ReactOS – Open-Source Windows Clone Software To Seriously Look Forward To

logo final 01   ReactOS   Open Source Windows Clone Software To Seriously Look Forward ToWe dedicate a huge amount of time and effort into presenting you with useful software and tips for common applications, but there are many more developers that dedicate enormous chunks of time to gift humanity with free software. We’ve discussed many open-source projects in this corner of the web, and there’s no stopping it. The open-source community is on a roll and has produced so many applications that even full operating systems have been made for anyone to explore.

While Ubuntu, for instance, has made impressive leaps in user-friendliness leading to a simpler GUI, many users, if not most, are more familiar with the Windows environment so not a lot of people wish to go through a potentially steep learning curve with another new OS. There’s been some advancement in the open-source world that Windows users won’t have to completely fear using a new OS.


ReactOS is an effort to provide a Windows NT-like architecture that is compatible with existing drivers and applications. An easy way to look at it would be to say that it is a clone of the Windows OS (which is closed-source so it’s not possible to really clone it), when in reality, it’s an alternative to the Windows OS, with the difference that it’s a collaborative open-source project and it’s in its infancy. While the team behind ReactOS has been heavily developing this young operating system for over a decade, it is still in the alpha stage. However, there is a number of reasons that make ReactOS worth a look.

07   ReactOS   Open Source Windows Clone Software To Seriously Look Forward To

Why Care About Another OS?

There are a couple of favorable points to ReactOS: Compatibility, familiar interface, speed, and of course, the GNU GPL license. Although the name “ReactOS” suggest a reaction from dissatisfaction with the current dominating OS provider, this system isn’t just another OS. It’s actually based on the Windows NT kernel to provide the most compatibility with hardware and software, which other non-Windows systems may not always achieve 100%.

82   ReactOS   Open Source Windows Clone Software To Seriously Look Forward To

Take any of the Linux distros, for example, some of the more popular ones even, some of which may have come a long way and gained more fans due to improved user-friendliness. According to ReactOS’s official site, since Linux started as a clone of UNIX, it doesn’t implement the same kernel architecture design of the Microsoft Windows NT series, which means not all software will be completely compatible. The keyword here is all, as we cannot ignore the fact that the WINE (which ReactOS includes parts of in its code) and PlayOnLinux projects have brought pretty great relief (check out WINE’s application database for more information). There are still, many more unsupported Windows-only programs that have yet to port over to Mac or Linux systems.

How It Looks (So Far)

19   ReactOS   Open Source Windows Clone Software To Seriously Look Forward To

So since this project is a rewrite of the Windows architecture, the ReactOS GUI is familiar to anyone who’s seen Windows 95, as ReactOS did start humble beginnings with the intention of cloning Windows 95. Since it sports a simple interface and strips itself of fancy bells and whistles, it’s lightweight and boots pretty fast.

Note that although the project isn’t ready for everyday use as stated on its website, there are many ways to try ReactOS. The download options include a Live CD, which allows you to test the OS without even installing anything on your hard drive. There are also downloadable packages for you to virtualize in VirtualBox and VMware, as well as emulate with QEMU. In my test, I used a virtual machine (~60MB package for VirtualBox), and while it was a snappy experience at first (bootup lasted between 5 and 8 seconds), things were a bit sluggish even after I tried installing VirtualBox’s Guest Additions.

This video from ReactOSorg and some very promising screenshots from the forum, however, showcases installed applications, such as Mozilla Firefox and SumatraPDF, and fast, overall response from the system.

I wasn’t able to install anything as clicking on software categories in the ReactOS Applications Manager would show me a dialog that would quit without reaching the end of the progress meter. Navigating through the Start menu turned out better and there were quite a few replicated applications built-in on regular Windows systems, such as Character Map, Paint and MineSweeper (WineMine in ReactOS).

73   ReactOS   Open Source Windows Clone Software To Seriously Look Forward To

46   ReactOS   Open Source Windows Clone Software To Seriously Look Forward To

63   ReactOS   Open Source Windows Clone Software To Seriously Look Forward To

As you can see, a lot of the icons are borrowed from Linux. Even the ReactOS Applications Manager is slightly reminiscent of Ubuntu’s Software Center.

