Windows OS is described as a ‘personal computer operating system released by Microsoft as part of the Windows NT family of operating systems which has completely dominated the desktop operating system market, so it’s easy to forget that there are alternatives available for PC users.
In some ways, this is another obvious choice. Chromium OS is the operating system that Google’s Chrome OS is based on and is available to download for free. It’s also suitable for installation on aging hardware.
Lightweight and with a focus on cloud computing, Chrome OS is one of the most well-known alternatives to Windows. Chromium OS has everything you would find on a Chromebook, making it great for web browsing, social networking, and word processing. However, it is less accomplished at media playback, and meaningful media editing is beyond its capabilities.
If you’re looking for something that is easy to use, Chromium OS is a good free OS for PCs. It is available to build from the source, or as a ready-to-install disk image from ArnoldTheBat.
Yes, macOS (aka OS X) is technically free, although you need to buy an Apple computer to use it. Well, that’s not strictly true since it is possible to create a “Hackintosh” where macOS is installed on a non-Apple computer.
This violates the macOS license terms, of course, and you need a very particular computer for it to work. Also, since Apple is slowly phasing out Intel Macs, Hackintosh computers will become a thing of the past soon, so this isn’t a door that will be open much longer.
macOS also comes with some great Apple applications, such as GarageBand and Apple’s office applications. On other operating systems, you either have to purchase something like Microsoft Office or use an open-source package such as Libreoffice.
FreeDOS: Free Disk Operating System Based on MS-DOS
Most modern operating systems are built around the concept of multitasking. FreeDOS is different. This DOS-compatible OS is as different from Windows as it’s possible to get FreeDOS based on Windows’ predecessor, MS-DOS.
A free operating system with support for older games and applications, FreeDOS can be easily connected to your network. In addition, various software packages can be installed, from tools to enhance the classic DOS experience, to apps and games.
FreeDOS is as useful for productivity as it is for recovering old data.
It doesn’t matter if you own a modern desktop, an older rig, or you’re running it in a virtual machine. FreeDOS is a great option if you’re looking for a more traditional experience reminiscent of the 80s/90s computing.
ReactOS™ is an Open Source effort to develop a quality operating system that is compatible with applications and drivers are written for the Microsoft® Windows™ NT family of operating systems (NT4, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, Seven).
However, ReactOS has been in the alpha stage for quite some time now. While some apps such as Adobe Reader will run on ReactOS, many won’t. It’s lightweight, though, requiring just 500MB of hard disk space and 96MB of RAM to run.
One day, ReactOS might be a perfect, windows os alternative, but until then, it is available for your evaluation. Install it from the boot CD or run the LiveCD on your existing operating system.
Zorin OS is another Linux distro, but it’s a distro unlike any other. The creators of Zorin have a strong focus on helping both current macOS and Windows users transition easily to their systems. The clever way they’ve done this is by including desktop layout templates that look like Windows, macOS, or Ubuntu.
Zorin is based on Ubuntu and uses a heavily modified version of GNOME 3 of XFCE 4 as its graphical user interface. Zorin OS has been designed to make using WINE and PlayOnLinux easy to install and configure so that users can keep using the games and applications they’re used to on Windows.
It has gained praise for its performance and stability, and Nvidia GPU users may want to take note that driver support in Zorin OS is virtually peerless. If you are looking to move to open source from Windows or Mac, definitely give Zorin a try.
Finally, current software may not have a version compatible with these alternative operating systems. You may have to look for alternative software to use compatibility layers.