If you happen to buy a laptop without a pre-loaded operating system, there’s no need to pay a fat sum to buy one or resort to piracy. There are quite a few operating systems that are totally free (and without any strings attached).
1 – Remix OS 2.0 – Android Based OS
This one is for Android lovers and one of the prettiest free operating systems around. Built upon the Android-x86 project, Remix OS is completely free to download and use (all updates are free too -so there’s no catch).
It’s compatible with a wide range of computers (including Intel-based Macs), is built for performance with all your daily tasks in mind and you can choose to keep it portable (boot from a USB drive) or install it permanently.
If you already have an existing OS, you can choose to dual boot Remix. But by far the biggest advantage that Remix enjoys over the others is the fantastic app ecosystem of Android and the inherent customization and open nature.
One small catch is that the Google Play store is not pre-installed with Remix, owning to licensing issues. You will need to sideload the Google Play apk (installer file) to take full advantage of the app ecosystem. Click here to Dowload Remix OS.
2 – Free OS for Desktop – Haiku
Haiku OS is an open-source operating system that is designed for personal computing. To start or to take a brief tour, you can head over to http://www.haiku-os.org. After you download the files, you can choose to install Haiku to a partition in your hard drive, make a live CD, boot from USB or use it in Live mode (it will disappear after you shutdown -to be replaced by your conventional OS if you have one).
Instead of a taskbar like Windows, Haiku has a Deskbar, which is placed top right by default. The Deskbar gives you access to all settings and apps within the system. If you like, you can change its location to any corner of the screen.
Haiku has been translated by volunteers into 25 different languages and all the basics you need to get started are built in: for instance, it has an email client, web browser, calculator, text editor, disc space monitor, un-archiver (unzipper), system monitoring tools, printer webcam drivers and audio-video players.
3- Free OS for Desktop – ReactOS
When it comes to free operating systems, you’re probably thinking ‘but it’s not Windows’! ReactOS is a free and opensource OS that is based on Windows NT design architecture (like XP and Win 7). This means that most Windows applications and drivers will work seamlessly. This also means that for someone accustomed to the Windows way of doing things, ReactOS won’t be a shock.
The philosophy is that you should be able to use it as a free alternative to Windows without having to re-learn how to use it and without changing software.
Honestly, all this means nothing unless you actually look at screenshots of ReactOS running -¬ just search for images tagged ReactOS and you’ll see how similar to Windows it really is. To get started, head to http://www.reactos.org and head to the downloads page.
4-Free Desktop OS for old low configuration systems – Syllable OS
Let’s say you have an old computer lying around — something that’s still got functional hardware but its about 15 years old (or older!). What kind of operating system would you use on it? The answer is Syllable Desktop. It was designed for computers with Pentium compatible processors with 32MB of memory (that’s Megabytes — not Gigabytes!).
It’s a volunteer project and is still in development. To get started, head to http://web.syllable.org and look for the Syllable Desktop link. They also have Syllable Server ¬- which uses the Linux kernel and is optimised for servers. Like many others here, you’ll get a bundle of built-in applications (web browser, email client, address book, media players) and it has drivers for most common peripherals built in.
To add more applications, you can just head to the app downloads page on the website. Some of the other things you can download for free include games, rescue software and a VNC viewer.
You might have seen or heard of Chromebooks, Chrome Sticks or Chrome PCs ¬- all computing devices that use the cloud-friendly Chrome OS by Google. You cannot download Chrome OS on your own ¬- you have to get a device that has it pre-loaded.
Chromium OS is an open source project which shares the same code, but you can download it for use on hardware of your choice.