Before you buy components, be sure that they are supported by the operating system you plan to use. Almost all commonly available PC devices have drivers (small programs that allow the operating system to recognize and work with a hardware device) available for current versions of Windows (generally, XP, Vista, 7, 8 or newer); if you want to run an alternative operating system, you’ll have to do some research; many alternatives have extensive ‘Hardware Compatibility Lists’ (HCLs) as well as software compatibility.
Main Operating Systems
- Microsoft Windows – 2000 (2k), XP (Home/Pro), Vista, 7 (Home Basic/Home Premium/Professional/Ultimate), 8 (at revision 8.1) (Normal/Pro) , 10(Home/Pro). Windows 7 and 8.1 can be freely upgraded to Windows 10 with minor restrictions.
- Popular GNU/Linux Distros – Red-Hat, Ubuntu, Knoppix, SuSE, Fedora, Debian, Parsix, and others
- Popular BSD Variants – FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, and others
- BeOS – No longer supported by the original creators, but was taken over as an open source project
- DOS – MS-DOS, PC-DOS, DR-DOS, FreeDOS, etc – Disc Operating System
Windows Information and Hardware Support Lists
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems made by the major software corporation Microsoft. Nearly everybody who has worked with computers has used Windows in some way or another. Windows is ideal for most personal computing and fits the needs (or wants) of just about anyone: gamers, video/graphics editors, office workers, or the average guy who wants to surf the web and play a bit of solitaire here and there. Today, Windows 10, Windows 8.1 , WIndows XP , Windows 7 are the four most common versions of the operating system (Windows 10 being the latest, Windows 7 being the most common of the three).
Windows in general supports most processors and motherboards based on the i386 (x86; 32-bit) or x86_64 (AMD64/EM64T; 64-bit) architectures. Put simply, most available consumer processors (especially from AMD or Intel) will work with the Windows 10 operating system, as well as most internal and external devices, including Wireless Receivers, Graphics Cards/GPUs, and Storage Devices.
For other hardware, see Microsoft’s compatibility list.
GNU/Linux Information and Hardware Support Lists
As one of the most popular open-source (free) operating systems, GNU/Linux is a very good (and popular) alternative. Linux is a UNIX-like series of operation systems and comes in many different distributions (AKA “distros”), such as Ubuntu, Debian,openSuSE, Fedora, and Mandriva. Linux can perform many of the same functions as Windows and features similar programs. Linux is also much more flexible than Windows because it’s open-source, making it developer-friendly. Some companies also sell versions of Linux with technical support.
Linux has versions for many different architectures, including i386, x64 and PowerPC. It also support all kinds of processors, enabling it to be used on Palm PCs and even iPods. There are many different versions of Linux, produced by different companies and organizations. These are called ‘distributions’ or ‘distros’ for short. For a desktop PC, you should make sure to pick a desktop distribution, one where the company/organization has desktop users in mind, e.g. Ubuntu, Fedora, or Mandriva. It should be noted, however, that many popular programs, especially games, are not available for Linux, and the only way to run them is with special compatibility layers or programs like Wine, which may or may not work with a specific program. Even if you manage to get a certain program running, you may still encounter issues in the program’s emulation.
All this is important to bear in mind as different distributions will support different hardware (generally more ‘bleeding-edge’ distributions will support newer hardware – look at Fedora, SuSE, Ubuntu, compared to the latest stable release of Debian). A good rule of thumb to ascertain compatibility, is to buy hardware that is 12 to 18 months old, as it most likely has Linux support with most distributions, but won’t be too old. You may also buy newer hardware, and if it follows common standards (eg. x86, ISA, SATA), it should be supported.
BSDs Information and Hardware Support Lists
BSD, or the Berkeley Software Distribution, is also a UNIX-Like series of operating systems and could be considered the alternative to Linux (an alternative to an alternative?). Now, BSD is an open-source (free) operating system and has its own descendants, such as FreeBSD and OpenBSD. BSD Hardware Support is similar to Linux’s – it can handle most hardware. Unlike Linux, however, BSD tends not to support “new” hardware (such as Core i7 and Xeon processors) but can handle a lot of both older and modern components. FreeBSD is also very compatible with many Linux applications as they are both UNIX-based and can be installed on a variety of platforms (even Xbox consoles!)
- DesktopBSD, see FreeBSD 5.4/i386 and FreeBSD 5.4/amd64
- Dragonfly BSD
- PC-BSD, see FreeBSD 6.0/i386
Hackintosh is a Windows-based computer which runs Mac OSX. This is extremely risky and could damage your whole motherboard if it is not done properly. Mac OSX is designed with Apple PC’s in mind and trying to port them to a PC is risky and difficult. If you still want to attempt the same , read this.
- You should be using a comparable Intel CPU which should’ve been used by Apple in one of their computers.
- You’ll need to find out which version of Mac OSX will work with the CPU. For instance , an Intel Core2Duo T7200 with GMA950 graphics is not supposed to run OSX 10.8 or later. Also using new Intel CPU’s on a older version of Mac OSX can cause kernel panics.
- Graphics also matter. Look up your CPU/GPU combination to see if it works.
- You’ll be violating the Apple EULA.
- You’ll need to (mostly) get modified installers , as the official installers may block installation.
- Only Mac OSX 10.4 and higher can even run on Windows-based PC’s , as OSX till then ran on PowerPC processors.
- You’ll need patience and tinkering up with things if something goes wrong.
- A unsupported motherboard could be destroyed by Mac OSX , as it may write to NVRAM and corrupt it.
- Updates can be quite difficult(like Mac OSX upgrades).
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