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.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. SortingHat said on February 6, 2017 at 6:47 am

    React OS to me and Dad who have grown up with the Commodore 64 era of Load Star community it seems that React OS is a bunch of pot smoking hippies doing random lines of code to see how it will work in their OS and then trying to chase after the *Phone* crowd is going to be a major bust.

    MS has decided that computers and phones cannot be combined and that one has to go. It is the PC that gets the shaft. MS is mostly phone programmers who only know how to program on Android.

    If it works on Android it won’t be hard to work on Windows 10!

  2. GUIMaster said on June 3, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    I noticed that they recently added AHCI support to ReactOS. Is this helping with their goal to be binary compatible with Windows XP? Does XP support AHCI? No! As long as they continue to insist on changing their target, they will never accomplish anything.

  3. user said on June 3, 2013 at 2:03 am

    There is no way ReactOS will be done anytime soon (try it, you’ll see what I mean), and while they do change the description a lot, it is for the most part an XP clone. Some people seem to think why bother making an Xp clone that won’t be ready until winodows 20 comes out (If we’re lucky)? My thoughts are why not? You will be able to use it in VM’s as an XP alternative for free, which will be important in future years since XP is getting harder and harder to come by and some applications will NEVER be ported to newer windows releases, and since it’s open source it has a greater chance of the open source community building drivers for it to support new hardware once it’s been stable for a while. If this thing gets enough people following it, years from now there could be a free windows XP clone with drivers being developed regularily (as done in the linux community) for new hardware. It might even prompt some people to start writing new software for it. I think this time-line will work out nicely too since with every Windows release microsoft destroys their product a little more, so by that point in time people will be quite happy to have yet another choice (since OSX and Linux aren’t for everyone). Assuming desktops even exist by then, since tablets are taking over the world.

    ps: you can run VLC Portable in reactOS currently I hear:
    source =

    For the moment, reactOS is very UNstable, but it’s fun to fiddle around with, and by showing an interest in it you help make other people aware of it’s existence, which is important if this project is ever going to take off.

  4. Ashley said on February 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    R4W doesn’t try to be a Windows clone, but yo can run some windows software if you want. I installed an old CAD program and a couple DOS games that work fine.

    Google finds the old version. The new 2013 release is better IMHO. I got it on a dvd, but there is info at

  5. GuiMaster said on October 23, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I would love to see ReactOS reach a final release state by 2014. But I’ve watched the project for the last several years, and at the pace they are moving… forget about it.

    One of their biggest problems is that whenever Microsoft releases a newer version of Windows, ReactOS tries to become compatible with the newer version. Since it is impossible for them to keep up with Microsoft’s pace, their ever changing goals will always result in nothing valuable ever being achieved. Had they from the beginning kept focus on making a Windows 95 compatible OS (their original goal) and actually managed to reach that goal (even if 95 was obsolete by that time), they would have earned a lot of respect from a lot of people.

    XP was a great OS and still almost half of today’s computers run XP. If the developers behind ReactOS can remain focused ONLY on making ReactOS compatible with XP – and not Vista, 7, 8 – then they may be able to eventually release something worth talking about.

    1. SortingHat said on February 6, 2017 at 6:45 am

      It would’ve been out already. Now they are just a bunch of hippies trying to keep up with MS whom has gone for phones. Good luck!

      It’s more of a “lets see what we can do with these lines of codes!” “Wow look we did these things that flash on the screen!”

  6. MikuroK said on October 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    >”in two years time. By then the new clone OS should be finished, tested and stable”

    good luck with that, they’ve been at reactos since early 1998, and there’s no way one could possibly expect a stable release by 2014. Linux with Wine provides a much more capable system for supporting older windows applications, and will be for some time.

    >”presumably they will make modifications to the underlying security system to rectify Windows XP’s inherent flaws.”
    They almost certainly won’t, see, the thing with developing a system compatible with another, is that the new system can’t really be any different to what it’s trying to be compatible with, sure, you could make it so the new system has better default settings or tighter permissions, but ultimately, you can’t fix many bugs present in the original system, as this could comprimise compatibility with software that expect that behaviour.

  7. Levi said on February 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    What about BartPE?

  8. Crodol said on February 13, 2012 at 1:13 am

    +1 I will also continue to use XP.

