Forget Windows, Linux or MacOS: Our choice of the best alternative operating systems

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For those who're fed up with Windows, Linux, or macOS, you'll need to know if there's an incredible various desktop operating system that's value using. 

Whereas there are not any absolute definitive solutions here – everyone's use case is totally different, in any case – we've discovered ten distinct examples that fall outdoors the standard bounds.

Our listing even includes a few true outsiders, unbiased working methods built from the ground up which serve mainly to prove just how troublesome it is to create a whole functioning OS without numerous brains engaged on it.

All the things right here may be tested fairly inside a virtual machine, so if one thing grabs your interest don't hesitate to download and provides it a attempt.

  • Linux powers a lot of the web site providers out there. Take a look at the best web hosting services on the planet proper now.


ArcaOS is an operating system based mostly on the final IBM launch for OS/2. While OS/2 barely survives as a legacy system, even after being prolonged for a while as eComStation, ArcaOS continues to be being actively developed with Spanish and German language editions anticipated to be launched in the next replace.

ArcaOS features a strong Unix compatibility subsystem, featuring quite a lot of ported OSS Linux apps and some drivers, however nonetheless options the OS/2 Office Shell. 

ArcaOS is a 32-bit OS that runs on the x86 processor architecture, so must be suitable with some notably previous PCs. Though it's native file system is JFS, it may nonetheless work with FAT12, FAT16, or FAT32 formating.

There are two editions obtainable: Private, which retails for $129 per license, and Business, which retails at $229 per license although volume discounts are available. The private version consists of 6-months help and upkeep, while the business version consists of one-year of priority help and upkeep.



We're a bit unhappy that BeOS didn't take off. A trendy multitasking OS that launched an entire host of options that Home windows, Linux and macOS would later undertake for their own, BeOS was a real multimedia innovator that left the market with a whimper when its rights have been bought to Palm in 2001.

Despite being closed supply, the spirit of BeOS lives on in the type of Haiku, an open supply re-implementation which started improvement immediately after Be's demise, and it has been developed since.

Constructed as open source software program from the bottom up but designed to be backward-compatible with its basic quarry, Haiku follows BeOS' lead in its completely modular design, allowing totally different elements of the OS to be developed concurrently. It final saw a serious release over three years ago, however you'll be able to attempt nightly builds to test out present developments.

It's value enjoying with only for the cleanness of its desktop, and there are working net browsers and media players, though it's still quite experimental and most of the options of BeOS haven't fairly been absolutely realized as yet.



Linux, as you could know, is a ground-up reinterpretation of UNIX. ReactOS does the same for the Windows NT structure upon which all trendy Home windows versions are based mostly. It's utterly open supply, using no proprietary Windows code, but ReactOS is designed to be (and in some instances truly is) suitable with Windows drivers and purposes.

Your mileage might range – it's definitely not going to play good with high-end video games or software, and ReactOS isn't fairly up to the Windows 10 degree yet. It's at present aiming at full compatibility with Windows Server 2003.

So it's clearly a bit behind the occasions, but ReactOS does have its makes use of. Incorporating elements of famous Windows emulator Wine, it runs LibreOffice, Firefox, Opera and extra fairly happily, and may even manage (earlier) business purposes like Adobe Photoshop.

Provided that it's free, it's definitely value a check to see if any of your older business-critical purposes are suitable – establishing workstations with out Windows licensing is a tempting prospect, though we will't vouch for its resistance to attacks.



A ridiculous quantity of business software depends on MS-DOS, even to today. We're still seeing bespoke, newly-developed text-mode apps that run instantly from the shell, in all probability as a result of the complexity and potential for catastrophe that graphical interfaces add to the combination is just not well worth the danger in situations that demand 100% uptime.

That business-critical software program might rely on MS-DOS, however it doesn't should know you're truly operating FreeDOS. It's a completely suitable however utterly free and open source remake of DOS that can deal with just about every part its predecessor can do. That does, in fact, imply no multitasking, no protected mode, no GUI, however it'll run your games and may even manage Windows three.1 so long as you're operating it in normal mode.

As you may anticipate, it's not a static recreation of the ultimate business DOS release in 1995, and indeed hasn't been static since FreeDOS first emerged in 1998. Actually, FreeDOS stays in lively improvement, and features quite a few built-in improvements in comparison with its slightly archaic ancestor.


We're cheating a bit, right here, seeing as Chrome OS is constructed upon the Linux kernel, but it will be a shame to disregard Google's working system on a technicality. In addition to, when using Chrome OS you primarily run an expanded version of the Chrome browser and nothing else. Yes, you'll be able to drop to a terminal if you understand how, however the desktop itself is a pure feat of HTML5 wrangling.

It's testomony to the maturity of the online that there's not a huge quantity you possibly can't do with Chrome OS, no less than as long as you recognize the place to look online. And it's not an OS that's exclusive to Chromebooks, either – you'll be able to build a model of Chromium OS (the open supply improvement from which Google gleans its remaining code) on prime of Ubuntu 14.4 then set up it on your own hardware.

One of many more professionally assembled working techniques on this record, Chrome OS is sweet for an experiment, and a strong selection should you're handing a laptop to somebody who's more likely to break another OS. However perhaps it's a bit restricted for production use.



Whereas Linux is a recreation of UNIX, FreeBSD is extra of a continuation. It was initially developed by students working from a Research Unix supply license obtained by the College of California Berkeley – the 'BSD' bit stands for Berkeley Software Distribution. The one purpose it's not referred to as BSD Unix is that pesky trademark and licensing gremlin.

The OS runs on its own kernel, and all of its key elements have been developed as part of a single entire. Linux, however, is just the kernel; the remainder of it is provided by third parties so it lacks BSD's general coherency.

