Five Free Computer Operating Systems You Need to Check Out
RemixOS by JIDE This one is for Android lovers and one of the nicest free operating systems out there. Built on the Android-x86 project, Remix OS is completely free to download and use (all updates are also free, so there’s no catch). It’s compatible with a wide range of computers (including Intel-based MACs), built for performance with all your daily tasks in mind, and you can choose to keep it portable (boot from a USB) or install it permanently.
If you already have an existing operating system, you can choose to dual boot Remix. But Remix’s biggest advantage over the rest is by far Android’s fantastic app ecosystem, along with the inherent customization and open nature. To get started, just go to the Remix OS for PC download page at www.jide.com and follow the instructions.
A small problem is that the Google Play store does not come pre-installed with Remix, due to licensing issues. You’ll need to sideload the Google Play apk (installation file) to take full advantage of the app ecosystem, but it’s a lot easier than it looks. If you get stuck, there are loads of video reviews and tutorials online, as well as a Google group where you can find help and support from other users.
Haiku Project Haiku OS is an open source operating system designed for personal computing. To get started or take a short guided tour, you can go to www.haiku-os.org. After downloading the files, you can choose to install Haiku on a partition on your hard drive, create a live CD, boot from a USB drive, or use it in Live mode (it will disappear after shutdown — to be replaced by your conventional operating system if you have one). Instead of a taskbar like Windows, Haiku has a desktop bar, which is placed at the top right by default.
The desktop bar gives you access to all system settings and applications. If you want, you can change its location to any corner of the screen. Haiku has been translated by volunteers into 25 different languages and all the basics you need to get started are built in: for example, it has an email client, web browser, calculator, text editor, disk space monitor, archiver (decompressor), system monitoring tools, printer/webcam drivers and audio/video players.
ReactOS When it comes to free operating systems, you’re probably thinking “but it’s not Windows”! ReactOS is a free and open source operating system based on the design architecture of Windows NT (like XP and Win 7). This means that most Windows applications and drivers will work seamlessly.
It also means that for someone used to the Windows way of doing things, ReactOS won’t come as a shock. The philosophy is that you should be able to use it as a free alternative to Windows without having to relearn how to use it and without changing software. Honestly, all of this means nothing unless you actually look at screenshots of ReactOS running – just search for images tagged ReactOS and you’ll see how similar it really is to Windows. In fact, ReactOS has also been called a “viable Windows replacement” for people who want to forgo the use of proprietary commercial software. To get started, go to www.reactos.org and go to the download page. You can choose to download the installation CD or just get a Live CD and run the operating system from there.
syllable desk Let’s say you have an old computer lying around – something that still has working hardware but is around 15 years old (or older!). What type of operating system would you use on it? The answer is Syllable Desktop. It was designed for computers with Pentium-compatible processors with 32MB of memory (that’s megabytes – not gigabytes!). This is a voluntary project and it is still in development. To get started, go to http://web.syllable.org and find the Syllable Desktop link. They also have Syllable Server – which uses the Linux kernel and is optimized for servers. Like many others here, you will get a bundle of built-in applications (web browser, email client, address book, media players) and it has drivers for the most common devices built-in. To add more apps, you can simply head to the app download page on the website. Some of the other things you can download for free include games, rescue software, and a VNC viewer.
Chromium OS You may have seen or heard of Chromebooks, Chrome Sticks, or Chrome PCs, all computing devices that use Google’s cloud-enabled Chrome OS. You can’t download Chrome OS on your own – you need to get a device that comes preloaded with it. Chromium OS is an open source project that shares the same code, but you can download it to use on whatever hardware you choose. It is ultra-light and there are several versions you can download and try. For example, go to http://chromeos.hexxeh.net to download a build and try it out for yourself.
You can also try Chromixium (www.chromixium.org), which combines Chrome and Ubuntu features in one great package. You can install Chromixium in place of any existing operating system or dual boot it with Windows and Linux. The minimum requirements are also quite low (1 Ghz processor, 512 MB of RAM), which means it should work well on older computers.
Various Linux distributions Linux is popular with DIYers and there are hundreds of popular versions (or distros) available for free. Ubuntu is probably the most popular and best known – it’s probably the easiest to use, easiest to learn (if you’re coming from Windows) and there’s plenty of support and lots of discussion forums to browse if you need help. Other popular distributions include LinuxMint (which includes many “mint” tools), Debian (known to be the most stable and compatible), Mageia, Fedora, OpenSuse, FreeBSD and others.