Alternative Netbook Operating Systems

laptop-inspiron-9-design4Rather than sticking with Microsoft Windows XP or the updated Windows 7, there are a variety of reasons for checking out alternative operating systems for your netbook.  The benefits of using a few of the following operating systems include being a part of a community of users, regular updates, and running an OS that is specifically tailored for a netbook’s performance, battery life and smaller screen size.  Installing and running these operating systems can be a fun challenge, a great way to strengthen your computer skills and help you obtain greater productivity from your netbook.

  • Ubuntu Netbook Remix
    Based on Ubuntu, the popular Linux distribution, this OS features a customized graphical user interface (GUI) for the smaller netbook screen.  One of the major benefits of Ubuntu is its large resource of applications available through the package manager.  It used to be true that linux was complicated, ugly and not user friendly, but this is no longer the case.  Installing Ubuntu is easy with the live cd as prospective users can try it out before installing.
  • Moblin v2
    Moblin has been in the background for some time but the most recent release seems to be gaining some attention.  This customized Linux-based OS is optimized to work on mobile devices including MIDS and netbooks.  The Moblin folks have created a FAQ to answer many of your questions such as, “Can Moblin run on the iPhone?”
  • Google Chrome OS
    Although it is yet to be released, there is great buzz regarding Google’s forthcoming Chrome OS.  Although little is known about Chrome OS, it is expected to be streamlined for netbooks.  Expect it to be fast and heavily reliant on Google’s cloud-based services such as Google Docs, Picasa Web Albums, and Gmail.  The official Google Blog states that Chrome OS will be quick starting, only taking a few seconds to boot.
  • Mac OS X
    Running Mac OS X on an Intel Atom based netbook has become a popular OS choice for those with a bit more computer aptitude and interest.  Creating a “hackintosh” may be a violation of Apple’s End User License Agreement (EULA) and can certainly be illegal if you do not own a valid copy of the OS you’re installing.  While creating a hackintosh netbook is very cool, I’d say it is perhaps the least practical choice largely because of the lack of support.  Any updates or changes to OS X for hackintosh netbooks comes from a small community of individuals.  Unlike Ubuntu or XP, new updates for OS X on unsupported platforms often requires tracking down files from various sources, typing commands in the terminal, and hoping that what you’ve downloaded is reliable.  The constant struggle to maintain an updated system and the lack of full support make OS X on netbooks impractical.  Regardless, many still strive ahead and create their own OS X netbooks.  This chart will be necessary should you set out on that quest.

There are other, less popular operating systems out there but most lack the support and drivers to be truly painless to install and use.  The best place to gain information about installing, tweaking, or hacking these operating systems often comes from the community forums of fellow netbook users.  I would argue that one of the reasons behind the success of the netbook as a platform is due to the extensive online community support.  Sites like for the Asus series of netbooks, for the Dell Minis, and for the MSI Wind netnooks have daily forum postings from folks sharing their experiences.  A simple Google search reveals that there are many of these online communities filled with information from helpful users.

What are your thoughts on alternative operating systems for the netbook platform?  What do you recommend?