Microsoft Windows is the most commonly used operating system in the world today, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily the best one for you. If you are looking for an operating system that is not only free, but uses only free software, check out Linux.
One thing to note is that Windows programs are not compatible with Linux. That means if you want or need to use Windows-based programs like MS Office, you won't be able to run them on Linux. However, there are some very popular alternative programs (link to that page) made for Linux, so you may be able to get the same functionality with totally free Linux programs that you would get with Windows programs that have to be purchased.
What is Linux?
Just like Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Mac OS X, Linux is an operating system. An operating system is software that manages all of the hardware resources associated with your desktop or laptop. To put it simply – the operating system manages the communication between your software and your hardware. Without the operating system (often referred to as the “OS”), the software wouldn’t function.
The OS is comprised of a number of pieces:
- The Bootloader: The software that manages the boot process of your computer. For most users, this will simply be a splash screen that pops up and eventually goes away to boot into the operating system.
- The kernel: This is the one piece of the whole that is actually called “Linux”. The kernel is the core of the system and manages the CPU, memory, and peripheral devices. The kernel is the “lowest” level of the OS.
- Daemons: These are background services (printing, sound, scheduling, etc) that either start up during boot, or after you log into the desktop.
- The Shell: You’ve probably heard mention of the Linux command line. This is the shell – a command process that allows you to control the computer via commands typed into a text interface. This is what, at one time, scared people away from Linux the most (assuming they had to learn a seemingly archaic command line structure to make Linux work). This is no longer the case. With modern desktop Linux, there is no need to ever touch the command line.
- Graphical Server: This is the sub-system that displays the graphics on your monitor. It is commonly referred to as the X server or just “X”.
- Desktop Environment: This is the piece of the puzzle that the users actually interact with. There are many desktop environments to choose from (Unity, GNOME, Cinnamon, Enlightenment, KDE, XFCE, etc). Each desktop environment includes built-in applications (such as file managers, configuration tools, web browsers, games, etc).
- Applications: Desktop environments do not offer the full array of apps. Just like Windows and Mac, Linux offers thousands upon thousands of high-quality software titles that can be easily found and installed. Most modern Linux distributions (more on this in a moment) include App Store-like tools that centralize and simplify application installation. For example: Ubuntu Linux has the Ubuntu Software Center which allows you to quickly search among the thousands of apps and install them from one centralized location.
With that said, there are many different types of Linux operating system that exist. For most people, Linux Mint is your best first choice.
Linux Mint gets regular updates (just like Windows) and is very simple to use. It is a great operating system if you are a beginning Linux user.
The purpose of Linux Mint is to produce a modern, elegant and comfortable operating system which is both powerful and easy to use.
Linux Mint is one of the most popular desktop Linux distributions and used by millions of people.
Some of the reasons for the success of Linux Mint are:
- It works out of the box, with full multimedia support and is extremely easy to use.
- It's both free of cost and open source.
- It's community-driven. Users are encouraged to send feedback to the project so that their ideas can be used to improve Linux Mint.
- Based on Debian and Ubuntu, it provides about 30,000 packages and one of the best software managers.
- It's safe and reliable. Thanks to a conservative approach to software updates, a unique Update Manager and the robustness of its Linux architecture, Linux Mint requires very little maintenance (no regressions, no antivirus, no anti-spyware...etc).
Puppy Linux is a small, lightweight operating system designed to work on older computers. It's a great OS to revive any old computer. The minimum system requirements are:
- 233MHZ processor.
- 128MB RAM.
- 512MB free hard drive space to create an optional save file.
- No hard drive required to boot a Live Disc.
- CD-ROM any speed.
For more advanced users, there is an OS called Kali Linux which is a Debian-based Linux distribution aimed at advanced Penetration Testing and Security Auditing. Kali contains several hundred tools which are geared towards various information security tasks, such as Penetration Testing, Security research, Computer Forensics and Reverse Engineering.
Users can run it in live mode from a USB/DVD media without necessarily installing it, and it comes with Xfce desktop environment as well as close to 2100 Linux games.
Ubuntu Studio Is a Linux OS designed mainly for multimedia purposes like Audio editing, Photo editing, Video Editing and so on. It is great if you are looking for a free and easy way to edit and make professional multimedia content. It includes great free software including the following: Audacity for audio editing, Gimp for Photo Editing, Blender for 3D design, Openshot for Video Editing, and Scribus for professional PDF publications.
KodiBuntu is a Linux OS designed for turning a regular computer into a fully functional home media center. The great thing about this is, it works great even on older computers.
Now you know about some free alternatives to Microsoft Windows. Thank you for reading! Please share and check out our other posts!