  9. Andy said on February 12, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    +1 to continuing with XP. Windows 7 or Windows 8 does not meet our requirements of compatibility, speedy servicing and lightweightness that XP has. Virtualization products like Parallels Workstation Extreme which even support high performance graphics virtualization will allow us to run Windows XP on high-end workstations even longer and will get rid of the drivers not available issue that Microsoft and its partners are trying to create through forced obsolescence.

  10. Anonymous said on February 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    April 2014 does not mean Windows XP will stop working and lack of security updates is not the be-all-and-end-all of security either. There are many ways to secure an OS and with XP patched for 10 solid years and market share in 2014 will probably be less than Windows 7, we see no reason to move from Windows XP. We will continue with Windows XP even well after the product support is pulled and have no intention to migrate to later versions which will force us to get newer systems, break compatibility with our in-house solutions and remove customization that only Windows XP offers.

  11. Jim said on February 12, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Russia joined the WTO?!? I guess I missed that. What will happen to their McD’s clone/killer, McFoxy? ( They set up shop right next door to McD’s in Kiev. Talk about a gutsy move! I’m sure the McD’s lawyers are already on it.

  12. Nate River said on February 12, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    ReactOs is dead, get over it. Wait… In fact you just dug an old corpse.

  13. rick said on February 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Just because Russia (where the project is hosted) has joined the WTO and has agreed to the copyright laws does not mean that there will be enforcement. Resources will be a problem; the average commercial legal case takes over 4 years to be heard for the first time; general attitude and acceptance doesn’t change overnight.

    It will be 6-7 years before Microsoft gets close to closing the project down via legal means. By that time XP will be severely outdated whatever development is done.

    It’s more likely that you might see some cash to the right people have the project out of development.

  14. Wayfarer said on February 12, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Whatever the pros and cons of ReactOS itself, I can think of no justification for Microsoft’s dog-in-the-manger attitude of “We don’t want XP any more, but no-one else can have it!”

    It simply proves – once again – that MS’s business model depends more on aggressive monopolising than on innovation. If they can’t sell new Windows versions on merit then something’s very wrong with their product and pricing.

  15. eee said on February 12, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    @the author:
    Please check your sources and don’t spread misinformation. The project isn’t Russian at all, it’s developed by an international community. The current project coordinator is Russian, but this doesn’t mean that the project itself is! The development is slow becouse the are only a few developers, mostly working on it in their free time; a project of this magnitude would require more developers and testers to speed up the process. Perhaps there are readers who would like to join them? (hint) Don’t forget that a handful of people is doing what took Microsoft many years and hundreds of people to do. Regarding the copyright issue, they take it very seriously, including counsulting lawyers on the matter. For example, when there was a suspicion of copyright violation in the past they halted all development and did a thorough internal audit. And no offense, but it seems like you didn’t even read their Intellectual Property Policy.

  16. laz said on February 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Why not just upgrade to 7? Instead of running something that emulates something that is 15 years old! Supported by a couple of Russian dudes. Yeah, enterprise level support I’m betting that won’t be.

    1. Mike said on February 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      Lots of legacy enterprise apps will not run on newer OS’s. However I would never want to use an OS’s out of Russia as a work around.

    2. Anthony Frazier said on February 12, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      +2 — No business in their right mind is going to stake their business on this OS with their critical software.

      Also, anyone saying that a “handful of people did what MS took years and years to do…” are forgetting that most of what’s original to ReactOS is the kernel-side stuff. Most of the user-level stuff is based on (and shared with) WINE. (Source:

      1. eee said on February 12, 2012 at 6:51 pm

        I’m not forgetting that, I’m well aware of the WINE code sharing. Still, the kernel and related libraries & drivers are a tremendous amount of work.

        But I agree with you regarding businesses and critical software, and I agree with Wayfarer (below) too.

    3. rick said on February 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      Plus one

  17. rob said on February 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    maybe microsoft might learn a thing or two from these guys? and ballmer could even recruit them to work for microsoft as developers developers developers developers developers …

    1. LogicDaemon said on February 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      oh oh oh, don’t dig ReactOS out. It’s already 14 years in alpha stage. And still can be used mostly for preview within VMWare.
      Who believes it will get to usable state over just 2 years?

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.