55   ReactOS   Open Source Windows Clone Software To Seriously Look Forward To

There’s been similar but abandoned projects, such as Freedows, but as ReactOS has many years in the making, it shouldn’t be ignored as it shows brilliant potential. With sufficient support from the community, ReactOS may evolve from being a very fascinating project to a more mature, ready-for-primetime system.

What are your thoughts on a potential Windows alternative like ReactOS?

Image credit: ReactOS Foundation

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58 Comments -

Anonymous

I guess it have used the icon pack of openSUSE. Not sure but I guess.

Mario Rugiero

Tango icons, I think, sort of standard.

Mike

Reminds me a lot of Asianux (http://www.asianux.com) who are going this path for 3 years now.
I don’t really like the concept in general ~ people already use Linux with too much expectations just to find out it is nothing like Windows after all. Much the same for Ubuntu where everyone is happy until they have to enter sudo into terminal for the first time…

I prefer the approach of Arch Linux ~ it forces you to deal with the basics of Linux and pays of in the long run.

Jessica Cam W.

Asianux is a cool find!

I guess the thing about Arch Linux and other non-beginner-friendly OSes like BackTrack, is that there’s just more documentation for the popular Ubuntu, and that’s just what keeps me, at least, going back to Ubuntu. Like if there’s something I don’t know how to do and there’s not much I can find on Google, that brings down the appeal/excitement of the foreign/new OS because I’m stuck with a limitation.

If there were blogs on strictly those OSes like there is now OMG! Ubuntu, that’d really help and reduce the mystery behind Arch Linux and co.

You Kidding?

Wow. There’s a misinformed post.

1. Arch is not a non-beginner-friendly distro. It’s simple enough for beginners and new people would benefit far more from what they’d learn using it than they ever could from a windows like OS like ubuntu that tries to hide knowledge from end users and
2. Arch’s documentation far surpasses that of Ubuntu. The wiki is succinct, complete and uncluttered. Everyting that ubuntu’s forums are not.

Ubuntu and it’s “ease” is a fallacy in the exact same way Windows is “User friendly”. i.e. Not at all.

Jessica Cam W.

Hmm, I gathered from LH’s post on Arch Linux that it’s more for intermediate Linux users, but then again, I’m not a seasoned Linux user and haven’t tried Arch Linux (would like to though). :)

It’s just that the Arch Linux wiki (which I found thanks to your suggestion) reveals a lot of command line work, which most regular users aren’t used to. For instance, my parents are teaching my grandpa how to use Windows and he can get some of it, but if you ask him to learn all of these things to type in a terminal, that’d be more difficult. I think because of Windows, most regular people are used to GUIs right now.

Still, do you have any suggestions (links to specific guides maybe?) for prospective Arch Linux learners?

Mike

LHs post aside ~ the Beginners Guide to Arch Linux is step by step.
By the time you reach Capital #5 you probably know more about Linux than you’d ever do with Ubuntu and their Wiki.
If you succeed with #6 too you probably can help all those Ubuntu users solving their display/resolution issues :-)

In my opinion the command line work is exactly what makes it “superior” to distros like Ubuntu ~ you (are forced to) learn the basics from the beginning which pays off later on when Gnome/KDE is insufficient for your needs or for solving problems.

First Linux I ever installed was Debian ~ being stuck on a commandline for 3 days, Laptop with Wikis, Tutorials and Guides next to it. After that I didn’t even care to open things like Synaptic or Networking GUIs on Debian-based distros when aptitude, ifconfig etc. can do the same thing with a one-liner.

Mike

Whatever it’s based on ~ a rebuild will never really be the original. And there will always be some incompatibilities with updates etc.

Just look at virtualization – Vmware are in the business for years now and don’t have an answer to all problems.
If you look at ESXi it doesn’t even support physical Serial and COM interfaces, Serial-to-USB adapters fail most of the time duo to missing drivers. We ended up using a Virtual Serial Port software to share it over network from a physical Windows machine.

