Check Out This Free Windows Clone

Category: Windows

Some diehards are never going to upgrade to the latest Windows version. They like the legacy look and feel of Windows XP, Windows 2003, or even Windows NT. They don’t like Microsoft’s strong-arm tactics that try to cram Windows 10 onto every PC. But switching to Mac or Linux isn't a workable solution for them. Is this free, open-source Windows clone the answer? Read on for the details...

What is ReactOS?

Not ready to move to Windows 10? Not a fan of Linux or Mac? There is an alternative: a clone of Windows NT called ReactOS. It’s an open source project, so the ReactOS operating system is free to download and use as a Windows replacement. The download file is offered in two formats: a bootCD ISO file that enables installation of ReactOS on a hard drive, or a LiveCD ISO that runs ReactOS without installing it on your hard drive.

ReactOS got its start in 1996 as FreeWin95, a Windows 95 clone. But that project bogged down and stopped releasing new versions. Several project members, led by James Filby, picked up the pieces and started the ReactOS project in 1998. Window NT is the version that ReactOS most closely resembles, but any pre-Win 7 user will be right at home with the user interface.

ReactOS Free Windows Clone

ReactOS is still in the alpha stage of development, as indicated by its fractional version number 0.4.x. That means it’s incomplete and prone to crash. It does run several dozen open source Windows apps that have been tested with ReactOS. Firefox, LibreOffice, and 7-zip are three essentials that work well with ReactOS.

You can see a gallery of 25 popular Windows programs running ReactOS. Other Windows software can be tried on ReactOS, but compatibility will vary. Test results for dozens of Windows programs are listed here.

Even a ten year-old Windows XP computer can easily run ReactOS. ReactOS requires only 500 MB of disk space when installed, compared to 20 GB for Windows 10. ReactOS needs just 96 MB of RAM, while Win 10 wants 1 GB for the 32-bit version or 2 GB for the 64-bit version.

Astute readers may wonder if ReactOS shares the security vulnerabilities of the obsolete Windows versions it mimics. The project team has not commented on that, but it’s probably a non-issue because ReactOS’ code is not the Windows code that contains those bugs.

ReactOS screenshot

[GEEK ALERT] Most of ReactOS is written in C and C++. The project, which claims to consist of over 9 million lines of code, makes use of many open source components, including the Wine Windows emulator; Samba code to support print spooling, NETLOGON, LSASS and other Windows services. FreeType is used for fonts rendering. A Linux component NTFS-3G is used for NTFS file-system support. The NDISwrapper for running Windows WiFi drivers is included.

The ReactOS website bills ReactOS as a "Free, Community, Open Source, Collaborative, Compatible" operating system. That seems largely true, but I don't agree that ReactOS is ready to be your day-to-day operating system.

ReactOS is still in the Alpha stage. In the software world that means it's mostly complete, ready for testing by intrepid users, but is likely to have bugs and crashes.

ReactOS has been downloaded more than 6 million times, but when I tried the Live CD version on three of my computers, none of them was able to get ReactOS up and running. Still, you may find it promising and fun to play with, and it may get up to version 1.0 by the time you’re finally ready for a new PC.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 14 Nov 2016


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Most recent comments on "Check Out This Free Windows Clone"

(See all 21 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Eddie
14 Nov 2016

Sounds interesting. I'm ready to give it a try. I wonder if it includes an email client that's as good as Outlook Express. That would really be great, as none of its replacements could ever match it for stability and ease of use.


Posted by:

CarlosPC
14 Nov 2016

Maybe Wine on Linux is a better alternative. It has been in development since the 90s and it has a long list of working software.

EDITOR'S NOTE: FYI, ReactOS uses the Wine code, so compatibility with Windows apps should be the same, perhaps better.


Posted by:

Robert A.
14 Nov 2016

It's too bad this group can't bring their OS to be a mimic of Windows 7, rather than the earlier versions of Windows. Win 7 had more features and was a more intuitive and user-friendly OS than its ancestors. Virtually everyone had good experiences with it.

ReactOS sounds like it would be a great OS to use on an older third or fourth computer around the house, or for a reliable old computer that has been rehabbed with a new,larger hard drive, and could possibly used for specific functions, such as a home entertainment or multimedia computer.

Being free, open source and a clone of Windows 7 would be a great alternative for users who don't feel comfortable installing and learning the ins and outs of a Linux-based or other alternative OS on their PCs, or spending the $100 needed to buy a new, legitimate cope of Windows 7, if it is, indeed, still available.

Bob, keep us updated on the ReactOS story, as it develops, along with your personal tests, and comments, once it is released. This sounds like an interesting development.


Posted by:

Terry Hollett
14 Nov 2016

I attempted to give it a work out once by installing it on an older WinXP computer but after the install it would only boot to a BSOD. Couldn't find any information online on how to fix it. And there is the fact that it has been in it's Alpha stage, for what feels like forever. I would switch if it ever does mature enough to replace Windows.


Posted by:

John Stolte
14 Nov 2016

Seriously??? An open source OS that has been in development for 18 years and is still in Alpha?

