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. Jago says:

    Seriously, no matter how incredible or how many hours spent making it incredible, if you want joe public to boost this into an alternative to windows, then joe public needs to download and hit a button to load it, that’s the day I join in and the sooner the better.

  2. Mata says:

    How about virus from Windows Environment?

    the most annoying things from Windows OS system is the great number of variety of viruses, and the waste of machine’s resources just to get the protection from them.

    the question is: are the viruses of windows will also ‘compatible’ on ReactOS?

  3. ghd says:

    possible to run this os tog. with linix 17.3, i.e. in dual-boot mode?

    • Jesse says:

      yes ofc, but you have to put into consideeration that the OS is still in alpha so you probably dont want to put it on a system that you have important stuff on. so i recommned you back up your data first before proceeding..to be on the safe side

  4. Wasim says:

    Hi.. I tried tio give a test of this OS in Virtual Machine but it throwing error like setup could not find a Hard disk..Can any one help me out of this..

    Thanks in advance

    • Jesse says:

      Hi Wasim, in the process of creating a profile for ROS, you couldn’t possibly have missed the part where you create a virtual drive…check again under settings>storage to see if you have a virtual drive present, if not, you can create one right there…

    • Johannes says:

      If you provide more details-yes. The information you provided is insufficient though. What platform are you on, what kind of machine, what virtualisation software have you been using and what are the exact steps you took?

  5. jelabarre59 says:

    ReactOS had been the perfect opportunity for all those big companied to get off the MSWin treadmill when MSWinXP was killed off in 2014. I mean, these companies had plenty of advance warning about it, and had they put plenty of money and programming resources into it starting 2011 or thereabouts, they might have had a viable replacement for XP when it died. But no, all those cowardly MBA-run companies continued to kiss Microsoft’s afterparts. At this rate, ReactOS will reach full XP-compatability in about 15 years.

    • Johannes says:

      The problem is: ROS wasn’t ready in 2014 and it probably won’t be for many years to come – if ever

    • Jesse says:

      I don’t suppose full XP compatibility is that far off considering that ReactOS recently gained more support from governmental bodies and the likes to speed up the development process of OS…so give it time, I honestly feel 10 is not too far off anymore….and also, considering the stability of 0.4, which is an alpha, ofc, 1.0 experience should sit somewhere around that of the solid WinXP experience (hopefully).

    • Terrance says:

      What Money?. Most depend on donations from users.Many of the Programmers donate much of their time.

  6. askfor says:

    Let me ask one thing. Is there ANY Windows software ReactOS could run and Wine couldn’t ? I understand they share some code. Is there a practical value of ReactOS, or is it just “l’art pour l’art” ?

    • Jesse says:

      well yeah, you have to understand that Wine and similar software are basically emulators for the windows based apps on Linux….nothing is running natively…hence, your experience using these software solutions can be somewhat lacking in some areas…ReactOS, on the other hand, is the real deal as you can pretty much run any supported windows app on a ReactOS system natively with all the benefits and direct access to your PC’s hardware

  7. littlenoodles says:

    Does this run more Windows software than WINE does on Linux? If so, is it easy to run it as a VM under Linux? I would assume any improvements over WINE are being contributed back to the WINE devs – or taken back (ReactOS is open source, no?).

    • Jesse says:

      supposedly, considering that it has more under the hood technology that has been well optimized specifically for windows based apps. Yes, ReactOS is open source…so m sure they contribute some code back to the Wine project.

  8. Tom says:

    A little sickening, to be honest that anyone would WANT a Linux distro to look like Windows, and this is coming from a Windows 7 fan (for gaming) :-D

    • Jesse says:

      Actually, Tom it’s a distro built around the Windows NT technology and not the Linux kernel; it’s specifically meant for Windows enthusiasts that dislike the closed nature of the OS….ReactOS has no backdoors whatsoever and it’s completely open source hence, making it a free install for anyone that wants it..

