ReactOS – an open source version of Windows?!

ReactOS is an actual, legal, open source version of “Windows”. This means that it is binary-compatible with Windows and runs many/most Windows programs. It’s legal because they basically recreated Windows from scratch and put it under a GNU license.

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Admittedly, this is probably a niche thing which will only appeal to probably three categories of people:

  1. People who are curious about technology.
  2. People who want/need to run Windows but are fed-up with the privacy and security nightmare that it’s become.
  3. People who need Windows to run one or two programs, but don’t want to keep track of legitimate Windows licenses, and activation, etc.

I am mostly in #3 and a little in #1. In my case, if I run a pentesting laptop with Kali Linux, what do you do about the few Windows-only testing tools that are out there? Well, if I install Virtualbox, and then install a ReactOS virtual machine, I can run all of those programs in there and Microsoft doesn’t even have to get involved!

The Good!:
Well, it looks, feels, and acts pretty much like an old version of Windows – so it’s familiar (but very, very fast and snappy):

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another notable thing is that the installation takes like :03 minutes, and once it’s booted – it uses only 117MB of RAM, just idling – compared to 1,500-2,000MB of RAM for Windows 10:

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The video, and then keyboard/mouse capture were terrible with Virtualbox, but luckily the “guest additions” installed and work perfectly! That was a pleasant surprise:

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If you install those, the keyboard/mouse are seamless and the desktop resizes resolution whenever you change the size of the window.

The penultimate example of good is that since it’s not “quite” real windows, it has it’s own application manager, where you can install known-compatible software, and it’s how you update the system:

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And lastly, the main good thing is that pretty much everything “just works”. I haven’t run across any showstoppers yet – but I’m sure there must be, given the complextication of Windows.

The Bad:
I haven’t found much bad. There are only two things that come to mind for me. For applications that draw their own window and window manager buttons (min, max, close in the top-right) – like Firefox or Chrome, those don’t show up.

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Also, since this seems to be based on an old version of Windows (maybe Win95 or Win98?) – it can bog down pretty easily. It’s very light and snappy, but when more than a few things are going on – you can tell the OS slows down. It “feels” like the way Windows used to bog down, in the olden days.

Bottom line:
Is this a replacement for Windows 10? Probably not, for most people. Given the complexity (and advancement) of Windows, I am sure there are newer apps that won’t work. However, if you want a super-lightweight OS which will run “most” Windows apps, and is free – this so far seems to be a very cool alternative!

Posted in Computers and Internet, General, Infrastructure, Open Source, Uncategorized, Windows

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