The operating system is the glue that holds everything together when it comes to machines, in our case, computers. It allows all of the components to work in unison and provides a graphical interface for programs, utilities, and executing commands. And, with every new update, the operating systems not only get prettier but also gains new features. The main reason for making a switch from Windows is probably monetary.
Problems with Windows
- Windows is not a free operating system
- It has large amounts of bugs compared to an open source OS
- The operating system is controlled by a private organization
- Windows is comparatively slower
- Programming can be difficult without the help of functions like WSL
- Windows is known for its security issues
Microsoft Windows Alternatives
We know that not everyone is ready to pay more than $100 for the license. There are other reasons, such as curiosity, outdated and weak computer components, compatibility, and the need for customization. With that in mind, here are some of the Windows alternatives.
The most common option when looking for operating systems like Windows is Linux. Or rather, one of many operating systems based on Linux, also known as distributions, one of which is Ubuntu. A lightweight alternative that required 4GB of RAM, 25 GB of HDD space, and a 2 GHz processor. Furthermore, Ubuntu versions usually come with LTS (Long-Term Support) and are guaranteed to receive maintenance and security updates for 5 years after release. The system itself comes with a simple, yet effective orange-purple interface, which can be customized to your liking. Most importantly, it’s open-source and free to download, share, and use.
- Open-source operating system
- Different operating systems based on Ubuntu
- In-built Mail and Browser
- LibreOffice to create professional documents
- A great app store close to Windows
Right off the bat, we’ll mention the second most popular operating system for desktop and laptop computers, created by Apple. Officially, it is only available for Apple products such as MacBook Air, Mac Pro, iMac, and Mac mini devices. So, to make a switch, you will be forced to shell out hundreds of dollars. And for the right reason, mind you, because macOS is stable, has a beautiful interface, and is constantly updated. But, people were never deterred from a little DIY, and came up with a so-called “Hackintosh”. Through a wide variety of workarounds, they made it possible to install and use macOS on unsupported computers.
- Supported on Apple devices only
- Highly secure compared to Windows
- Integrated with hardware for a stunning performance
- Apple apps for professional video, image, audio editing
- Quick Dock for faster access
3. Linux Mint
Do you like the color green? If so, you will fall in love with Linux Mint, an operating system based on the Linux kernel. It has a beautiful Dark Mode that makes everything better and comes in three desktop environment editions – Cinnamon, Xfce, and MATE. In terms of security, the number of programs and utilities, and the base features, they’re identical. The only different thing is the GUI, allowing you to pick the one that looks the best to you. It is free, lightweight, and comes pre-installed with a lot of programs needed for everyday tasks. As such, it is recommended for people who are just transitioning from Windows.
Linux Mint Features
- A user-friendly Windows-like interface
- Different operating systems based on Ubuntu
- Nemo file manager to easily manage the files
- Quick backup and restore features
- Super-secure Linux features
4. Elementary OS
Another derivative of the Linux kernel is Elementary OS, a lightweight, open-source operating system inspired by Linux, Windows, and macOS. It can be installed free of charge, although donations are encouraged. Elementary OS also requires much less space in comparison to Windows – only about 15 GB after the installation is complete. It will also work perfectly with as little as 4GB of RAM. It is very easy to use and has one of the prettiest user interfaces around. Plus, you have access to the Store, where you can find all of the applications you’d ever need, so you don’t need to scour the Internet yourself.
Elementary OS Features
- A lightweight operating system
- One of the prettiest interfaces
- Uses fewer resources compared to Windows
- A rich app store
- Multi-touch gestures
5. Zorin OS
If you are looking for a similar OS to Windows in terms of GUI and making the switch easy, ZorinOS is a great option. A relatively new operating system, Zorin offers multiple versions – a paid version with a full set of features, a free version with some of the features, and a Lite version intended for old computers. All three can be customized in a few clicks to look very similar to Windows, Linux, or macOS. It is much easier on the system resources than Windows, doesn’t carry the same privacy intrusion concerns, and promises to be much more resistant to malware.
Zorin OS Features
- Highly customizable
- Virus resistant with the Linux build
- Runs on an open-source software
- Very less resource usage
- Great privacy features
Is it possible to have a lightweight but highly functional operating system? In our opinion, most definitely, and Solus is a strong contender. Based on the Linux kernel and previously known as Evolve OS, Solus has a very minimalistic look to it. By default, its GUI can be customized by installing desktop environments such as Budgie, GNOME, MATE, and Plasma. This allows you to customize every little detail about it, unlike on Windows where third party tweaks and hacks are required.
