ReactOS, the Windows XP Alternative

Mike Halsey MVP
Feb 12, 2012
Updated • Apr 20, 2012
Windows, Windows XP

While we wait for the Windows 8 beta to be released at the end of the month questions are looming over what will happen with legacy software support and how we'll run our older, but still useful and trustworthy, software in the future.  Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate can run the free XP Mode, a fully-licenced copy of XP Professional running in a specially modified virtual machine.  Here we can continue to use our older apps, as I do so myself, safe in the knowledge that they'll plug right into our Windows 7 Start Menu and appear on the desktop without having to have the XP desktop open as well.

But there's a problem looming, and it's a biggie.  In April 2014, just over two years from now, all support for Windows XP will end.  This means that there will be no more security patches and fixes... ever!  Now if you use only XP apps that don't connect to the Internet this won't be a problem, but Windows 8 won't support XP Mode at all because of this end of support and even though the operating system will include its own virtual machine, Hyper-V, we don't know yet if plugging applications into the new Start Screen, or onto the Windows 8 Taskbar will be possible.

Then there's the simple fact that, no matter what new IT Pro and business features the beta of Windows 8 will bring, some people will simply decide that its not for them.  Many businesses skip Windows releases after all and many are only just deploying Windows 7.  But for people who are still on XP and don't want to move to either Windows 7 or Windows 8 because of software and hardware compatibility what will the alternative be after the April 2014 deadline?

The answer could come in the form of ReactOS, a Russian-developed Windows NT/XP clone.  On their website they describe the product as...

"ReactOS is a free and open-source operating system based on the Windows NT  architecture, providing support for existing applications and drivers, and an alternative to the current dominant consumer and server operating systems."

This operating system, still in the alpha stage, promises to be binary compatible with all Windows XP hardware and software.  Rather than being a GNU/Linux OS with the Windows WINE emulator over the top, this is a complete Windows-clone OS.  When it's finished the makers say that anything you can currently do with Windows XP you will be able to do with ReactOS.

As a product that's new and currently in development there will be ongoing support too with patches and upgrades, and presumably they will make modifications to the underlying security system to rectify Windows XP's inherent flaws.

Surely then Microsoft would go after ReactOS as aggressively as they have with other Windows clones such as Lindows?  ReactOS have several answers to that, one of which is...

"Most people  think of 'NT' as 'WinNT 4', while in reality the term NT refers to the NT series, which ranges from version 3 over NT5 (2000, XP, 2003) to NT6 (Vista, 2008 and 7). The NT architecture was designed by a team lead by David Cutler, a former  lead developer of VMS. It took them more than 4 years to combine the best of  UNIX, VMS and OS/2 and create the NT architecture."

There is also the fact that Russia, the home of the OS, doesn't observe International copyright law and so nobody can touch them... yet!  On December 16th 2011 Russia finally joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and we can fully expect that as a condition of membership, other countries will insist they respect International patents and copyrights.  When this happens we can be sure that Microsoft will go after ReactOS.

For now though the operating system is looking like a feasible alternative to Windows XP when all support ends in two years time.  By then the new clone OS should be finished, tested and stable and any person or company looking to migrate their ageing software and hardware library in a way where everything will still run, and where they will still be able to get support will have an alternative.

Microsoft's lawyers no doubt already have their pens sharpened however and it's all still to play for.  Watch this space and we'll keep you updated.


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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

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