Mario

First of all, why someone will use a Windows update in ReactOS? Do you use SCO Unix updates on FreeBSD?
Also, a virtualization solution is not an OS solution, it is completely different, since in a virtual machine you have to emulate the hardware, an OS is software only (counting drivers as software).
Obviously it will not be exactly the same, the only needed is to have a full API implementation (compatible), not the “original Windows” clone.

Mike

Reminds me a lot of Asianux (http://www.asianux.com) who are going this path for 3 years now.
I don’t really like the concept in general ~ people already use Linux with too much expectations just to find out it is nothing like Windows after all. Much the same for Ubuntu where everyone is happy until they have to enter sudo into terminal for the first time…

I prefer the approach of Arch Linux ~ it forces you to deal with the basics of Linux and pays of in the long run.

Anonymous

Definatly something to watch

Max Ivanoff

enough to rape the corpse of Windows!
i use linux. ubuntu forever!

Max Ivanoff

enough to rape the corpse of Windows!
i use linux. ubuntu forever!

Miggs

It’s definitely worth watching in 15-20 years or so. In the meantime I’ll get my things done using a Linux based distro.

Blackbird

I don’t think it is worth to watch this project. They are using the wrong ideas. There *are* excellent free operating systems, we don’t need to build another from scratch, just for being able to run Windows drivers. It’s a waste of resources of very talented programmers! Making the linux kernel to be able to do this is much less complicated and less work than make a completely new OS. Just look at LUK/Longene, *they* are having the right idea. http://www.longene.org/en/inde

Anonymous

I been following ReactOS progress for the last 2 or 3 years, but I’m afraid it has been going to slow, and has somewhat lost purpose.

Mario

They are not going that slow if you look the whole image. They are 37 devs, and have a sort of working OS, which has a good compatibility with Windows tech, while others use ten or a hundred times the devs, it is natural they move faster. And if you know something about how the software is made, you should notice it is harder to make an OS which behaves like another one than making an OS from your own design (basically, you know exactly how it should behave), and making it by reverse engineering something you don’t have docs is way harder than making it from good documentation. And harder if you have a limited number of ways of reverse engineering which are not illegal. Then, you can see it moves really fast, even when they have no full time devs.

Duckeenie

They have Docs, the Windows API is VERY well documented. There is no need to reverse engineer anything they just have to re-implement it.

Bordeaux

If you want to use Wine on Linux, Free/PC-BSD, Mac, OpenIndiana Bordeaux ( http://www.bordeauxgroup.com/ ) is worth looking at. Bordeaux only cost $10.00 at this time.

Izadi

Windows is dead. Modern consumers will have little difficulty adapting to linux. If you can grow up using windows and transition to an iphone then you can use linux too. It’s not that hard.

Jessica Cam W.

iPhones are very user-friendly though. Ubuntu has become more user-friendly with each release, but sometimes, using the terminal seems a bit more work than GUIs, which work for a lot of people right now.

Blackbird

I don’t think it is worth to watch this project. They are using the wrong ideas. There *are* excellent free operating systems, we don’t need to build another from scratch, just for being able to run Windows drivers. It’s a waste of resources of very talented programmers! Making the linux kernel to be able to do this is much less complicated and less work than make a completely new OS. Just look at LUK/Longene, *they* are having the right idea. http://www.longene.org/en/index.php

Jessica Cam W.

It’s the first time I hear of Longene but it’s pretty interesting!

Timo Kreuzer

Guess where a lot of the code for LUK comes from …

Mike

The idea is good, however…
Trying to integrate functionality/compatibility for Software based on closed API’s without either, the APIs Dev (=Microsoft) nor the software developers support is probably the same “waste of time”.

