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What Is Multitasking?

What Is Multitasking

Date First Published: 7th April 2024

Topic: Computer Systems

Subtopic: Computer Software

Article Type: Computer Terms & Definitions

Difficulty: Medium

Difficulty Level: 5/10

Learn about what multitasking is in this article.

Multitasking is the process of having a computer run multiple applications or processes at once. It is controlled by the operating system, which handles the launch and management of every program installed on the computer and assigns memory to each program running to allow it to run. For example, multitasking makes it possible for multiple programs, like word processors, web browsers, and file explorers, to run at the same time.

Most computers and operating systems are designed for multitasking and perform well at it. Basic operating system processes, such as copying files do not prevent the user from performing other tasks, such as opening or closing windows, or consume all the system resources of the computer.

Advantages and Disadvantages Of Multitasking

The advantages of multitasking are:
  • Multiple programs can run at the same time without affecting others, improving productivity.
  • Changes or updates are seen immediately. For example, if a new email is received, users will immediately know.
  • It provides a better environment for background processes to run. The background processes are not visible to most users, but they enable other programs, like firewalls, operating system updates, and antivirus software run more efficiently.
  • Since multitasking can handle several tasks at once, it improves the stability of the computer. For example, if one process crashes, it will have no effect on the other running programs because the computer handles each process separately.
The disadvantages of multitasking are:
  • It requires more system resources, which can make the system run more slowly. This can become a problem for systems with limited resources.
  • It can drain the battery on portable devices, like laptops more quickly.

Examples Of Multitasking

Below are three examples of multitasking.

  • Having multiple windows open at once - On larger screens, multiple windows can be resized and moved so that they are shown on the screen at the same time. Newer versions of Windows also make it easier to move a window to each side or corner of the screen.
  • Using keyboard shortcuts to switch between open windows - To switch windows without using the mouse, hold the Alt, then press the Tab to switch between open windows.
  • Using multiple monitors on one computer - It is possible to use two screens, keeping a program open on one screen whilst working on the second screen.


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