ReactOS The Perfect Windows Alternate – Review and Installation

Microsoft’s Windows dominance in the Desktop PC space has been a thing for decades now and the 30years old OS — although has made some significant strides in the industry — is undoubted a monopoly. Thank God for options like OSX and Linux Desktop of course, we would all have been choking on – and continue to choke on whatever the Redmond company decides to throw at our faces.

It is not without reason that the multi-billion dollar company continues to sell its software at a premium price given its status in the industry as a “for profit” software company first before anything else.

However, given its business model, MS has won praises as they have contributed immensely to the growth and advancement of the technological industry as a whole – so a thumbs up there – but then, we can argue its benefits to the software platform as a whole likewise its shortcomings which must not be disregarded as it places a pretty high price tag for its software and services — especially given the fact that it’s a closed platform which is a turnoff for tech enthusiasts like myself…that, well, don’t like anything CLOSED – FOSS please.

However, we cannot disregard the popularity of Windows irrespective of how much you might despise it – but then if you’re keen on using the operating system, you might as well go for something that quite as much features supports for the applications specifically designed for it that would otherwise not run natively on other platforms without some sort of virtualization – (I’m talking about Wine and Crossover) Yaay?

But as you might know, these software solutions which are available on the Linux platforms (although great) will not give you the best of experience like you will normally get on a Windows ready machine.

But what if all that could change – like forever?? An OS that will finally end your need for MS Windows?

There, you go, — we have React OS – that might just be the suitable Windows alternate (with the benefits of running windows apps natively) – the operating system is essentially the best free Windows-compatible out in the market – for so many reasons.

React OS has been in active development for the well part of two decades and some months (that would be 1996 till date) and while it’s still in an Alpha stage, it’s sure as hell ready as ready can be to serve it’s intended purpose as the FREE Windows alternative for you “die hard” Windows users that don’t want to pay a pretty penny to use the operating system.

ReactOS Desktop

ReactOS Desktop

The ReactOS team recently unveiled the most recent version of the OS which is still in Alpha but at version 0.4 after a whopping 10years of development. And truth be told, this has been an overall stable experience as I’ve had it on test driving for a good while now (I’m talking about a 14 days) and sure as hell, hasn’t failed me yet.

Given its alpha status I could say things might be a bit buggy for some folks, there might be quite a few glitches here and there depending on your hardware but there’s a good resource on their supported list of components that will function well with the OS without much of an issue.

Been using it on a Lenovo Core i3 Ivybrige Thinkpad laptop so far and I must confess it’s been a soothing experience although not perfect, it sure going places.

This is however, not a review nonetheless, we might have that up for you in the long run, hence, I’ll proceed to fulfill the sole intent of this article – which, of course is the installation procedure of React OS. Now please join me already down below.

As usual, pre-requisites, we must get.

React OS Installation with Screenshots

You want to head over to React OS’s official website to download the BootCD image – as that’s what we’ll be using in this installation guide; also, if you aren’t feeling enthusiastic about slapping this baby on your PC YET, you can as well try It out using the LiveCD system or heck, the same installable BootCD in Virtualbox (yeah, please go figure, this isn’t a virtual box installation guide – however, it has a bit of similarity…. in installation procedure; cause well, yeah I first tried installing in Virtualbox too so in truth, the guide will work just as good).

After you might have downloaded the image, you should get good tool Rufus to write it on a USB drive – which is the officially recommended tool and it doesn’t require any extra configuration.

Using Rufus is pretty straight forward, plug in your USB drive into a Windows PC (the software autodetects) and select your React OS image as seen in the image below and click start – should be done in seconds (note, depending on your PC and the speed of your drive, it might take longer).

Once you have that setup, proceed and restart your PC; make the changes in your BIOS or UEFI setup as needed.

It is noteworthy that ReactOS only requires 500MB HDD and 96MB RAM as your minimal configuration and also, the NT based OS will NOT run Linux apps not now, not ever.

1. Plug in your USB drive and you are greeted with language selection screen – choose your language and press enter to continue.

Language Selection

Language Selection

2. Next up, is a welcome screen that give you the options of where next to navigate – just press the corresponding key on your keyboard and you’ll be off to the next step – in this case, we’ll go on and press “ENTER” to install.

