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15 Best Windows Alternatives 2021

Since its inception in 1985, the Windows operating system has been synonymous with personal computers. The OS has a wide user base because it supports a broad array of software, offers automatic driver updates, comes with a huge collection of gaming apps, and is easy to use.

But despite all these benefits, I find Microsoft’s operating system more expensive than its competitors. It’s also closed source, making it difficult to troubleshoot problems since only the Microsoft staff has full access to the source code.

While its latest versions come with a built-in Windows Defender antivirus, it’s not excellent at malware detection and lacks essential security features. Having said that, you may want to switch to other cost-effective Windows alternatives – and those that run on open source software are more secure and stable.

Keep reading to discover the available options on the market that may suit your unique needs.

Best Windows Alternatives

1. macOS

This operating system is designed to be used on Apple’s laptops and desktops. So, it’s available for devices, such as iMac, Mac Pro, and MacBook.

Until 2012, the software went by the name Mac OS X. After that, it was named OS X, until 2016. Now, it’s known as macOS.

If you’re searching for a professional Windows alternative, you can count on macOS. Sure, it’s different from Windows but has tons of features you’ll love.

The user interface is the first feature that sets it apart: it’s professional, elegant, and simple.

The OS comes with useful preloaded applications, but if you want more, you can download them from the Apple Store.

One of the features I like most about this OS is the dark mode, which reduces the screen brightness and light, making it easier on my eyes.

For added security, macOS prompts an app to ask for permission before accessing the microphone, webcam, contacts, or location. Not to mention, it features an ad-blocker for the Safari browser.

So, if you need a fast and secure operating system for your PC (iMac) or laptop (MacBook), macOS would do.

2. elementary OS

elementary is an open-source operating system that’s easy to understand and use for beginners. But that doesn’t mean it’s too simplistic. It features superior and customizable keyboard shortcuts to help you stay productive on the screen whether it’s your first time or your hundredth.

The multitasking view is one of the features I like about elementary OS. The workspaces let you organize your activities by task. For example, you may be creating a spreadsheet in the first workspace, playing a video game in the second, and scrolling a Facebook feed in the third. You can easily navigate between these spaces with one tap or swipe.

But that’s not all. elementary features ‘Do Not Disturb’ to help you stay focused on a task. If you’re enjoying your favorite show on Netflix, for example, you can keep all Skype and social media notifications at bay.

Besides, this privacy-respecting OS keeps tabs on what your apps are up to. So, when one of the applications wants to use your mic, you’ll be alerted. In the same way, when an application is draining massive energy, the power indicator notifies you. I haven’t seen something similar on Windows.

What’s more, the OS automatically manages your trashed and temporary files tidied up, freeing up the device’s storage. Unlike Windows, elementary isn’t pricey. You get to pay reasonably to download it. You can pay as little as $10, $20, $30, or any other custom amount.

3. Linux Mint

Linux Mint is a powerful and reliable operating system. It’s a free and open-source OS that comes with several free, pre-installed apps that you need the most.

This operating system has features that make it stand out amongst others. To begin with, Linux Mint is easy to use. While using it, you’ll get the comfort you need and the best user experience as well.

Next, it has excellent privacy and security. This means there are fewer chances of experiencing malware, ransomware, and virus attacks while using the software.

What’s even better, Linux Mint needs little maintenance, thanks to its centralized system snapshots, the robustness of Linux architecture, software updates, and an exceptional Update Manager.

This operating system also works under the impression that ‘you’re the boss.’ It is designed to let you do what you want without any obstacles. The OS doesn’t collect your data that could be used against you, making it a safe Windows alternative, as the latter is known to collect some data while in use.

Linux Mint also operates “Out Of The Box,” with no need to install additional applications or configure anything. It’s good to go.

4. Manjaro

Manjaro is a free, open-source, friendly, and accessible operating system. It’s a cutting-edge application that focuses on letting you get started quickly. It also comes with automation tools that make manual intervention unnecessary. Both beginners and expert computer geeks will enjoy using this OS.

Installing apps on your computer is a walk in the park, thanks to Manjaro’s Software Center. You’ll find thousands of apps here, including compatible equivalents of well-liked Windows software like MS Office. So, you don’t have to search for apps on the web.

