Top 10 Alternative Operating Systems

January 19, 2014 in Computing by bbadmin

which operating system

If you’re reading this blog on a desktop or laptop then the chances are you will be using Windows. Currently 91% of computers use Microsoft’s OS. It’s gotten to the point where most people don’t even question it anymore. Consumers don’t ask which operating system their PC uses. They are far more likely to ask which version of Windows it is running.

So is Windows the best option for you? Probably not! The system is packed full of features, most of which you will never use. More features may sound great, but they slow your system down and waste energy. It is also VERY expensive, full of bugs and security problems. But is there an alternative? We have compiled our list of the top ten alternative operating systems available. Some are still in the early stages of development, but they are all working, can be installed on your PC. We have tried to come up with a variety of systems to cater for the widest range of needs.


GNU is not a new system. The project was started in 1984, but with no kernel, eventually it was paired with Linux to create GNU/Linux… Linux by itself was catchier, so the GNU has been ignored as part of the title. Mention Linux and most people will be able to tell you it is an alternative operating system, but GNU has been left behind in the shadows. However that doesn’t been the project was abandoned or had just stood still.

GNU/HURD is based on the Mach microkernel used in OS X. Its servers run on their own address space. There are services for hardware drivers, file systems, authentication and more. These are more isolated than in a typical operating system, so in theory HURD should be more reliable and easier to update.


Java was once the language of choice for most web games and apps. However its dominance in these markets has been almost completely eroded by Flash and HTML5. But the language has not yet been consigned to history and one project is here to show it can shine on the big stage of desktop computing.

JNode is almost completely written using Java. It has a very simple interface and plenty of online support, but the project is still very much in its infancy. At the moment JNode is not ready to complete with the big OS guns, but it is definitely one to keep an eye on for the future.


VMS is one for the nostaglics among you. With its roots way back in the 1970’s where it was run on huge boxes called VAXes, which bear virtually no resemblance to modern computers. FreeVMS another project in the early stages of development, but progress is hampered somewhat by the lack of technical expertise on the original VMS OS.


Operating systems have not changed a great deal from the early days of the Amiga Workbench. We have grown to expect those features and most developers start off with this type of layout in mind, simply because it is so ingrained in us. The advances in mobile technology and touch screens has changed that thinking, but There is another area of computing that has also come on leaps and bound over the last decade – Gaming consoles.

DexOS uses a more graphical front end, which makes it very easy and intuitive for users and should appeal to the gamers out there. DexOS is a real breath of fresh air in the operating system market and demonstrates how far hobbyists can go, even without much funding or the backing of a large commercial partner.


Inferno has been around for a while now, but is still relatively unknown. The concept of this OS is based upon sharing resources across machines to maximise performance. It’s Styx protocol allows seamless sharing of hardware and networking devices to the point you wouldn’t even know they were running on a different machine.


Back in the good old days an operating system would naturally be written in assembly language. However with more advanced compilers this trend has almost completely stopped. Programming with assembly languages is very hard work, but the results yielded can be worth the extra time and effort.

KolibriOS is written entirely in assembly, and the results are immediately noticeable. Firstly it is absolutely miniscule, less then 5MB for the ISO. This makes it ultra fast, booting up in a matter of seconds. All the excess fat has been trimmed, but you’re still left with OS includes everything you would expect including web browser, mail client, utilities and even games.


OpenBSD has been designed with the security conscious in mind. Every line of code is meticulously checked to ensure it is completely free of security loop holes. It audits parts of the codebase for vulnerabilities, and have made modifications to the standard C libraries to prevent buffer overruns and other problems.


Like most people from my generation I was raised on the Amiga. Compared to other PCs of the time it was super fast, easy to use with stunning graphics and audio. Its OS set the foundations for the development of Windows – the most widely used operating system in history.

For those of us who still love the Amiga, we have AROS – the Amiga Research Operating System. AROS uses the Amiga design and is lightning quick. Okay so it’s never going to be a main stream OS, but would be perfect on a small notebook or tablet as a fast and fun alternative.


ReactOS could be a real threat to Windows as the operating system of choice for most businesses. It is essentially an open source alternative to Microsofts flagship OS, but without the huge price tag. The revolution could well start with the lower end of the computing market. A laptop manufacture competing as entry level will pay almost as much for a Windows license as they do for the hardware.

Switching to ReactOS would instantly drop their retail price and potentially increase profit margins. The big problem will be to overcome customer’s preconception that they need Windows to run major software packages. Once this is overcome it won’t take much for businesses to catch on. The development of ReactOS has been slow and there are still compatibility issues to iron out, but it could one day be the new Windows.


Haiku was born from the BeOS, taking it into an open source environment. The result is a simple modern graphical desktop OS, which is fast, elegant and enjoyable to use.

BeOS was developed in the late 90s. Back then its performance was unrivalled, however like many other pretenders, if could not break Microsofts dominance in the PC market. The culmination was a lawsuit, which was eventually settled out of court, which enabled Microsoft to continue as the number 1 OS without admitting any wrongdoing, and virtually consigned BeOS to the history books.

The project was not completely killed off though. It has been gradually revived, starting in 2001 when a small open source project – OpenBeOS entered the fray. This was eventually renamed as Haiku.

The Bear Bottom

As you can see from this list there is an alternative operating system out there that has been virtually tailor made to your needs. Whether that’s speed, simplicity or security you can find something to compete with Windows, while saving you some of your hard earned cash. However the big problem of compatibility remains. There are lots of great projects out there, but Microsoft’s control over the market is still almost impossible to break. Perhaps the only way we will see a real break-through is when governments use competition rules to force a change.