Mario

They are USING the idea. They just glue together ReactOS code in the Linux kernel XD
No ReactOS => No LUK

Bordeaux

If you want to use Wine on Linux, Free/PC-BSD, Mac, OpenIndiana Bordeaux ( http://www.bordeauxgroup.com/ ) is worth looking at. Bordeaux only cost $10.00 at this time.

fruitgeek

I tried burning their Live CD to a disc, and tried to boot it. However, it said “Loading NT” and then it would hang and not do anything. The system is not very large in size and the cd drive had shut off, so I know something was wrong with it. I tried this on a Mac and a Lenovo laptop, but both had the same problem. Any ideas?

Jessica Cam W.

Perhaps there are problems with the Live CD. I tried the VirtualBox image and it worked well. Would you be able to try it with VirtualBox at all?

Mario

If the Mac is pre-intel it will just not work, there is not a port to PPC right now (don’t think will be ever, being dropped by Apple it don’t know about any use in the future, and ReactOS have to focus in other priorities right now), but I think the full image is some kernel bug. Alpha means it is not ready for production right now, and it is really buggy. Also might be the atapi driver.

thecruz

Wow, I remember seeing ReactOS at a LinuxWorld conf a few years back when Lindows was out trying to gain momentum. I’m glad these guys are still at it, and will definitely give it a look.

Jessica Cam W.

Asianux is a cool find!

I guess the thing about Arch Linux and other non-beginner-friendly OSes like BackTrack, is that there’s just more documentation for the popular Ubuntu, and that’s just what keeps me, at least, going back to Ubuntu. Like if there’s something I don’t know how to do and there’s not much I can find on Google, that brings down the appeal/excitement of the foreign/new OS because I’m stuck with a limitation.

If there were blogs on strictly those OSes like there is now OMG! Ubuntu, that’d really help and reduce the mystery behind Arch Linux and co.

You Kidding?

Wow. There’s a misinformed post.

1. Arch is not a non-beginner-friendly distro. It’s simple enough for beginners and new people would benefit far more from what they’d learn using it than they ever could from a windows like OS like ubuntu that tries to hide knowledge from end users and
2. Arch’s documentation far surpasses that of Ubuntu. The wiki is succinct, complete and uncluttered. Everyting that ubuntu’s forums are not.

Ubuntu and it’s “ease” is a fallacy in the exact same way Windows is “User friendly”. i.e. Not at all.

Wasted effort.

What a waste of time. Binary compatibility with some of if not THE worst written software of all time? How many workarounds have 3rd parties had to introduce to work with that god aweful API and these guys are re-creating it? Talk about the wrong approach.

Wine is there to help people transition to FOSS applications. It give comfort for a couple of weeks until a native app is found.

Giving people the ability to continue using the software that has ruined IT for 30 years seems like a colossal waste of time, effort and energy. Sadly, if this ever gets up then it will give those 3rd parties an option to continue writing software for a bad OS.

Software houses need to start writing for *nix Os’s that are solid, not re-hashed NT kernels that never worked to begin with. Surely a re-implementation of something that doesn’t work right can only work….less right?

Timo Kreuzer

Guess where a lot of the code for LUK comes from …

Wasted effort.

What a waste of time. Binary compatibility with some of if not THE worst written software of all time? How many workarounds have 3rd parties had to introduce to work with that god aweful API and these guys are re-creating it? Talk about the wrong approach.

Wine is there to help people transition to FOSS applications. It give comfort for a couple of weeks until a native app is found.

Giving people the ability to continue using the software that has ruined IT for 30 years seems like a colossal waste of time, effort and energy. Sadly, if this ever gets up then it will give those 3rd parties an option to continue writing software for a bad OS.

Software houses need to start writing for *nix Os’s that are solid, not re-hashed NT kernels that never worked to begin with. Surely a re-implementation of something that doesn’t work right can only work….less right?

Noneya

Worst written software? Awful API? kernels that never worked?
LOL.
You just described Linux not Windows.

There’s a reason software houses don’t write
for Linux. Get a clue.

Mario

You have a dogmatic vision which is diametral opposed to the ReactOS devs one. You see a bad OS for design, they see a bad license, bad coding (which is not the same as design), and bad default settings in Windows, but a really useful design.

