ReactOS 0.3.7 | 30MB
ReactOS is a free, modern operating system based on the design of Windows® XP/2003. Written completely from scratch, it aims to follow the Windows® architecture designed by Microsoft from the hardware level right through to the application level. This is not a Linux based system, and shares none of the unix architecture.
The main goal of the ReactOS project is to provide an operating system which is binary compatible with Windows. This will allow your Windows applications and drivers to run as they would on your Windows system. Additionally, the look and feel of the Windows operating system is used, such that people accustomed to the familiar user interface of Windows® would find using ReactOS straightforward. The ultimate goal of ReactOS is to allow you to remove Windows® and install ReactOS without the end user noticing the change.
Please bear in mind that ReactOS 0.3.7 is still in alpha stage, meaning it is not feature-complete and is not recommended for everyday use.
A lot of people in popular discussion forums keep asking “why should I use ReactOS” or “why would someone need ReactOS” or “why not help develop Wine instead?” or “why not use Linux with Wine?”.
We have an answer for all these questions, but it’s not some simple magic word. Let’s name a few key issues here:
* There are plenty of *nix operating systems out there, this is very good. However they have different targeting (they perfectly fit server market, but desktop still isn’t conquered, and several factors work against most Windows alternatives out today).
* There is currently no operating system which implements the kernel architecture design of MS Windows NT family (GNU/Linux is the best for comparison here: Linux was started as “clone” of Minix and Unix (eventually going on to be a Unix replacement), and ReactOS was started as “clone” of Windows NT).
* Linux+Wine is never going to be a complete replacement for a full Windows system. It’s not only because Linux (despite there are some really user-friendly Linux distros out there), and not only because many users might find a transition to Linux/BSD difficult, but it’s due to design and implementation decisions of Linux and Wine architectures, which prevent 100% compatibility.
* Even though Linux supports many types of hardware, Windows is still the dominant platform for device manufactorers. There are attempts to overcome this situation (like NDIS Wrapper for NT network card drivers, there are rumours about supporting NT video drivers, Captive NTFS for NT filesystem support), but ReactOS solves them from the first day by its design – be compatible with existing drivers and existing applications.
* There are many people who do not like how *nix systems behave or dislikes the conventions used. For them, Linux, BSD, and Mac OS X are not options, even before application compatibility and hardware support come into play. An operating system should give the consumers what they want instead of demanding the consumer conform. Even with WINE, you are still running an operating system that behaves quite differently from Windows, at a user and system level.
* Backwards compatibility. This is something vital for many people and companies, but the development philosophy of Linux and the GNU project do not consider it a priority. The Windows family has always went out of its way to ensure a stable API and backwards compatibility. By its design, ReactOS will also follow the philosophy of backwards compatibility with existing and future applications designed for the Windows NT family.
* There are no plans for Windows to become released under a GPL-compatible license (at least, ReactOS team is not aware of them).
Finally, ReactOS offers a third alternative, for people who are fed up with Microsoft’s policies but do not want to give up the familiar environment, architectural design, and millions of existing software applications and thousands of hardware drivers.