Check out AtlasOS, a redesigned Windows 10 version for gamers and potato PCs

Alfonso Maruccia

Posts: 1,008   +301
In brief: The market of "modified" Windows versions has been around for a while. AtlasOS strives to be the "best" version of Windows 10 for gamers – or for hardware platforms which are a bit out of date to properly run a modern OS.

AtlasOS is an "open source" modification of Windows 10, a redesign of the most popular PC operating system which, according to its creators, has been specifically "designed for gamers." Atlas users can enjoy higher frame rates and lowered input delay & latency, according to developers. The OS requirements, however, are great for both people on low-end systems and high-end gaming machines.

As presented on the project's official site, the main features of AtlasOS include a reduced number of running processes to lower computing stress on the CPU, while lowering system latency at the same time; more storage space, as the OS ISO is pretty small compared to Windows official images; a focus on privacy because Windows telemetry has been disabled; open source transparency, so users and coders can check what kind of modifications AtlasOS actually brings to Windows 10.

When compared to a "stock" Windows 10 21H1 version, the latest release of AtlasOS (0.5.2) cuts the number of running processes from 185 to around 35; RAM usage is greatly lowered as well, going from 1.5GB to 600MB. Process latency, which AtlasOS creators call a "sticky topic," also goes down from 3.09 to 2.55.

Atlas removes all the "negative drawbacks of Windows" which could adversely affect gaming performance, the project's official GitHub page says, while improving system and network latency and input lag at the same time. Removing tracking features from Windows 10 seems like a very good idea anyway, but where AtlasOS follows a questionable path is when it disables many security features which are described "bloatware."

AtlasOS disables mitigations against hardware security flaws in modern Intel (and AMD) processors like Spectre and Meltdown, following the principle that "if a security mitigation measure decreases performance, it will be disabled." As they are not crucial for gaming, standard (security) features like Trusted Platform Module (TPM), BitLocker, Windows Defender, Voice Recognition, Restore Points & System Reset are all removed as well.

As for the open-source nature of the Atlas Project, the main tool currently used to create the mod is NTLite – which is a closed-source software. AtlasOS creators say they want to eventually provide a script to help users build a custom ISO of the OS at no cost.

The usefulness of AtlasOS, all things considered, is questionable to say the least: gamers and enthusiasts tend to purchase the most powerful hardware they can (GeForce RTX 4080 fiasco aside), so the promise to use Windows 10 on a "potato PC" is not much of an option. AtlasOS offers fewer features, less compatibility and less security compared to Windows 10, which doesn't seem to be a great choice for both gamers and common users as well.

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How are they allowed to freely distribute a modified Windows image legally? Will this ask for a Windows license after or during installation?

GitHub contains only scripts to add/remove features, which is legal, and no problem there, but distributing a modified Windows ISO is very suspicious and most probably not permitted, even if they kept the activation process intact.

Many other projects exist that just execute the scripts on the currently installed windows copy, this project should move that way to stay alive.
But how does this compare to GHOST ᴻ Spectre's Superlite build? Can this even run Forza Horizon 4 or is it specifically designed for MC?
I have several inexpensive Chromebooks that I've modified to run Windows 10/11 by installing UEFI firmware on them from the web site. Most of them only have 32GB of emmc storage, 4GB of RAM and modest Intel N4020 CPUs, so a lightweight version of Windows 10 on these systems is quite welcome even though they won't be used for gaming.
I think there could be a market for a standalone "Xbox O/S" or maybe the Steam deck O/S for HTPC and couch gaming systems.

I've flirted with living room PCs for a couple decades now and it's always been a sort of works, sort of doesn't affair for me. There's just too many parts of Windows and its ecosystem that are designed around mouse & keyboard configuration, frequent updates, and various other fussiness. If you're not using it frequently, it means every time you do try to use it, you first have to fight through multiple updates and pop-up dialogs, pretty soon it just feels more convenient to use another device.

