Looking for an OS to restore an old computer to its prime? How about a desktop originally designed for the $35 credit card-sized Raspberry Pi.

The Pi’s new PIXEL desktop can now be installed on Macs and PCs, following three months of work to develop a new version of the desktop, which runs on the Linux-based Debian OS.

The PIXEL desktop has been optimized to run on the Pi’s relatively modest, smartphone-targeted hardware, with the latest release of the board packing a quad-core 1.2GHz ARM-based processor.

SEE: Raspberry Pi: The smart person’s guide

Consequently, and because of the approach taken in porting the desktop to x86 machines, PIXEL is suited to running on older PCs that are too slow to run modern operating systems, says Eben Upton, co-creator of the Raspberry Pi.

“Because we’re using the venerable i386 architecture variant it should run even on vintage machines like my ThinkPad X40, provided they have at least 512MB of RAM,” he said.

The Mac/PC release of the desktop includes the same bundled office suite, browser, educational games and programming tools you find on PIXEL on the Pi, apart from Minecraft and Wolfram Mathematica, due to licensing reasons.

Pitting the PIXEL desktop against the plethora of competing offerings available for PC will help the Raspberry Pi Foundation refine PIXEL, said Upton.

“We don’t just want to create the best desktop environment for the Raspberry Pi: we want to create the best desktop environment, period,” he said.

“We know we’re not there yet, but by running PIXEL alongside Windows, Mac OS, and the established desktop GNU/Linux distros, we can more easily see where our weak points are, and work to fix them.”

The Pi was designed to get kids to learn about computers and programming, and Upton said this latest move will also allow schools to run PIXEL on PCs in classrooms, allowing students to use the same software and tools in lessons that they use on their Pi at home.

Instructions for installing Debian/PIXEL on PC/Mac are available here, although Upton said the release is a prototype rather than final version, so warns to expect minor issues.

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