Linux isn’t the only alternative PC operating system out there. Some alternative operating systems are developed by large corporations, while others are small projects worked on by hobbyists.
We don’t recommend you install most of these on your actual PC. If you want to play with them, you may want to install a virtual machine program like VirtualBox or VMware Player and give them a whirl.
Linux distributions. Ubuntu and Mint are some of the most popular. If you want to install a non-Windows operating system on your PC and actually use it, you should probably pick Linux.
Linux is a Unix-like operating system, and there are other open-source operating systems like FreeBSD out there. FreeBSD uses a different kernel, but it uses much of the same software you’d find on a typical Linux distributions. The experience of using FreeBSD on a desktop PC will be pretty similar.
Chrome OS isn’t really a general-purpose PC operating system — instead, it’s designed to be preinstalled on specialized laptops, known as Chromebooks. However, there are ways to install Chrome OS on your own PC.
Steam OS is just a Linux distribution and includes much of the standard Linux software. However, SteamOS is being positioned as a new PC gaming operating system. The old Linux desktop is there underneath, but the computer boots to a Steam interface designed for living rooms.
In 2015, you’ll be able to buy PCs that come with SteamOS preinstalled, known as Steam Machines. Valve will support you installing SteamOS on any PC you like — it’s just not anywhere near complete yet.
practically everything else on Android is very different from typical Linux distributions. Originally designed for smartphones, you can now get Android laptops and even desktops. It’s no surprised that a variety of projects exist to run Android on traditional PCs — Intel even develops their own port of Android to PC hardware. It’s not an ideal operating system for your PC — it still doesn’t allow you to use multiple apps at the same time — but you could install it if you really wanted to.
There’s a thriving community of people building PCs that run Mac OS X — known as hackintoshes — out there.
Haiku is an open-source reimplementation of BeOS that’s currently in alpha. It’s a snapshot of what might have been if Microsoft hadn’t used such ruthless business practices in the 90’s.
IBM no longer develops OS/2, but a company named Serenity Systems has the rights to continue distributing it. They call their operating system eComStation. It’s based on IBM’s OS/2 and adds additional applications, drivers, and other enhancements.
This is the only paid operating system on this list aside from Mac OS X. You can still download a free demo CD to check it out.
Wine project, which allows you to run Windows applications on Linux or Mac OS X. It’s not based on Linux — it wants to be an open-source operating system built just like Windows NT. (Modern consumer versions of Windows have been built on Windows NT since Windows XP.)
This operating system is considered alpha. Its current goal is to become compatible with Windows Server 2003, so it has a long way to go.
You can also install FreeDOS — an open-source version of DOS — to relive the old DOS years.