I wouldn't wast one hour on playing with it, it is going nowhere, FAST :-)


Posted by:

Sheri
14 Nov 2016

Just visited the ReactOS website but could NOT download either the BootCD or the LiveCD without making a donation! So it is open source but it isn't completely free as your article suggests :-(


Posted by:

Lou
14 Nov 2016

Thanks, Bob. I also tried the Live CD version ReactOS on my computer but it didn't run. If they come up with a good working system, I will go for it and might even give a donation.


Posted by:

Robert Dawes
14 Nov 2016

You don't have to make a donation just click on the "No thanks" option at the bottom right to continue with the download.


Posted by:

Karena
14 Nov 2016

Sheri - there is a "no thanks, just go to the download" option - you don't HAVE to donate.


Posted by:

Larry
14 Nov 2016

Thanks for the article, but I happen to LOVE Windows 10. It was a free upgrade, and it's a safe and snappy operating system. No good reason to change.


Posted by:

Gary in Wisconsin
15 Nov 2016

Win7 is my main go to and I have several older pcs with winxp as well as a few that I experiment with. I've used the Zorin distro for a few years and have Zorin 11 now and am awaiting Zorin 12. It's not the perfect windows replacement but it's close. I may give ReactOS a go in it's final version when it's ready for prime time!


Posted by:

Paul Holzwarth
15 Nov 2016

I tried live CD on an xp computer and it wouldn't load. I can load Mint on USB on the same machine. End of experiment.


Posted by:

Bob Greene
15 Nov 2016

Definitely interesting, and we can be sure the development team is working on the bugs. As I recall, the history of ReactOS was not only series of starts and stops, but a change in organization and management accounting for the long development. As Windows demonstrated with its own 30-years of development, many worthy projects with a lengthy development ultimately turn out "good enough" for widespread use.

As open source code, ReactOS appeals to people who understand the open source code model makes security more likely, since many experienced reviewers, not only the development team, examine the code. In any case, during at least its first few years of maturation beyond version 1.x, ReactOS is not likely to draw great attention from hackers-- they already find Windows a bonanza of opportunity.

ReactOS has drawn favorable, encouraging comments from the industry, and the potential for growth into a more mature product is enormous. People tend to forget MS Windows always has had a cloud of problems, particularly in its earlier versions, when crashes, incompatibility and BSODs were standard fare. In a widely-celebrated case, Windows crashed on Bill Gates as he presented Windows features to a mass audience-- this despite every precaution taken.

If ReactOS can maintain its user-friendly appeal, there is no reason it cannot be adopted by millions around the world who are thoroughly tired of the Microsoft treadmill of security issues, licensing / activation issues and the latest issue of becoming simply another workstation in a vast herd of Microsoft-connected machines, with progressively less end-user control.

And with the new Microsoft policy of no assured privacy, who needs hackers? Microsoft also makes no secret of its intention to make Windows users-- who are actually Windows beta testers who pay for their privilege-- a captive audience for its advertising.


Posted by:

Leo
15 Nov 2016

I really love the ReactOS project, but it's still somewhat immature for everyday use. I'm currently using Windows XP, but when XP becomes unusable (because extreme incompatibility), I will replace it with Windows 7. There is no need to go to Windows 10. And there is Linux out there. I don't like Linux, but if have to choose one distro, that would be Linux Mint (graphically as nice and smooth as Windows 7), or Linux MX-16 (as light on resources as Windows XP). So, Windows 10?, no, thanks...


Posted by:

John H
16 Nov 2016

I used the BootCD ISO file to install ReactOS into a Virtualbox VM. There were no issues with installation or running it in limited use.

ReactOS has it's own Application Manager that lets you easily picks applications from a list of about 180 covering the usual range of areas as described in the article.


Posted by:

Alexander
17 Nov 2016

Why i can not access you sute from Russia?
it reditects me to http://www.example.com/


Posted by:

Lou
23 Nov 2016

When I mentioned of giving a donation to ReactOS developers, it was in good faith to help them continue with their project. We must remember that programs labeled "free to download and use" have volunteers behind them that give part of their time and money to the project.

In addition, they have to hire the services of "Project Managers and administrators" who's services are mostly salary based. I have friends who have started projects and haven't been able to continue because of the lack of funds to pay these resources.

Anyway, I also wanted to share that I tried LXLE 6.4 (another Distro with great capabilities) as a present alternative to ReactOS (or at least until it gets up and running smoothly.) LXLE is very fast on old computers and not so very complicated to use. I ran the live CD on my computer and now it's blazing fast.


Posted by:

Lou
23 Nov 2016

Alexander, there might be some connection issues to the program on you end, at this time.

But you can try Linx and Unix distros that are similar to Windows and are more reliable than ReactOS, like Linux Mint 17 and Zorin 8.1 that are also free to download.


Posted by:

John T
29 Nov 2016

I downloaded the bootCD for React OS. Installed it on my Windows 10 desktop under Oracle VirtualBox.
Took a few times but seem to have it working OK. Only issue I have now is how to get an old Win 95 database program (it fits on a 1.44mb 3-1/2" floppy) on to ReactOS to be able to run it. I've read in VB manual that I must share host folder with the guest OS. Can't seem to make this work. Also tried this with Linux Mint same issue. Just do not understand the lingo.


Posted by:

John T
29 Nov 2016

OH, and I did run the program under Windows 7 using Virtual PC and the free XP Mode. There was not sharing required, just drag and drop!
Just wish I had seen where your would lose your virtual PC and XP mode before I had upgraded.


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