hardwares and softwares and provide services for other applications. All Linux distros work on same kernel. Most of the Linux distros are similar but quite not the same, meaning each is a different Operating System.

Comparing OS with Kernel and Distro

Operating Systems (OS)KernelsDistributions (Distro)
It provides protection and security.It manages disks, programs, tasks, memory, etc.They are specific programs based on a particular OS and its kernel.
It is just a Kernel and Shell that works hand in hand.All operating system needs kernel to run.Distros need a specific OS and its kernel to operate.
It is an intermediate between hardware and software.It is the central part of the Operating System.It is an OS based on same or different kernel with custom and specialized features.
It is an interface between user and hardware.It is an interface between application and hardware.It is an interface between user and hardware.
Comparison Between OS, Kernel and Distros


I hope now you’ve learned what is Operating System, Kernels and Distributions. I wish you can now differentiate between these terms and do not get confused between them.

  • April 25, 2022