If you prefer a good balance of exceptional software, powerful performance, complete control, and software stability, you’ll like this OS.

Manjaro’s system requirements include 2GB RAM, HD graphics card, at least 2 GHz processor, and 30 GB of disk space. From here, you can install and start using the OS. There’s a committed development team to provide regular updates and make Manjaro worth using.

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5. Fedora

This Linux-based OS is reliable and user-friendly, ideal for any personal computer. It’s perfect for hobbyists, students, and professionals within a corporate surrounding. While Fedora is completely good for personal use, it works best for professional developers in the corporate setting.

Not only is Fedora free, but it also comes with tons of tools and utilities that developers need to complete their projects. For example, the OS has a clean user interface that lets developers concentrate on their coding tasks on the Gnome 3 desktop environment.

By default, this operating system comes with software that suffices for daily use. This includes LibreOffice, Firefox browser, Cheese for operating webcams, Rhythmbox audio player, Totem video player, Boxes virtual machine, Okular PDF Reader, Gedit (notepad alternative), Empathy chat client, and Evolution email client.

You aren’t limited to the above software. You can still download popular applications such as Chrome browser, VLC media player, Torrent client, Wireshark, and more.

Fedora’s performance is what makes me recommend it. While it takes 30 seconds to boot Windows on my laptop, Fedora takes only 15 seconds. Drive installation isn’t needed for Fedora, making it detect USB devices, such as pen drives, a mouse, and mobile phones quicker than most operating systems. Moreover, Fedora’s file transfer is the fastest among Linux distro.

6. Haiku OS

Haiku is an open-source OS inspired by BeOS. It’s a fast, user-friendly, powerful, and efficient system for new, intermediate, and advanced computer users.

Haiku reimplements the BeOS technologies, but its code is not 100 percent based on BeOS. The only code that Haiku uses from BeOS is the Tracker (the file manager) and Deskbar (an equivalent of the taskbar and start menu). Be Inc open-sourced these two code elements in 2001, and later, Haiku merged them into their codebase.

Haiku offers something you won’t find on most open-source platforms. They have a single team that writes everything from drivers, tool kit, kernel, graphics stack, and userland services to preflets and desktop applications.

I recommend Haiku as an alternative operating system due to its focus on personal computing, object-oriented API for quicker development, the custom kernel for improved responsiveness, a fully-threaded design to work well with core CPUs, and a cohesive interface.

Like Windows, Haiku supports ISO 9660, FAT, and NTFS file systems, but Haiku further supports BFS and ext3.

HaikuDepot provides a wide array of freeware and open-source games. If you have some old BeOS games, they should run on this OS.

Haiku allows for the installation of office suites, as well. So, you may want to install Caligra or LibreOffice. You may also use online office software like Google Docs.

7. Oracle Solaris

Sun Microsystems originally developed this UNIX-based OS in the mid-90s. Fast forward, in 2010, Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, renaming it Solaris.

The OS is known for having the most advanced security features than other systems. For example, the operating system’s kernel devices and daemons are protected by privileges and file permissions.

Besides, logins require passwords, which are highly encrypted. Plus, remote logins are restricted to an authenticated and encrypted channel through Oracle Solaris’ Secure Shell.

Disk data is protected via file permissions, and you can configure extra protection layers. The top-notch security features make Solaris a better choice for securing mission-critical data than Windows.

Solaris is also highly scalable; it can operate in a growing environment. Specifically, the operating system runs on machines of varying sizes, from personal laptops to supercomputers.

The OS Offers unlimited capacity to help in the management of file systems and databases. Moreover, it allows smooth interoperability for solving numerous software and hardware issues, a feature that makes it more stable than Windows.

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8. The FreeBSD Project

FreeBSD is a LINUX-based modern operating system for laptops, servers, desktops, and embedded systems. It’s free and open-source software compatible with multiple platforms. Its primary focus is on stability, security, and speed.

Here’s a fun fact about FreeBSD: a large community from the University of California built it.

The operating system offers advanced security and networking features. The security features include mandatory access controls, extended file system attributes, security event auditing, access control lists, and more.

