Reactos – The Next Windows? (Part 3)

5/19/2012 3:41:14 PM
When rebooted (which took a matter of seconds), ReactOS brings up the default desktop, disappointingly – no Tele-Tubby land rolling hills of green. Unfortunately, the multimedia device it was asking for didn’t feel like installing so we had to make do with inventing our own startup sounds. Nevertheless, the façade and feel of ReactOS is so identical to Windows XP that it’s scary. But then, that’s what it’s meant to look like.

A quick look around the desktop icons, My Computer, My Documents reveals the same kind of interface that we all know and love. Normal tasks, such as copying, moving and other file management works smoothly enough without feeling too much like a beginner’s attempt at C or Visual Basic. Moving down the list of desktop icons you’ll come to the Command Prompt, which is as equally powerful, and as useful, as the Windows equivalent. Most of the standard commands work perfectly well, with the omission of some of the more MS niche commands.

Description: Description:  ReactOS desktop

ReactOS desktop

Working from the start menu, we have a selection of the usual suspects – Notepad, MSPaint, Calculator, Wordpad – as well as MineSweeper, solitaire et al. The Control Panel makes an appearance, with the standard selections to get your hardware working and operating as it should. All in all, it apes a standard, fresh install of Windows XP, which any user can navigate and use without fear of coming across anything too unfamiliar.

In addition to the normal applications, ReactOS had bundled a ReactOS Applications Manage, which acts very much like a Linux Software Centre. You simply launch the app manager, scroll down the list of categories on the left, highlight the one you’re interested in, and then on the right, select the package to install. The package is then downloaded from the relevant site and installed accordingly. Although the installation didn’t always kick off the way it was planned, a second try usually brought it back from the dead.

Description: Description: The app manager is an element that Windows could do with

The app manager is an element that Windows could do with

Looking at ReactOS, it’s a remarkable feat of coding; you could almost call it WineOS as the functionality and developments are very similar, due to the implementation of Wine-based API’s and such. As for ReactOS becoming an option for Widows refugees to migrate to, well, to be brutally honest, that doesn’t like it’s going to happen any time soon.

Despite the fact that the developer clearly states it’s the alpha stage of ReactOS, and that it’s very much developmental and not meant for the general population, the operating system doesn’t seem to be moving anywhere particularly fast.

With Linux distros becoming more and more advanced with each release (within a year the likes of Ubuntu will be seen as a mobile application on a smartphone that can hook up to a monitor, keyboard and mouse for a fully working desktop and or ZorinOS has a very Windows look but is still a stable Linux core), what’s the point of ReactOS? It as already reached the point that it looks outdated, and even after 14 years of work on it, it’s still not stable enough to accept a standard video card driver for an ATI Radeon without generating a BSOD. Why would we ever need to have a Windows looking and Windows feeling desktop when there’s so much on offer from other sources?

In one of the answers from the ReactOS team, stated earlier, ‘There are many people who do not like how *nix systems, behave or dislike the conventions used.’ This may have been apparent some years ago, but with the sudden rise of Android, ChromeOS and Ubunti, the *nix operating systems have rapidly become a part of our daily lifestyles.

That said, ReactOS is still a very interesting project, and one that certainly deserves a look at. After all, if no one likes Windows 8, or whatever may come after it, ReactOS could find itself in a nice position to welcome the flocks of ex-Windows users as they abandon ship for an OS that looks and runs like the one they used to have.

Of course, the ReactOS team will have to get a move on and produce something a little better and more stable than the current selection. However, there is a small possibility that ReactOS could become the new Windows. Stranger things have happened in the world of computing.

Description: Description: The starting desktop. None of our sound drivers worked.

The starting desktop. None of our sound drivers worked.

Check out the project

As with other open-source projects, there’s a wealth of information, debugging, testing, development and building going on around the clock. Keeping up with it can be a full-time job in itself, so be sure to bookmark the ReactOS main page at, as well as the development wiki pages at From here you can get involved with the project on many levels, either by contributing coding solutions, testing the latest nightly builds, or writing up translations or documentation. Or, if you’re feeling up to the challenge, why not download the source code and have a go at building your own version of ReactOS? Full details and instructions can be found here: Good luck!

Supported hardware

Description: Description:  ReactOS aims to fix all this

 ReactOS aims to fix all this

ReactOS is capable of supporting most modern and old hardware, but here is a full list of supported hardware, straight from the horse’s mouth:






IO Controllers

Mouse (USB: only with ‘Legacy Device emulation’ enabled in the BIOS, so no real USB support yet)

Keyboard (USB: only with ‘Legacy Device emulation’ enabled in the BIOS, so no real USB support yet)

RAM drive

Serial port

Parallel port

USB devices


Networking (NIC) cards \ wireless Networking (NIC) cards

Video cards

Sound cards

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