<firstimage=”http://www.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/intro4.jpg”>Your operating system is undoubtedly the most important bit of software you will ever install. Without one, that expensive box of microchips and silicon in the corner is pretty much useless. Most of us can’t do without a copy of Windows or Mac OS, but there are countless users worldwide who make do with a free option.
Even if you’re firmly based in the Microsoft or Apple camp, taking a walk on the wild side and installing a secondary computer operating system can still be worth the effort. After all, variety is the spice of life.
Here are just a few of the lesser-known free options that might just be worth a go, if you’re that way inclined.
Another Linux-based operating system, Freespire uses the popular Ubuntu (version 7.04) at its core and stamps its own mark on the open source OS. With the popular KDE suite at hand, users of Windows and Mac OS will feel right at home finding their way around.
Freespire adds the power of the CNR Plugin, allowing fast and easy one-click installs of popular software suites including some commercial ventures. There are enhanced “modified” versions of programs you’re probably already using (like Firefox and Thunderbird) to make life on the free side that little bit sweeter.
This freeware open source effort also comes complete with on-demand proprietary codecs (including one for Windows Media files) and a whole host of proprietary drivers for your wireless, graphics card and more.
For a powerful, ready-to-go Linux distribution with a difference Freespire does the job quite nicely.
If you only use your netbook for the net (which probably makes sense) then Google’s Chromium might be just what you need. The lightning fast startup time means you’ll be checking email, social media and wasting time online before Windows has even reached its login screen.
Best of all you can run it straight from a USB stick, making it ultra-portable between PCs. We’ve shown you how, right here.
The current official builds can be a bit of a hassle to get going on a lot of computers, but a nice guy by the name of our how-to for a complete set of instructions.has compiled his own build called Flow which adds vastly improved hardware support. Check out
That old laptop sitting in a cupboard might find a new lease of life with the help of Chromium and its web apps.
Many of you will have heard of BSD, one of the many UNIX-based operating systems floating around the web. Often favoured for its secure and reliable nature, the team at PC-BSD have aimed high and developed a user-friendly version aimed at the “casual” user.
The idea behind PC-BSD is to provide users with a complete desktop operating system that doesn’t require resource-intensive protection against viruses and spyware. In today’s computing world, many of us dream of such a charm.
The release runs FreeBSD at its core, and expands on this with unparalleled ease-of-use. Self-installing software packages make adding extras a breeze, and the desktop can be sexed-up with fancy 3D effects and transitions.
The team behind this OS just wants you to enjoy more of the time you spend at your PC, and less time worrying about it.
Inspired by BeOS (and implementing certain features and bits of code from the old operating system) Haiku is an open source operating system aimed at personal computing. This makes it extremely user-friendly, as the primary audience are average users like you or me, looking for a way to get our daily computer needs tended to.
What makes Haiku different to other UNIX-based operating systems (specifically Linux) is its vision to provide a unified experience, rather than using multiple layers of software that can often over-complicate the computer operating system.
Haiku does not use the Linux kernel but a custom-built one which has been designed for responsiveness. Couple this with a threaded design for increased performance on multi-core processors, and the whole package begins to look quite appealing.
Netbook owners listen up! This might be the one you’ve been waiting for. A simple operating system, aimed at armchair surfers who live for the web.
Incorporating a quick and easy one-click-install method for over 700 of the web’s most popular services, Jolicloud enables you to surf, chat, listen, watch and connect from a clean and attractive interface. Plus with Jolicloud’s Stream feature staying in contact and sharing fascinating finds with your social networks is easy.
You can synchronize your Jolicloud across as many devices as you like, and if you’ve not got your netbook with you simply log in with a HTML5-compliant browser to manage your account. Jolicloud might just be what your netbook’s been missing, check out our full article here.
You’re not going to get the compatibility of a Windows or Mac OS install with many of the above, but if you don’t really need everything under the sun running on your machine then one of these (or even a few of these) might be for you. Even if you do use another primary OS, try partitioning or one of the many Live CD/USB releases. You might be surprised!