The OS provides two choices for data encryption at the disk level: GBDE and Geli. GBDE builds a random key each time a sector is written. On the other hand, Geli allows various data elements, such as file bits and phrases, to build the key. Besides, it allows for a one-time key and multiple keys.

The operating system supports the ZFS system, allowing a file system to expand through a pool or a series of drives. Generally, ZFS manages and formats partitions.

Overall, FreeBSD is a stable OS that requires very low system requirements to work. Specifically, it works with a RAM of 64 MB minimum, at least 1.1 GB of disk space, and a 486 processor or better.

These system requirements are lower than those of better Windows versions, such as Windows 10 which functions well on a device with 1 GB RAM (for 32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (for 64-bit) minimum, 1 GHz or faster processor, and 16 GB disk space.

9. Debian

Debian is a free, Linux-based, open-source platform. It’s compatible with many devices, including desktops, laptops, and servers. This Linux kernel supports most hardware, meaning that Debian offers extensive hardware support as well.

Debian is lighter than Windows and it works quicker regardless of the processor speed. The OS comes with integrated security firewalls for protecting valuable data.

The OS runs on numerous devices, such as mobile devices, Raspberry Pi, home routers, variants of QNAP, and Single Board Computers.

Keeping the operating system updated is straightforward. You can upgrade a single package or upgrade to an entirely new release.

Also, the OS supports various desktop environments, such as Cinnamon, GNOME, MATE, KDE, and more. Interestingly, Ubuntu software packages do work effectively with Debian.

Additionally, most Linux purists prefer this operating system to its popular offshoots due to its unmatched stability, low RAM, and disk occupancy.

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10. Kubuntu

Does this name bring Ubuntu to mind? You’re right; Kubuntu is Ubuntu’s specified version that brings another environment to the Ubuntu operating system.

Kubuntu is a complete and free open source system with everything you need to play, work, or share.

This operating system unites Ubuntu with KDE and the magnificent Plasma desktop, resulting in a complete set of applications. Kubuntu’s installation includes office, graphics, email, productivity, music, and photography apps that you can start using at startup.

LibreOffice, Gwenview, Firefox, and Kmail are among the applications that come installed and ready to be used. But you can go to the Discover Software Center and click on thousands of other apps for use on your device.

Kubuntu has been created using the Qt toolkit, making it slick, fast, and eye-grabbing. What’s more, Kubuntu is mobile-ready, meaning you can easily integrate it between your computer and tablet or smartphone.

Simply install KDE Connect from Google Play to an Android device and integrate the latter with your desktop. This is one of the features that make Kubuntu the best Windows alternative.

11. Solus

Solus was started back in 2011 as Debian’s spin-off with the GNOME 2 desktop. The OS underwent further development, got a new desktop environment, and changed its name to just “Solus.”

Now, it’s a fully-fledged, stand-alone Linux distribution with its own set of repositories and desktop environment. The OS is easy to use, stable, and with a broad selection of apps in its repositories.

Solus is a powerful tool for both developers and content creators. As a developer, you can spend more time coding and less time tooling. The system supports a wide variety of version control systems, compilers, programming languages, and containerization.

Similarly, as a content creator, you’ll find it an excellent tool for expressing creativity. You can use it to edit videos, animate, produce music, or design graphics. For each content piece you’d like to create, Solus has suitable software for that.

Solus is a perfect operating system for new computer users interested in something cleaner and more straightforward than Windows. On top of that, this OS offers easy installation and exceptional hardware support.

What I like about Solus is its Budgie (desktop environment). It’s tidy, attention-grabbing, slick, fast, and user-friendly. As a Windows user, you’ll immediately feel at home with the Budgie.

A button brings you to the main menu, apps can be pinned to the panel, and notifications are on the right. You have a lot of control over this interface and can move the settings panel to the left, right, or even bottom.

12. CentOS

CentOS is a community-driven, free, open-source operating system built on Red Hat Enterprise Linux’s source code. Red Hat creates its product from open-source software, which is why its source code is publicly available.

The platform’s development aims at providing a powerful system that open source users can use for development tasks. Additionally, the software can be used to process scientific data and host businesses; businesses can use it to host programs.