And I hope, if you really are talking about stability, you talk about the microkernel *nix OS’s. Which exclude: *BSD and Linux, and leads us to:
– Mach, which is a good idea, but lacks of the servers which is expected to use.
– HURD, which didn’t make it in more years than Linux has, and it is still a messy bugs ball.
– Minix, which is more like an experiment, and the one I have more hopes in of the three.

WOW, rock solid design in the most used *nix OS’s!

And about your last criteria about “a reimplementation can only work less”, then the 2.6 rewrite of the Linux kernel should be worst than the 2.4, and going forward with the idea, I think I will migrate to the 0.99 (which one of them, because there were too many).

Moral? Be less agressive, everyone has reasons to do what they do, and talking about FOSS, there is something called FREEDOM which you have no respect for.

Jessica Cam W.

Hmm, I gathered from LH’s post on Arch Linux that it’s more for intermediate Linux users, but then again, I’m not a seasoned Linux user and haven’t tried Arch Linux (would like to though). :)

It’s just that the Arch Linux wiki (which I found thanks to your suggestion) reveals a lot of command line work, which most regular users aren’t used to. For instance, my parents are teaching my grandpa how to use Windows and he can get some of it, but if you ask him to learn all of these things to type in a terminal, that’d be more difficult. I think because of Windows, most regular people are used to GUIs right now.

Still, do you have any suggestions (links to specific guides maybe?) for prospective Arch Linux learners?

Mike

The idea is good, however…
Trying to integrate functionality/compatibility for Software based on closed API’s without either, the APIs Dev (=Microsoft) nor the software developers support is probably the same “waste of time”.

Kane

Wait! Here come the Microsoft lawyers!

Kane

LOL, windows is dead? That’s a silly statement. It ain’t happening in the next few years anyway. Linux has to completely abandon the command line for it to be a major player in Desktop & Laptop OS market. Developing a tablet or phone specific os is a long step from a full fledged desktop system. Don’t get me wrong, I run linux on most of my machines and love it but it’s far from being a serious player to your average consumer.

Mike

Just as a note, in my experience ReactOS is hideously slow using VirtualBox, but their VMware install/VM is markedly faster. Might want to try that instead.

Jessica Cam W.

Thanks for the tip!

Mario

I can add another tip. If using Qemu is adviseable to use KVM if you can, it improves a lot the performance.

Scott_T

Wow, havent seen this in forever, I’d forgotten about it. Its been 16 years since win95 and they’re still in alpha, yikes.

Noneya

Worst written software? Awful API? kernels that never worked?
LOL.
You just described Linux not Windows.

There’s a reason software houses don’t write
for Linux. Get a clue.

Aeneas

You know what is upsetting? NO-ONE here made uninformed comparisons to Mac OS X! Or FreeBSD, or Haiku, or OpenVMS, or z/OS or… NO! It just shows the REAL problem of the Linux crowd.

And as to your ah-so-great Ubuntu, please do not forget that it still has bugs where one update can uninstall your whole desktop AND prohibit you from re-installing it – I am referring to Ubuntu’s bug #542404 which I had the pleasure to experience two weeks ago on their 10.04 _L_T_S_!

Aeneas

You know what is upsetting? NO-ONE here made uninformed comparisons to Mac OS X! Or FreeBSD, or Haiku, or OpenVMS, or z/OS or… NO! It just shows the REAL problem of the Linux crowd.

And as to your ah-so-great Ubuntu, please do not forget that it still has bugs where one update can uninstall your whole desktop AND prohibit you from re-installing it – I am referring to Ubuntu’s bug #542404 which I had the pleasure to experience two weeks ago on their 10.04 _L_T_S_!

Sof.T

A very well written article, it is a pleasure to see someone has researched the subject before writing and taken the time to understand the goals of the project. Windows being dead, Linux rules comments totally miss the points being made. There is a good reason why Windows has a huge market share on the desktop. Linux should be able to make better progress on the newer technologies where applications are being created for the first time, but Windows has a huge legacy of software that users still want to use. The project is taking the right road for everyone who enjoys freedom of choice which is something Linux used to stand for, now it appears many users thing everyone should be forced down the same road which is sad.

