9 Raspberry Pi Operating Systems That Are Not Linux

By | March 23, 2022

Looking for a way to get the most out of your Raspberry Pi for Running projects that just need something more? So why not consider a non-Linux operating system? Several have been released, or adapted, for use on the Raspberry Pi.

List of Non-Linux Raspberry Pi OS for this year

Looking for a Raspberry Pi operating system that isn’t Linux? These nine alternatives should suit you:

  • Windows 10
  • Windows 10 IoT Core
  • NetBSD
  • OpenBSD
  • RISC OS
  • Android
  • Android Things
  • Plan 9
  • Chromium OS

It’s a tempting mix, isn’t it? Let’s take a look at each one and help you decide which Raspberry Pi operating system to install next.

Windows 10 on Raspberry Pi

Most Raspberry Pi users are happy with Linux for a variety of reasons, not least because it’s free to use and open source. But amazingly, there is a free version of Windows 10 that will run on the Raspberry Pi 3B and 3B+.

Two tools are available: WOA Provider for Raspberry Pi and Windows on Raspberry Imager. Both do basically the same thing. Once run, they prepare a version of Windows 10 on ARM which is then written to the SD card.

Not sure which one to choose? If you want everything to go well, choose the WOA Deployer for Raspberry Pi. Need some configuration options? Use Windows on Raspberry Imager.

Windows 10 IoT Core

Looking for something more functional than Windows 10? Microsoft’s dedicated version of the Internet for things ideal for IoT projects. Compatible with the Raspberry Pi (and available as an option on NOOBS), Microsoft describes Windows 10 IoT Core as “…a version of Windows 10 that’s optimized for smaller devices with or without a display, and that runs on the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3, Arrow DragonBoard 410c & MinnowBoard MAX. Windows 10 IoT Core uses rich and extensible Universal Windows Platform (UWP) APIs to build great solutions.”

This makes it similar in many ways to Android Things (see below).

The difference between this and the other operating systems listed here is that it is more of a deployment system. With the application in use (either from the default selection, or one you have developed), the Raspberry Pi becomes essentially an application.

NetBSD

Also derived from UNIX is NetBSD, closer to BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution), which is an extension of UNIX.

But what does BSD have to offer Raspberry Pi users? Well, like Linux, BSD is open source, and like UNIX. Many applications and utilities work on both, which means switching to BSD is the easiest option on this list. BSD has strengths that Linux doesn’t have, such as better GPIO connectivity.

OpenBSD for Raspberry Pi 3

As an alternative to FreeBSD, OpenBSD for Raspberry Pi is more suitable for use as a network server. Many administrators consider OpenBSD the most secure server operating system available.

So, if your goal is to find a non-Linux operating system for your server project, OpenBSD is your best bet.

Despite these differences, OpenBSD is very much like FreeBSD. Note that the lack of an SD driver in OpenBSD means that you have to install it to a USB drive. As of now there is no OpenBSD version for the Raspberry Pi 4, so stick with the Pi 3 version.

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RISC OS

Another great option is RISC OS, which has its roots in the home computing boom of the 1980s. Interestingly, it was developed in Cambridge, where the Raspberry Pi was conceived, and where the Raspberry Pi Foundation is located.

RISC OS is one of the operating systems that you can install using the NOOBS installation tool. [LINK] Fast and with a consistent user interface, RISC OS also includes a structured BASIC interpreter. If your programming experience has its roots in the 1980s and BASIC is your roots into coding, this is useful.

Despite its age, there are some good applications available for RISC OS, including a web browser. Note that you need a three-button mouse to use RISC OS; a clickable scroll wheel on your mouse will suffice.

Android

Amazingly, it is possible to run Android on a Raspberry Pi. While Android uses the Linux kernel, the jury is out on whether it can be considered a Linux distribution.

Even though it’s not an official version, being able to install Android is a big plus. Combining Android with Raspberry Pi and touchscreen devices gives you a powerful new way to use your computer. It’s even possible to set up the Google Play store, giving you access to all your favorite games and apps.

Several Raspberry Pi based projects available look for builds for specific Pi models for best results.

Android Things

Meanwhile, the Android Things IoT development platform is also available for the Raspberry Pi. It is an embedded operating system intended for low memory and power limited IoT devices.

Android Things supports Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi as well as the Weave feature, which Google hopes will become the default protocol for IoT.

Plan 9

Released as an open-source operating system in 1992, Plan 9 has a small footprint and is targeted at developers. Its lightweight presence makes it ideal for the Raspberry Pi.

A descendant of UNIX, Plan 9 is easy to install on the Pi, just like any other compatible operating system.

Once running, you’ll initially see a command line, before the mouse-driven user interface known as “rio” loads. Beware, Plan 9 looks very simple, and has little visual connection to any operating system you’ve previously used. There may be similarities with RISC OS (above). However, Plan 9’s legacy UNIX will help anyone with the experience of its predecessors.

Chromium OS

The final option if you are looking for a non-Linux Raspberry Pi operating system is Chromium OS. It is an open source version of Chrome OS and again relies on the Linux kernel.

Several Chromium builds have been configured for the Raspberry Pi. However, the one you will probably get the best results from is FydeOS. It is a basic operating system that gives you a full Chrome OS-like experience on your Raspberry Pi.

Download: FydeOS (Chromium OS build for Raspberry Pi)

Chromium OS is not suitable for accessing GPIO, but it is perfect for using your Raspberry Pi like a desktop.

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