CentOS uses a virtual machine (kernel-based) for virtualization and offers powerful performance and stability.

A dedicated team of developers maintains the OS, keeping it up to date and ensuring it’s compatible with new applications. Further, a lot of community network administrators, Linux lovers, and system administrators provide extra support by managing updates, testing releases, and assisting with the development.

The development team is proficient when it comes to detecting threats and incorporating top-notch security features into the software. Moreover, the OS comes with a security-enhanced kernel extension.

So, if you’re looking for a Windows alternative with improved security, performance, and stability, CentOS would do.

So, what architect does it support? Well, CentOS 7 supports x86-64; this means the software can run on both 32-bit and 64-bit platforms.

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13. Chrome OS

Chrome OS is a Linux-based, web-browser-powered operating system developed by Google. The operating system relies on cloud servers and an internet connection to work.

By default, Chrome OS is used in Chromebooks. Its open-source version is known as Chromium OS and it comes pre-installed on most devices.

Its user interface is inspired by the Google Chrome browser concept. Chrome OS has a very short booting time due to its easy process. All Google Chrome web apps can be run on this operating system.

Chrome OS also features simplicity and security. You won’t have to worry about security updates, Trojans, malware, and viruses. It is also lightweight when compared to

Windows. This means you can install the operating system on any hardware, new or old. If you’re into word processing and social networking, this is your OS.

The application runtime for chrome also allows you to run several specific Android apps here. If you like deep web browsing, Chrome OS will offer high speeds and an excellent browsing experience.

The Chrome operating system offers easy access to all its features and offline access to Google products. It also has a longer battery life for most devices and is also compatible with touchscreen devices.

Chrome OS is developed with built-in security features that you may not find in Windows.

14. Ubuntu

Developed by Canonical Inc., this Linux-based operating system also works on servers and smartphones.

Ubuntu is feature-packed, with an interface similar to that of macOS. If you own an Apple computer, then using Ubuntu will be easy for you.

Ubuntu is also general-purpose. The operating system is powered by the Unity interface, which is pretty different from Windows’ UI philosophy. Besides tabs, it also has a sidebar for navigation.

An Ubuntu installation comes with preloaded apps like Mozilla Firefox, LibreOffice, Thunderbird email client, and more. You are also allowed to download other apps from the GNOME software store.

Image editing on Ubuntu can be achieved by grabbing GIMP, while you can use a VLC player for media. Since it receives frequent updates, you’ll have no problem using this operating system.

Ubuntu OS is compatible with many other services. For instance, you can install Skype, TeamViewer, Google Chrome, Dropbox, and other widely used services on your device.

Ubuntu is easy to set up, user-friendly, and very compatible. The dock on the left side of the Ubuntu desktop contains basic app icons, LibreOffice for productivity, and a Firefox browser.

On the right, you’ll find settings-based features for essential functions such as sound, date, time, language, and network, among others.

You can have Ubuntu for personal and enterprise use. It is integrated with security standards and has six different privacy protocols. The built-in firewall and virus protection software saves you the cost of third-party antivirus software.

15. ReactOS

ReactOS is based on Windows NT architecture. It maintains system-level compatibility with Microsoft’s operating system for PCs.

This open-source operating system can run software such as Opera, Firefox, LibreOffice, and manage earlier versions of commercial applications like Adobe Photoshop. This is because it incorporates partial functions of the Windows emulator Wine.

Currently, ReactOS is working to maintain full compatibility. It doesn’t use any proprietary software but it’s designed for compatibility with Microsoft operating system’s applications and drivers.

ReactOS supports a lot of file systems. It can run on processors like Intel Xeon (R) x64, Intel (R) Pentium ® x64, AMD(R) Athlon(R) x64 and AMD Opteron(R) in 32-bit.

Interestingly, ReactOS can run both Firefox and Chrome.

Conclusion

From our evaluation, elementary seems to bag the winning trophy. It is not only open-source, but it also has advanced, customizable shortcuts on the screen.

The multitasking view enhances your organization skills as you put your activities in order and navigate through with ease.

With elementary, you get to focus on one task without any distractions. While at it, you’ll be able to monitor the apps in the background and ensure nothing happens without your permission.