Mario

First of all, you have a big unread thing. It is not based on Linux, and it is not the “hide the knowledge” what they try to do, the try to make it compatible with Windows apps and drivers. There are cases where you can not use Linux in a way equivalent to the use you can make of Windows, CAD as an example, or most cheap GPU drivers. And, last but not least, you can like Linux, but also you can like the Windows’s approach AND your freedom.

I prefer Linux too, and I’m about give new life to an old computer to have something where I can use Arch. But the other computers in my house are shared, and I can’t install an OS I’m the only able to make it work if something crashes.

About the Arch’s wiki, it was very useful to me even while I’m using Ubuntu right now, and the same I can say about the Gentoo’s and Debian’s ones.

Mario

As Linus Torvalds said, the target of the OS is to let you run apps. And until devs notice they can make the apps for Linux (specially the CAD and games devs), there will be a need to use Windows. It is not the OS itself which keeps users on Windows, but the hardware and software devs which makes their products only available for Windows or, at most, Mac OS.
And comparing with an iphone is not the same, because noone on their mind would use and iphone, say, to write a document, to play complex games (I’m not talking about Bejeweled Blitz like games, I’m talking about games whit a complexity similar to Portal), it is not targeted to the same. I mean, it is a phone, a phone with great capabilities, but a phone.

On the other hand, the real benefit of using Linux is it being open source. If Windows were open source, probably both OS’s will be benefit. MS will probably not open source Windows never, so why pushing back an open source clone?
Is not the freedom the whole idea? Or is it something to believe it is perfect and poop on the other people freedom of choice?

Mario

You have a dogmatic vision which is diametral opposed to the ReactOS devs one. You see a bad OS for design, they see a bad license, bad coding (which is not the same as design), and bad default settings in Windows, but a really useful design.

And I hope, if you really are talking about stability, you talk about the microkernel *nix OS’s. Which exclude: *BSD and Linux, and leads us to:
- Mach, which is a good idea, but lacks of the servers which is expected to use.
- HURD, which didn’t make it in more years than Linux has, and it is still a messy bugs ball.
- Minix, which is more like an experiment, and the one I have more hopes in of the three.

WOW, rock solid design in the most used *nix OS’s!

And about your last criteria about “a reimplementation can only work less”, then the 2.6 rewrite of the Linux kernel should be worst than the 2.4, and going forward with the idea, I think I will migrate to the 0.99 (which one of them, because there were too many).

Moral? Be less agressive, everyone has reasons to do what they do, and talking about FOSS, there is something called FREEDOM which you have no respect for.

Mike

Whatever it’s based on ~ a rebuild will never really be the original. And there will always be some incompatibilities with updates etc.

Just look at virtualization – Vmware are in the business for years now and don’t have an answer to all problems.
If you look at ESXi it doesn’t even support physical Serial and COM interfaces, Serial-to-USB adapters fail most of the time duo to missing drivers. We ended up using a Virtual Serial Port software to share it over network from a physical Windows machine.

Mario

Are you sure? How much is VERY well documented? Also, it is not only the API, it is the most important part, but the kernel must be compatible too to have a good drivers compatibility, the subsystems too, the screen management I guess too.
The documents must be public too.

Suitgast12dachtik

Like it!

Someone As

I think it take long time to develop, right before windows 98 till now and it’s still a baby?

Mario Rugiero

Took 3 years to release just the Linux Kernel, HURD is a baby from 20 years ago, and they are not cloning another OS to binary compatibility, they’re just trying to apply POSIX compatibility (and that’s source compatibility, far more easy to obtain than binary), and that two are just kernels, without the userspace side. Still long?
How about you cloning Minix, Qt, and KDE without source, and with way too few docs? Because that will be a similar case to what you are seeing.
Also, they are just 36 devs, against the many Windows/Linux has.

Also, they had many changes in what they have to clone; in fact, Windows 98 was not NT yet, so all the kernel design changed when they switched to clone NT family, and the API too.