The war of operating systems started decades ago, and the first mainstream desktop OS war took place between the Macintosh and Windows operating system. Operating systems are the first bit of software that go into our computer. As PCs dominated the market, Windows became the most used and most popular operating systems ever. It’s stayed that way for close to two decades. 

Linux, a free and open source operating system was another one to join the race, but years later, it still hasn’t managed to capture the desktop PC market. Efforts on the Linux are scattered. There are hundreds of Linux distributions, some of them designed specifically for the end user, while the many others made for specific tasks. There are minor differences between Linux distributions, so the user experience doesn’t change a whole lot between them. If you’ve tried your hand at Linux and want to try some others, we’re giving you a list of operating systems that aren’t Linux. 

Before you actually go and install them, be careful and try and back-up up all the important data from your hard drive. Some of these operating systems are in their development stages and may not have been tested thoroughly. 

ReactOS (www.reactos.com)

A Windows-like operating system built from scratch

A Windows-like operating system built from scratch

While Linux and all of its variants have a completely new look, one of the biggest problems faced by new users is adapting to the new user interface after having used Windows for a long time. ReactOS is a free operating system that looks a lot like Windows. The unique thing about ReactOS is that it was built from scratch, to be like Windows. ReactOS can, in fact run many Windows applications and it’s free. The developers want users to be able to use ReactOS, along with the Windows software and compatible hardware without any issues. At just 48.9 MB, the latest version of ReactOS – 0.3.13 isn’t too large or heavy on resources – it’s a fraction of the size of a standard Windows operating system installation, but remember, is very limited in features. Those who don’t want to setup space on their hard drives and install ReactOS on it, there’s also LiveCD versions that can run off a CD or even disc images that will work on a virtual PC environment (such as Virtualbox).

Haiku Project (www.haiku-os.org)

Reviving BeOS - Haiku Project

Reviving BeOS – Haiku Project

BeOS was an operating system that was first developed back in 1991 and the last version 5.1 came out in late November 2001, after which the operating system ceased to exist. Haiku a community driven project, is influenced by the original BeOS operating system and has been under development, since the end of BeOS. The Haiku project aims to have the operating system to be compatible with BeOS binaries. BeOS, in its time was extremely responsive and had the right number of features and a very modern user interface. Haiku mimics most of the features and characteristics of that OS. Like ReactOS, Haiku is also available free for download as an ISO that you can burn on a disc and install on your PC. A virtual machine image file is also available. It’s a little bulkier than ReactOS, at close to 238 MB, but still much smaller than most mainstream Linux distributions and also, Windows.

Google Chromium OS (http://dev.chromium.org/chromium-os)

Closest you'll get to Chrome OS

Closest you'll get to Chrome OS

Google’s Chrome OS was designed for notebooks and specific models called Chromebooks. The platform, itself is very lightweight and is designed for use on the web. The operating system is minimal and it runs a customized version of the Chrome browser, which in turn accesses Google’s suite of web applications. While there isn’t a very clear build available by Google for download, there are developers who have compiled the operating system and made those available on the web. Chromium OS is actually the development branch of the operating system that’s continuously under development. A while back, we published an article on how to install Chromium OS on your notebook. Hexxeh is one of those developers and you can find a recent built of the Chromium operating system available for download on his site. 

OpenIndiana (www.openindiana.org)

Following in the shadows of OpenSolaris

Following in the shadows of OpenSolaris

OpenSolaris, the popular open source, Solaris-based operating system was developed and handled by Sun Microsystems. Soon after Oracle took over Sun, development of the platform seemed to slow down and developers decided to branch out the operating system into something called OpenIndiana. While OpenSolaris, like OpenIndiana has its roots similar to Unix and Linux, many of the applications and packages have changed, since then. There are more advanced file systems available, along with a bunch of other features, which have made the operating system robust. If you’re a Linux user and you’re looking for something similar, OpenIndiana may be the one to try. The OpenIndiana desktop DVD build for 32-bit operating systems weighs no more than 802 MB and 963 MB for a more portable, USB version. 

FreeBSD (www.freebsd.org)

For the more serious Linux enthusiast

For the more serious Linux enthusiast

The original BSD operating system was developed by the Berkeley University in California. Like OpenIndiana, it started back as Unix and since then, there have been several branches of the operating system. NetBSD (www.netbsd.org) and PCBSD (www.pcbsd.org) are two such branches, but the most popular one seems to be FreeBSD. For the biggest of Linux fans, it’s BSD that they look at once they’re done playing with. FreeBSD is more suited towards server and development environments, still enthusiasts continue to run a server at home running FreeBSD.

If you think we've missed out any major operating systems, please do post in our comments section below.

Publish date: February 6, 2012 5:32 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 9:32 pm

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