ReactOS Setup

ReactOS Setup

3. The next screen gives you some heads on the quirks of the operating system which aren’t (in all honestly too much of a big deal) – the biggest downside I’ll say, is the lack for NTFS file system support, hence, you don’t get all the benefits that come with the New Technology Filesystem – which might be a letdown for some — as NTFS includes disk encryption capability, file security and the likes.

However, the FAT filesysystem is still great and will allow you to install REACT OS on a big drive and you also get NTFS read and write support – with an external drive of course.

ReactOS Setup

ReactOS Setup

4. The next screen shows some basic configs of your hardware. Press the enter key to accept the settings.

Select Basic Settings

Select Basic Settings

5. Here we have a pretty familiar screen; that is, if you’re used to installing Windows XP, then you’ll know that you don’t have to do anything here, all you just need to do is press the enter button. Except you want to manually partition the drive before you proceed.

Select React OS Installation Partition

Select React OS Installation Partition

6. Given that you only have FAT as the filesystem to choose from, then just proceed as needed.

Select ReactOS Filesystem

Select ReactOS Filesystem

7. Confirm format.

Select ReactOS Filesystem

Select ReactOS Filesystem

8. Give the ReactOS partition a name (ReactOS is the default) and press enter to proceed.

Give ReactOS Partition Name

Give ReactOS Partition Name

9. Next screen is the installation progress bar.

ReactOS Installation Setup

ReactOS Installation Setup

10. Lastly in the installation process, you are prompted to install the bootloader – better to leave it at the default selection (which is the first and proceed).

Install-Bootloader

Install-Bootloader

11. The bootloader installation is done almost immediately – and now, you may press enter to reboot your PC and boot into ReactOS.

ReactOS Basic Installation Completed

ReactOS Basic Installation Completed

12. Once you reboot, you are greeted with this menu selection and without pressing any other key, press enter to boot into ReactOS.

Select ReactOS Operating System

Select ReactOS Operating System

13. Once you press enter, you notice that the operating system begins to install the most basic drivers that ReactOS needs to continue starup.

ReactOS Installing Devices

ReactOS Installing Devices

14. Now you have the setup wizard that will guide you through the rest of the process to have your ReactOS installation up and running.

ReactOS Setup Wizard

ReactOS Setup Wizard

15. Clicking next takes you to the acknowledgement screen – as you can see, the operating system is licensed under the GPL and you can read the documentation right here or continue with the setup.

Select ReactOS Acknowledgement

Select ReactOS Acknowledgement

16. Next, you customize the system locale settings and keyboard layout as per your preference and click next to continue.

ReactOS System Settings

ReactOS System Settings

17. Give your PC a name and click next to continue.

Set ReactOS Name

Set ReactOS Name

18. Next up, enter your admin password and proceed to the next setup screen.

Set Admin Name and Password

Set Admin Name and Password

19. Correct your date and time as needed and click next to continue.

ReactOS Set Date and Time

ReactOS Set Date and Time

20. Although, ReactOS is built from scratch, it still relies on some dependencies from open source projects like Wine (partly, to be able to run some programs more efficiently), Mesa3D for graphics, Haiku for USB support, etc.

At this point, you can either plug in an Ethernet cable and install right away or click cancel to it later.

Installing Extra Softwares

Installing Extra Softwares

21. After downloading the Wine Gecko package, my installation is complete, I can now proceed to the desktop.

ReactOS Software Installation

ReactOS Software Installation

22. After installation, I proceeded to installing some drivers and went through with it flawlessly without any errors. I guess I was mostly lucky. ReactOS has a list of supported hardware on their webpage and we strongly advise that you go through with it before you try installing it on your PC.

Hardware Driver Installation

Hardware Driver Installation

23. As you can see in the image below you can choose the directory of your driver package and install as needed.

ReactOS Hardware Wizard

ReactOS Hardware Wizard

24. This is what the logout prompt looks like.

ReactOS Login Screen

ReactOS Login Screen

25. ReactOS has a dedicated application manager where you can get already tested and certified third party apps from their repository.

However, you can still download apps outside of the application manager and install as needed – but support might be lacking for some untested apps, so it will mostly be a hit and miss.

ReactOS Application Manager

ReactOS Application Manager

26. Here we have the drop down options when you click the shutdown button which is reminiscent of that of Window 2000/XP.

