ReactOS is an open source operating system designed to let you run Windows applications without installing, you know… Windows.

It’s been in development for more than two decades, and it’s still pretty rough around the edges — there’s a lot of Windows software that doesn’t run on ReactOS, and the operating system lacks a lot of the features you’d expect from a modern OS.

But today the developers released ReactOS 0.4.11 and it brings a number of improvements that make the operating system a little more useful. It supports more Windows programs than ever. Menu elements should be displayed more accurately. And you can finally upgrade from an earlier version of ReactOS to a new build without doing a clean install and losing all of your data.

The lack of in-place upgrades was kind of a show-stopping feature that’s finally been addressed in the latest release.

Upgrades are still kind of a pain at this point — you can perform one without losing data, but you’ll still need to go through the entire setup process as if you were installing a new operating system. Now that the groundwork has been laid though, it paves the way for developers to build a more seamless upgrade process in the future.

Another big update in ReactOS 0.4.11 is support for manifests that can locate DLLs required for programs to run. The upshot is that some Windows programs that couldn’t run in earlier versions of ReactOS because the software relied on manifests, does work on the latest version of the operating system.

That includes Evernote 5.8.3, Quicktime Player 7.7.9, and Blender 2.57b. (Yes, for the most part ReactOS supports old Windows software… which is actually pretty useful if you need to run mission-critical software that hasn’t been updated in years, but don’t want to track down a Windows 98 license and install ancient, unsupported software on your brand new computer).

The ReactOS Team says there are also improvements with the shutdown sequence for applications that use Microsoft’s .NET 2.0 framework. When software doesn’t shut down properly it can lead to stability problems, so this update should make ReactOS a little more reliable.

While ReactOS 0.4.11 still isn’t really ready for use as a full-fledged Windows replacement, it’s getting a little closer all the time.

You can read more about the new features in ReactOS 0.4.11 in the release notes.

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12 replies on “ReactOS inches toward becoming a viable open source Windows clone”

  1. ReactOS are using the same code base as Wine for running win32 programs. Where they very is that the goal of ReactOS is to be completely compatible from driver and api level up. Right now they’re focusing on being compatible with Server 2003 which even with that operating system being quite old now it’s still quite similar to Windows 7 – 10 on the driver side.

  2. What I don’t understand is why you would run this instead of wine on Linux, or a sandboxed virtual machine running the old OS.

    1. To address your first question: Most people are more familiar with Windows than Linux. To answer your second question: A native OS requires less CPU power and uses less battery on your notebook than a virtual one.

      1. This is especially true for games or other graphics intensive applications, which tend to run horribly in virtual machines.

        1. Well, Essial is correct.
          But needs to be rephrased properly; Why should you use ReactOS, when you can natively install Windows XP/7/10 instead (especially since you can install for free)?

          If you want Native Windows support, and you want your alternate OS as well (eg Hackintosh, Android, SteamOS, Linux distros)…. it makes sense to dualboot the system.

          1. I guess the target market for ReactOS is folks who find it interesting to run their Windows machine in an open source fashion similarly to their Linux one.

          2. XP? A big security risk. Win 10, a privacy risk (basically just a different security risk.) And by for free, do you mean pirating? I don’t know what else you could mean by that. Basically since 1998, it’s been clear it’s not a consumer product. You’re asking why the typical consumer would use it when it’s crystal clear that it’s for a niche user. Maybe like DOS now; it makes more sense to get FreeDOS to run old games in virtual machines, and 20 years from now people will download ReactOS for the same reasons. It’s too long away for commercial considerations, but that day will come.

          3. oops, I went back and read “which is actually pretty useful if you need to run mission-critical software that hasn’t been updated in years, but don’t want to track down a Windows 98 license and install ancient, unsupported software on your brand new computer” I feel pretty stupid, for not taking the time to read this, but how does it make you feel?

          4. That doesn’t make me feel anything.

            You can download and install Windows 10 for free, no activation key required. You had the option for Windows 7 ages ago, but I’m sure that microsoft link is broken. Windows XP is the only one that I’m not sure of, however, you can download it and distribute it for free and use the activation key on the OEM sticker of your PC Box.

            However, if the use case really is about some outdated machine and program. Then the important thing is to have backups of your files, the program, and the system. I have this for a couple health-related machines at my work. Using ReactOS for such scenarios is feasible, but we’re talking about a super-niche within a super-niche. I’ve seen far more companies resort to simply installing a Linux distro, and emulating the program within it, and it seems to work much better than expected (since there’s no concern about compatibility, internet access, or efficiency, when it comes to simply keeping these legacy systems alive).

            PS; 4 years ago someone from the office bought fresh Floppy Disks, one of the “laptops” has a 1:1 display which takes 2 minutes to turn on. Just to give you an idea about the sort of systems I’ve talking about.

          5. I remember the old suitcase “portable” computers like what you are talking about. They were about the size of a 24 inch suitcase. Needless to say very few people had them. Today we have full-on desktops with separate monitors on top that take up less space (and have exponentially more processing power). I would rather have carried my Tandy CoCo 2 and separate FDD and HDD around, plugged into the break room television wherever I was going and use that. I would have had a better “monitor” and more processing power!

  3. I appreciate the sample screenshot, but Civ 2 runs beautifully in a vanilla install Wine under Linux. I was just finishing off the Celts before work this morning.

    1. I assume there is much similarity in the code base of ReactOS and Wine.

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