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I was told by my professor that when a computer is manufactured, it comes with an OS where the OS is installed in two different parts. The first part is physically "hardwired" (?) into the computer and the other part is a software. But now, I am unsure how accurate this claim is and wanted to ask the following question please.

(Q) If a part of the OS is hardwired into the computer, doesn't this mean that the user may never be able to completely remove the pre-installed OS? That is, suppose that for some extreme nerdy reason, I want to use my computer without their OS or any OS at all. But now with the OS having been hardwired into the system, doesn't this mean that I will always be bound to the manufacturer's installed program, where my computer will always behave according to whatever is the manufacturer's "inerasable" component of the pre-installed OS ? In other words, I won't ever have full control of the computer.

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  • $\begingroup$ (Don't worry as long as you know how to cut the power.) $\endgroup$
    – greybeard
    Commented May 26 at 8:18

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Most computers have non-volatile memory (e.g., EEPROM or flash), volatile memory (e.g., DRAM), and persistent storage (e.g., a hard drive or SSD).

It is common for manufacturers to install a bootloader into non-volatile memory (e.g., EEPROM or flash). The bootloader is software that can be used to load a full OS. See, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BIOS, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UEFI.

When you power up the computer, the computer starts running the bootloader. The bootloader code then loads the OS code and transfer control to it, so the OS starts executing. Typically, the OS code is stored on persistent storage.

Many manufacturers will pre-install an OS on persistent storage, along with a bootloader. Some won't pre-install an OS (they will leave that up to you), and will install only a bootloader. Generally, you can always erase everything on persistent storage and replace it with anything you like, so you can uninstall an OS and install your own OS.

By "hardwired", the teacher might be referring to ROM (read-only non-volatile memory), and storing a bootloader in ROM (or even an OS in ROM). My impression is that ROM is relatively rare these days, and instead most modern computers come with rewritable non-volatile memory (e.g., EEPROM or flash). Therefore, modern computers typically don't have an OS hardwired into them.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much, this is really great. $\endgroup$
    – Lucky
    Commented May 27 at 1:10

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