This can be a highly full and very reliable working system, good both for server purposes and desktop use. That stated, it doesn't come with a GUI by default – the X-window system is thankfully simple to install, and there are ports of Linux window managers like Gnome and KDE obtainable.

One remaining observe: BSD varieties the core of maybe probably the most polished and secure desktop working system on the market in macOS, so you understand you're in good palms right here.



Solar Microsystems' SunOS – which advanced into the rechristened Solaris – started as a proprietary UNIX distribution designed to help Sun's SPARC processors. Its hardware reach widened because it grew, and in 2005 Sun released the source code in the form of OpenSolaris, resulting in superior group improvement. And then Oracle purchased Sun, renamed the OS once extra to Oracle Solaris, and determined to stop source releases, successfully closing the source as soon as once more.

That's an extended story made a lot shorter, nevertheless it's a great rationalization of exactly what Solaris presents: long improvement, a interval of group improvement, and the backing of a giant tech firm that makes it good for methods with excessive demand and help necessities. You'll be able to download and use it free of charge, though the license phrases state that you simply'll need a help contract from Oracle in the event you wish to use it commercially.

Solaris installs with a version of the GNOME desktop by default, and there's built-in help for Linux binaries if it's essential prolong it further.



Whether the acute spiritual doctrine behind it pursuits you or not, our remaining selection is an fascinating example of a totally unbiased, distinctive OS. It's been made and maintained with extreme dedication by one man, Terry A. Davis, over the course of ten years.

TempleOS – programmed solely utilizing Davis' personal language, the excellently named HolyC, which you additionally use to interact with its shell – intentionally consists of no networking and completely no hardware help beyond that which varieties the core PC system. So what's the purpose?

TempleOS has been constructed from the bottom up with what looks like no hang-ups on present operating methods. All the factor is hyperlinked, which means you'll be able to shortly burrow right down to the supply of a program simply as easily as you'll find its dependencies, and it's super-quick; there's no paging, so the whole OS gets up and operating within a second or two.

It's unlikely you'll have the ability to use TempleOS for anything strong, and Davis' well-documented psychological health struggles haven't helped its standing locally. However it consists of an enormous variety of fascinating ideas, notably the blurring of the division between document and program, which might impression more traditional operating techniques. Take a look at Davis' fast tour of the OS under to see what it's all about in additional detail.

Gone but not forgotten: other Working Techniques

It's value noting that there have been a variety of different operating techniques that have been previously fashionable however have since been discountinued. Some of the famous of which is AmigaOS, used in Amiga private computer systems in the course of the 1990's and which had a popularity for strong stability. 

Nevertheless, listed here are a pair greater than you might or might not have come throughout prior to now.

9. eComStation

OS/2 might not have set the world on hearth, however it truly maintained an honest industrial and business set up base long after its desktop aspirations died. eComStation was a by-product OS that uses basic OS/2 applied sciences on trendy hardware.

Very similar to its ancestor it's been developed with security and stability in mind for business purposes. We see the claim 'zero downtime' repeated far and wide, and whereas it's theoretically potential to lock up your hardware with the improper software, this is one thing that would have been a real killer function.

There's a number of open supply software ported to eComStation together with Firefox, OpenOffice, VLC and more, and it's able to operating DOS, Java and OS/2 purposes. You virtually definitely don't need it, but if there's something system-critical and OS/2-only that your corporation depends on, operating this on bare metallic is a much more dependable concept than establishing a VM.

As eComStation hasn't been up to date for some years, for those who're on the lookout for OS/2 help and improvement it is perhaps greatest to take a look at ArcaOS within the above listing.

10. Syllable Desktop

Developed between 1994 and 2001, AtheOS – initially deliberate as a clone of AmigaOS however later following its own path – was the work of a lone Norwegian programmer, Kurt Skauen. After Skauen abandoned the undertaking, its GPL-licensed source code was picked up by the group and Syllable Desktop was born.

Nearly all of it's composed of unique code, though sure elements have been pulled from the vast library of open source Linux packages; there's also a Server model, which is more traditionally Linux.

Syllable's key promoting level – ignoring the fact that it's free – is its velocity and lightness. The creators advocate a Pentium CPU with 32MB of RAM, which should offer you an concept of how lightweight it is. Slap this on a contemporary PC and you'll possible by no means have seen an OS so quick.

Syllable does lack the ports that make different indie working methods engaging, although it incorporates numerous native apps for net searching, e mail, VNC and more. We're not totally constructive that it's still lively – the last official replace was some time in 2012 – but when there's a very, very previous PC it's essential resurrect with fairly trendy system architecture, do this.

11. SkyOS

The event of SkyOS has sadly been halted, however it's still value taking a look at for instance of an OS constructed from scratch. Developed initially as an open source challenge by coder Robert Szeleney, SkyOS was based mostly on ideas gleaned from different platforms but didn't originally borrow their code.

That stated, a couple of elements are based mostly on other packages – there's no sense, for instance, creating a completely new compiler when GCC already exists, and the SkyFS filesystem is forked from OpenBFS. Later in its life, Szeleney seems to have experimented with a model of SkyOS constructed on prime of a Linux kernel in an try to help with driver compatibility.

The supply was closed halfway by way of its life, and Szeleney continued improvement based mostly on suggestions from a well-liked (paid) public beta program. Sadly the wrestle to maintain up with ever-diversifying computing requirements turned an excessive amount of for the lone coder, and improvement was halted in 2009, with the newest beta made publicly out there in 2013. 

It's obviously incomplete, and never appropriate for any type of business surroundings, however as a curio to run inside a VM it's very fascinating.