ReactOS Shutdown Options

ReactOS Shutdown Options

Conclusion

That’s about it. Give the operating system a try on your PC and leave your feedback in the comments below; however, do not disregard the list of supported hardware, again, we strongly recommend you go through with it given that the OS is still in an alpha stage.

And if you’ve previously tried ReactOS in the past, kindly share your experience and hardware you had it running with us in the comments box below.

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Jesse Afolabi

I am an aspiring Linux Engineer, a tech writer on thedroidreview and tecmint, I also love to dance and you can find me on YouTube - be sure to subscribe.

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43 Responses

  1. Dean Beedell says:

    For your information the o/s is not called React it is simply ReactOS all one word.

  2. mARCO IEZZI says:

    Honestly I expected more from this review.

    You neglected the most important thing ! DRIVERS !!!

    WILL WINDOWS DRIVERS WORK ?

    Linux sucks because all the hardware I need has no drivers, that’s why I ll never use it.

    • Johannes says:

      Most Windows I tested don’t work properly. Reactos still is incredibly unstable and I have given up the hope that this might change.

      As for Linux drivers, I am a happy Linux user for 20 years. And most of my hardware runs just fine out of the box with Linux. Even old hardware that new Windows versions don’t support anymore works still nicely under Linux, such as my scanner which I got for 15 bucks off ebay, because you can’t use it with Windows anymore.

      Some bleeding edge hardware may cause difficulties because manufacturers keep their code secret. That’s not the fault of the Linux developers but of those manufacturers.

  3. me says:

    Might want to give this a try, it can help you setup ReactOS Network/Display support in VirtualBox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHRPEEbtjNU&t=681s

    • Johannes says:

      Setting up ReactOS on VirtualBox is the easy part, because that’s how most people “use” it. VBox is pretty standardized, for the ReactOS devs it is a predictable target, which is why it installs easiest and runs best on VBox. Getting it to run on real hardware is the challenge.

  4. Ryan says:

    Yes, there are other free projects out there, Johannes. They are also mainly Linux derivatives. ReactOS is not Linux.

    • Johannes says:

      If you count in FreeWin95, then Linux itself, which is a replication of another commercial OS, is just five years older. Linux began in 1991 and FreeWin95 in 1996. But in terms of maturity and stability, ROS is trailing behind far far more.

      Today, Linux is absolutely ubiquitous. It is in every router, most smartphones, even my TV and my radios run on Linux and just about every server out there in the Internet. And while smartphones are relatively new, Linux was already immensely widely used when it was as old as ROS is today. So I wouldn’t say that it is by necessity that OS projects need decades to emerge from pre alpha stage.

      Sure, one should not forget that Linus was able to rely on the GNU project which already had replicated a good part of the Unix environment before he started so that it had an additional head start. But even when Linux was just ten years old (which was about the time when I started using it), it was far far more mature and stable than Linux is today.

      Again, the ROS crowd are free to spend their time on whatever they choose. I am not complaining. I just think that any reassurance that “once Reactos will be stable for production, it will change the OS market” is a pipe dream. Windows has been and continues to be evolving quite a bit since XP (where ROS hasn’t even arrived at). Saying that a stable ROS will be out “soon” sounds like saying that The HURD will be ready soon or that Jesus is coming real soon now, and that the next doomsday prediction is definitely the right one. We all know it is not going to happen. Let’s be real.

  5. Bas vanHeel-Roseboom says:

    BSOD back? lol!

  6. Oanthata Kealeboga says:

    The idea is good but the execution is quite off… They have focused on the Interface of Windows rather than the back-end. The folder structure is different hence most programs wont install if you download them from a Windows Machine.

    Hence you can only download from their repository. So its really still Linux with a Windows Front-end. Its quite cool though. They will however need to work faster as Microsoft has rumors of making an Open Source version of their OS.

  7. Tom2 says:

    If the Reactos team were not there, and doing what they are doing, then who will?

    How can anyone criticize a free (in development) os? It started 20 years ago..yes. But they are still there, even after all the tech changes and Internet explosion, in the meantime.

    I suspect when/if Reactos is finally released, (stable) it will be a serious challenger in the os world. And will not be playing catch-up.

    Can they do it? I believe Windows 10 has given them a chance. My opinion only.

  8. Maurice says:

    When I tried installing Reactos 0.4.3 in a virtual machine using VirtualBox 4.0.0.18 under Windows XP SP3, I obtained a blue screen when booting up Reactos after the installation had finished.

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