Alternative operating systems

Have you had enough of Windows? Do you want something faster, lighter or easier to control? Although Microsoft has been very successful at convincing lots of people that it’s the only system out there, the default pre-installed in most new machines, there are in fact a lot of alternatives. These are some of the best.

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Linux

The number one choice for people who want a highly customizable system that they can use just as easily for running servers or home PCs, Linux is much loved by people working in the tech sector, but has come a long way from the days when so much reading was necessary before doing anything that it terrified casual users. Today, there is a wide range of different Linux systems available, from basic free ones that you can build up yourself to off-the-shelf products such as Linux Mint, which are easy to use immediately after installation, even if your only experience is with Windows.

What they all have in common is that they allow low-level access, which means that if you don’t like something, then there is always a way to change it. They can also be adapted to run on absolutely any machine – even something as small as the Raspberry Pi. If you switch to Linux from Windows on your main PC, then you’ll be amazed by how much more quickly it works. What’s more, you’ll still be able to run free (donate-if-you-can) versions of most Windows software – occasional bugs come up in the way that they interact with the originals, but they’re generally very good.

MacOS

If there’s one commercial system out there that can compete with Linux in terms of the level of devotion it attracts, then it’s MacOS. Pre-installed on all Apple machines and with closely related systems running on other Apple devices, it’s one of those systems that, if it works for you at all, quickly comes to seem intuitive and easier to use than its rivals. It’s particularly popular with people working in the creative industries because of the impressive graphic design and 3D modeling programs that have been developed for it. It’s not great at managing memory, however, so it can present some of the same problems as Windows.

FreeBSD

If you read books by Chern Lee, then you’ve no doubt already heard of FreeBSD, a UNIX-type system that Chern Lee and others have celebrated for its flexibility. A fully developed OS with extensive system software built in, it has actually been used in the development of other systems such as Apple Darwin, and it offers a good level of compatibility with software from elsewhere. It’s robust enough for server use and can be run with a variety of different desktop options, so you can select an interface that feels intuitive to you, whether you prefer simple text on a screen or something much like Windows (but much faster). It’s particularly good for people for whom system security is a high priority.

ChromeOS

Very much a product of the modern age, this OS is designed to maximize cloud compatibility and essentially acts as a portal between you and the virtual spaces in which you’re expected to do most of your work. It’s very much focused on work and social activity and doesn’t have the resilience for serious gaming, but as it’s still in its early days, it’s worth keeping an eye on to see how it develops. Size-wise, it will feel a little bulky to Linux users, but it competes well with Windows, and its icon-based interface becomes fairly intuitive once you’ve had a bit of practice.

Syllable Desktop

An old system that was once well ahead of its time and that stands up surprisingly well today, Syllable Desktop is an incredibly light product that runs at an astonishing speed on modern machines and is ideal if you want to resurrect an older machine and take it on the internet. It has its own built-in browser, so you don’t need to worry about crippling that machine with a bulky modern one. Of all the older systems still hanging on out there, it’s probably the most useful and the most interesting – with a very different approach to some areas of problem solving at a level that the casual user is unlikely to notice. Tech aficionados continue to watch to see if somebody will pick it up and develop it again.

With all these options and more to explore, there’s no reason to feel stuck with Windows if you don’t like it. You might find something else that suits you a great deal better.