- A lightweight mate design
- Ships with a lot of useful apps pre-installed
- Very fast compared to Windows 10
- A bunch of gaming features for gamers
- The GUI can be customized to your taste
7. Chrome OS
Are you a college student who needs a laptop to do this essential work and nothing else? Or do you have an older computer that has trouble working fluently with Windows installed? In both cases, Chrome OS is most likely the solution. Although it comes pre-installed with a range of Google’s Chromebooks, low-cost laptops, it is also available for download and installation for free. This makes it a for purposes of using social networks, using Google Docs, and browsing the Internet. While media playback is possible, it is limited in terms of resolution and bit rate. And don’t even think about media editing and serious gaming.
Chrome OS Features
- Good Windows alternative for students
- Runs on Google Chromebooks seamlessly
- Very power efficient compared to Windows
- Touch interface for easier navigation
- Built-in security features from Google
Despite popular belief, FreeBSD is not another Linux distro. Although it has some common roots with Unix, it is based on a modern and different open-source version of Berkeley Software Distribution or BSD. One can consider FreeBSD to be relatively closer to Sony PlayStation 4 OS and some Linux OSes. Despite all this debate, FreeBSD is reliable enough to handle desktop operations. Although it doesn’t support a native Desktop environment, modules such as GNOME, KDE, and XFCE can help bridge the gap. Overall, FreeBSD is fairly secure and customizable, making it a possible choice for privacy-centric users.
- OpenZFS File system
- Well documented and has a great community
- BSD license allows modifying the OS if needed
- Virtualization features
- Dynamic Tracing to track performance bottlenecks
You wanted a Windows-like OS, and you got it. People created ReactOS as a Windows 95 clone project back in 1996. Their goal was the ability to replace it with ReactOS without the user noticing the change. A lot has changed since then, but not its core capabilities. It is still intended for older computers, just like ZorinOS Lite, but requires even less hardware. You only need 500 MB of HDD space and 96 MB of RAM to run the system properly. it is not intended for modern use, but for people nostalgic about the 1990s and fans of old-school games, it’ll scratch the itch.
- Run Windows applications and drivers
- Open-source software
- Extremely lightweight and uses very less resources
- Very fast with minimal resource usage
- Highly secure
We don’t want to leave developers and system admins out of the picture. Surprisingly, OpenSUSE is not based on Debian and is a stand-alone release. It’s a community-developed open-source operating system and has a dedicated fanbase around it. We recommend downloading Leap, a stable version updated on an 8-month cycle. Furthermore, it has a YaST, a control center that allows full control of all aspects of the system, allowing you to truly feel like you’re the owner. As for desktop environments, you can install GNOME and KDE Plasma by default.
- Suitable for developers and system admins
- An active community of developers
- Very secure code build
- Extremely customizable OS compare to others
- Regularly updated and maintained
The constant improvements and features such as Samsung DeX made developers add desktop functionality into the Android source code. Also, having a Google Play, a centralized app distribution, helps new users adapt quickly. Plus, it is extremely easy on the resources and still supports all the personal, education, or enterprise tasks you want to complete. Best of all – there are many operating systems to choose from. Independent developers created bootable Android 9 installations, while others built custom Android-based systems, such as PrimeOS and Phoenix OS.
- Easy setup compared to Windows
- Supported on mobile devices
- A huge number of apps
- Easy to manage and configure
- A whole bunch of Google features
12. Red Hat Enterprise Linux
An extremely powerful open-source operating system used to create powerful infrastructures. Being so powerful to support industry level applications and infrastructures, Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the best go to for automation, cloud, virtualization, etc. The operating system is one of the most popular alternatives to Windows when you have to build a secure, stable, scalable industry level infrastructure. Actively developed, updated, and maintained by the community, RHEL is the best option for you if you are into cloud and related things.
- Suitable for large infrastructures
- Open-source operating system
- Create highly-secure virtual cloud containers
- Comes with all the power of Linux
- Built-in management components
When talking about a desktop OS that can be a suitable replacement for Windows, Illumous automatically comes to mind. Based on the source code of OpenSolaris, BSD, and System Release 4, Illumos is at the core of OpenSolaris lovers. As such, Illumos is not only beautiful to look at but also powerful enough to undertake heavy desktop operations.
- The OpenZFS file system
- Virtualization support
- Native Zones to isolate the machine
- Service management facilities
- A strong firewall feature