  9. Bill Turner says:

    Yes I had a partition destroyed once and since then have stuck to Virtualbox for tryouts. Otherwise, I have to say I am fairly underwhelmed by it. After over 20 years of development I expected something – hmmm – better. For example, one cannot even move icons around on the desktop !!! I keep reasonably up to date with it using SVN so I see a considerable amount of change but very little shows at the user level. Also, I understand that 0.4 supports the ext4 FS so why don’t they use it as the system FS. Fat32 is really antique. Ext3/Ext4 have been around for ages, so why re-invent the wheel…Play with this OS but don’t use it for anything serious IMHO.

    • Jesse says:

      my guess is they’re trying to do things the windows way and not stray too far from what people (actual end users are fond of)…it’s not especially targeted at techies which I suppose is the reason why they haven’t added ext3/4 support for installation or it could just be that those filesystems just can’t or won’t work with an NT based OS .. ..or they haven’t figured it out?

      • Johannes says:

        Yes. this discussion has been around, and they definitely want to keep it as windows like as they possibly can, therefore they won’t use ext3/4 as native file system. And the ACL and permissions model of Ext3/4 is totally different from that of NTFS, therefore they do have a point. However, Windows itself is a moving target. In 20 years they haven’t even managed to replicate Windows NT, and Windows itself has moved on quite a bit. The most popular OS out there seems to be Windows 7, which they haven’t even started targeting. Compare that to Haiku OS, which seems like a perfect replication of BeOS and has, as far as I am concerned, never once crashed.

        • Jesse says:

          i agree with you Johannes, and true that; they’ve probably missed an opportunity hole right when XP support was about ending….i honestly dunno where they intend to position themselves in the software industry but there’s a likelihood that it might incorporate latest NT technologies (under the hood) in the future but not necessarily remain successful given MS imminent move to the cloud. They probably will just end up serving a niche crowd in the end.

  10. Johannes says:

    Reactos 0.4.0 fails to boot on every machine I tried. Actually, older versions worked better on real hardware than the current release, so I fail to share the enthusiasm. The current release even destroyed the partition table of one of my hard disks. Compared to other free OS its state must be touted pre-alpha at best.

    • Jesse says:

      worked for me tho..what tool did you use to copy the image to your drive? ..ReactOS recommends that you use Rufus to get it on a USB drive….Also, you probably wanna try downloading the LiveCD image and to see how well it works with your hardware before you proceed with installation (which requires the BootCD image). dont forget to check out their currently supported hardware too: https://www.reactos.org/wiki/Supported_Hardware

      • Johannes says:

        It’s not a matter of getting the installer CD image written to disk or USB stick. (I think I burned the image to CD using brasero.) It’s about misbehaviour of the installer. It should never touch the partition table silently. Also, I meanwhile found an old, unused hard disk and installed ROS 0.4.0 on it. On one of my machines, a thinkpad T 420 it actually booted, but I couldn’t get the network going. ROS obviously had no drivers, and the WinXP drivers offered by Lenovo failed to install. I tried on two other thinkpads (variants of SL510) and experienced boot failures, a Dell (Latitude E6420), which booted but didn’t to anything after that and a legacy PC, which immediately bluescreened during boot. Nothing of this is much of a problem if you face a hobbyist project which isn’t supposed to do anything, if you are just playing around, but it is a long way from becoming anything like a usable OS.

        • Jesse says:

          if you look at it, the ReactOS team was mostly short of active devs <100 ….that have contributed to the project over the past 20 twenty andthey havent had the most of funds either…when compared to MS windows, i can very well say there are thousands of PAID devs working tireless ly on the OS. Give it time;..now that they have a few sponsors, we'll see where they'll take it from it current state..

          • Johannes Rohr says:

            I am not the one to give time to or withhold it from the project… I am merely giving my assessment. If a software project has been unable to come up with anything of real world use in 20 years, the call to “give it more time” has a hollow ring to it. If 20 years weren’t enough, will they need another 20 years to achieve XP compatibility?

            You know, there are plenty of Free Software projects out there, who also started from scratch with very limited resources but got incredibly successful. I can’t say what ultimately made the difference, but it is not that the others started out with more resources or had more time.

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