Compare to the Xbox which at its core functions feels faster to start up, easier to navigate, and offers less troubleshooting challenges than PCs that are theoretically far more powerful but are bogged down by a less streamlined O/S.
How are they allowed to freely distribute a modified Windows image legally? Will this ask for a Windows license after or during installation?
Likely all it does is take a stock windows installer, extract the install.wim, modify it, reseal the WIM file, and create it's own installation media. At least that's how I'd get around the distribution requirements. This kind of modification is not only acceptable in the license, it's encouraged (at least on the enterprise side). Tools like DISM for modifying offline images have existed since XP (ImageX) and Windows 7 (DISM).
I think there could be a market for a standalone "Xbox O/S" or maybe the Steam deck O/S for HTPC and couch gaming systems.
Funny you'd mention Steam Deck OS, which was built off steam os, which was built for this very purpose.
Just today saw the article about 5mhz Virtualbox Win 7 and now this. All I can say is, Good going.
Why on earth we need a massive amount of RAM, SSD and a damn GPU to perform basic functions on an OS? All Win 11s have massive number of processes running that will put even Win 10s to shame. And somehow, interface has gotten worse. The right click menu is now useless and settings options are disappearing in Settings screens. Even after multiple removals my start menu still sometimes gets unwanted apps after major updates and sometimes some settings just reset, again probably due to constant updates.
But hey, we will get tabbed Notepad soon. /s
Does it disable Windows Update? Wonder what would happen every time Windows tries to install new updates?
Disabling Spectre and Meltdown mitigations is not a problem on a gaming PC, or even most workstations. These are more of a concern for servers running multiple instances. You don't want a malicious process running in one server instance, stealing data from another instance.

On your personal PC, a Spectre or Meltdown exploit is pretty pointless. If a malicious process is running on your home PC, you're already hosed.
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Yeah, I see the use for this. I mean, I run Linux, so I already don't have my system crushed under the load of virus scans, system scans, additional malware scans, phoning home to Canonical, all sorts of software updates (with Windows already having Windows Update, why does Edge, and Onedrive, have their own *seperate* updaters?). I merrily run my games in Wine. But, if I thought I needed to use Windows, this version sounds completely sensible to me. I would probably turn the live antivirus/antimalware stuff off when I'm gaming and on otherwise.

I can tell you, too, I decided to *not* run "mitigations=off", but a year or two back when I dabbled with it, on some older CPUs you CAN get quite a large speedup (like 20-30% on some workloads) from turning those mitigations off! Although newer CPUs it's apparently more like 5% (since they have updates designs or at least updated firmware to help with this.) Getting a 5% increase, let alone 20%, would be quite welcome if you're running some old thing that's barely fast enough to use.
Does it disable Windows Update? Wonder what would happen every time Windows tries to install new updates?
Yeah, the updates are disabled at registry level. When you want to update it say that the updates were disabled by the administration, or something like that.
Outside of attempting manual update, the automatic update never does anything, because of the above reason. So no update whatsoever.
1-1-2023 09.30 download

freeed an usb stick

10.00 install Atlas

10.20 up and running... first impression....good,fast

10.25 firefox installed and several ad-ons..

Now waiting for updates for the updates are blocked by atlas. for good reasons

On laptop I have running W10 normal, W10 limited with several apps, W 11 via rufus (no hardware checks)
and now Atlas via Rufus .startup normal windows bootmenu.

Thanks for the App

Custom Windows 10/11 ISOs are a real rabbit hole to go down into. I started with Windows 10 AME (Ameliorated), then ReviOS (Revision OS) 10 and 11, then Windows 11 Ultra Lite, and there's the TheWorldOfPC custom ISOs plus a ton of other groups.

They're kinda appealing to people who have issues with Windows as is but don't want to jump to Linux, but I still feel they're kinda sus and only comfortable with using them for VMs on my Linux PC and not on baremetal hardware.