What it is: The elementary OS operating system is a Linux distribution that focuses on mimicking the appearance of OS X.
If you have a really old Macintosh or PC laying around, chances are good it won’t run the latest operating system. Rather than limp along with an old operating system, you might want to consider installing elementary OS.
The elementary OS operating system is a free, open source Linux distribution that can run on PCs and Macintosh computers. Best of all, its user interface closely mimics OS X so if you’re familiar with OS X, you’ll have no trouble adapting to elementary OS. This will give an old computer new life and give you the familiar OS X user interface to boot.
Of course, elementary OS can’t completely mimic OS X, but its visual appearance is close enough. If you’re not sure, try loading elementary OS in a virtual machine using a program like VirtualBox. Then you can try elementary OS and see what you might like or dislike.
The ultimate goal of any operating system isn’t to show off, but to stay in the shadows behind the scenes and let you actually get work done. In addition, the better operating systems make working fun with interesting animations such as when you minimize a window in OS X and it shrinks and whose to the bottom right corner of the Dock, or when you remove an icon from the Dock and it disappears in a puff of animated smoke.
Such little touches make an operating system fun to use and likable, but the ultimate purpose of any operating system is to make your computer work. Where Vista and Windows 8 go wrong is that they constantly jar the user out of working so instead of thinking about accomplishing a task, Vista and Windows 8 force you to think about using the operating system. The moment you have to think about the operating system, you’re no longer thinking about accomplishing a useful task.
What makes OS X and its mobile equivalent of iOS handy is that both provide just enough visual elements to make using the operating system fun, but not enough distractions to keep you from accomplishing your work. Operating systems should be like butlers, there when you need them but unobtrusively out of the way when you need to focus.
If your Macintosh can’t run the latest version of OS X, there’s no need to update your operating system as long as it works. If you’re still not happy running an older version of OS X, then save your important files and consider installing elementary OS instead. It may not be exactly like OS X, but it’s close enough while giving you a more modern operating system to use that you might realize elementary OS X could be all you really need.