If you are tired of the sheer dominance of Windows, macOS, and Linux in the segment of desktop operating systems, you might like to know that there are extra alternatives to these great platforms.

Testing them is relatively simple and is within the reach of any user, and although they have their limitations and drawbacks, each one has its own special charm. Here is a review of some of the most notable alternative operating systems for PCs and laptops.


The BSD operating systems are like the “cousins” of Linux distributions, and although there are many alternatives one of the best recognized is FreeBSD.

alternative operating systems
(Image credit: wikipedia)

Although less well known, the various variants of BSD are highly reputed for their stability and efficiency: they are highly prized systems for their behavior in the field of servers, but it is perfectly possible to take advantage of them as working operating systems for end-users. Its support of hardware architectures is fantastic, and it can be run on x86 / AMD64, ARM, MIPS, SPARC 64, or PowerPC, among others.

The research on this project is impressive, and it is also possible to make this platform the core of our computing experience if we are sick of the “trident” of macOS (which, by the way, has some legacy from BSD systems), Windows and Linux.


Another program that had some significance to the emergence of commercial Unixes was Sun’s Solaris, which ended up releasing the operating system code for the Free Solaris project in 2005.

alternative operating systems
(Image credit: slideshare)

When Oracle bought Sun, the name of the project changed to Oracle Solaris, and some developers ended up making a new fork called OpenIndiana, based on Illumos, another branch of OpenSolaris.

We can download both these Open Source alternatives and Oracle’s own Solaris 11, which we can install and use free of charge for personal use: if we want to use it commercially, yes, we will have to contact Oracle despite the fact that its development stopped years ago.


Server-based operating systems also have a very striking user interface, and ReactOS is one of the most distinctive. This Open Source development has been designed to be compatible with Windows Server 2003.

alternative operating systems
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In a way that ReactOS is to Windows Server what Linux is to conventional commercial UNIX: it retains Windows NT architecture but does not use proprietary code and thus achieves compatibility with many Windows drivers and applications.

While it does not actually hit the Windows 10 level in many ways, its features are impressive, and LibreOffice, Firefox, and Adobe Photoshop are easy to run.


And if the Windows Server has its Open Source successor, the iconic MS DOS would do something similar, which has a free version of the DOS in FreeDOS, enabling you to perfectly run your apps and games. The idea was just 25 years old, by the way, amazing.

alternative operating systems
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It is made up of free software and Open Source applications with GNU licenses , although there are packages that are part of the project that may not follow that license.

As with MS-DOS, you must go back to the past and to the interface for control consoles, but even in this mode a windows background like Windows 3.1 can be used. Its growth is still surprisingly active, so it can be an interesting alternative to test immediately or via a virtual machine on your computer.

Chromium OS

Google’s operating system designed so that our entire workflow is focused on the browser and the internet connection is not exclusive to its products.

alternative operating systems
(image credit: google)

In fact Chrome OS -which is based on Linux- can be installed and used on practically any PC or laptop thanks to the Open Source Chromium OS project on which it is based.

One of the easiest ways to test it is with CloudReady , a version of Chromium OS prepared to be run from a USB key, something that will allow you to evaluate its behavior. An interesting alternative that can actually be used to make the decision to buy (or not) a Chromebook.


This descendant of the famous IBM OS/2 is based on that operating system’s new version model, and its version is still under way. This project took the eComStation witness, which hasn’t been changed for a while and might still be of interest if you wish.

alternative operating systems
(image credit: techrepublic)

It is a 32-bit operating system that is capable of running 32-bit and 16-bit OS / 2 applications in addition to 16-bit Windows applications and MS-DOS applications.

It is, however, a commercial alternative : the ArcaOS personal license costs $ 129, while the commercial version costs $229


In 1991, Be Inc. tried to put out its unique revolution in the field of BeOS operating systems. The system was a little wonder, but it struggled to succeed in a Windows-dominated market.

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The idea for that project remained, however, and Haiku is the heir to that legacy. This Open Source project began in 2001 and is still active today, as evidenced by the availability for more than a year of LibreOffice, the Open Source office suite.

Haiku is distinguished by its desktop, with its interfaces still surprising today because of their clarity and elegance, while in some areas the experience is far removed from the experience provided by more established operating systems, it may eventually give you more than a surprise (pleasant).


One of the most curious aspects of these alternatives is that of TempleOS, an operating system programmed from scratch by Terry A. Davis-a language created by him, Holy C-who died in 2018 and whose legacy maintains a remarkable interest in his conception.

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This lightweight operating system’s “biblical” history is very interesting, but its 16 color support, and its robust support for hyperlinks, are a genuinely fascinating alternative in the gui (640×480 pixels).

It is a unique product in every way , and it natively has a flight simulator (limited, of course), a compiler and a kernel, as well as an equally curious game called “After Egypt”.


Another unique operating system, developed by Bell Labs in the 1980s and which borrowed some of the concepts from UNIX systems.

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Its first official version arrived at the beginning of 2015, and this project is famous for its fundamental principle: “everything is a file,” which makes its file system and its graphical user interface very different from what we used to do. You see.

Although it has some similarities with the handling of Linux distributions or BSD systems, Plan9 is remarkably different in its way of conceiving the execution of processes, and it is, of course, a different and original approach to this field , although it has not had much follow-up afterwards . Inferno derived from it , which you can actually test in a browser.

And the list goes on

It is difficult to be able to mention all the operating systems that exist in the market, and although we have included some of the most striking , we are left with projects that could also be of interest to users.

alternative operating systems
(image credit: securitronlinux)

Among them could be for example AROS, a curious implementation of the APIs of AmigaOS 3.1 -the Icaros project is derived from AROS- or Redox, a Unix-like operating system that is written in Rust and that with its design is really curious and attractive.

There are certainly more escapes to us-please include them in the comments-but what is clear is that the variety in desktop operating systems is surprising.

It is possible that none of those present can completely replace the Windows, macOS or Linux that meet the needs of the vast majority of users, but they certainly can pose an interesting alternative with which to learn and discover other ways of working and enjoying with a PC or laptop.


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