Many hopeful migrants to desktop Linux expect Linux to be a cost-free version Windows without problems. It’s with that expectation that many of these potential convertees run back to Windows at the first sign of trouble… or just culture shock. Well, there is a free version of Windows called ReactOS. It’s done in partnership with the people who do Wine (the Windows compatibility layer for Linux).
For at least a year since I first heard of the ReactOS project, I’d always wondered how viable it is as a replacement for Windows. In theory, it’s built to have full compatibility with Windows binaries. It’s basically supposed to be open source Windows.
After trying it out, though, I have to say that the warning on the website (Please bear in mind that ReactOS 0.3.3-RC is still in alpha stage, meaning it is not feature complete and is not recommended for everyday use.) is not just a disclaimer. It’s absolutely true. In fact, good luck running ReactOS for more than five minutes without it crashing on you.
The ReactOS download page has several options—an installation CD, a live CD, preloaded Qemu for Windows, and preloaded VMWare virtual machine. I went for the latter, which was only a 21 MB download. I had VMWare Player installed on Ubuntu, so I figured—why not?
Ah, but if you try to actually visit a website (here I am trying to download Internet Explorer off the Microsoft website… then you get the freeze-up. Mouse cursor won’t move. You don’t even get a “blue screen of death.”
So when they say it’s in the alpha stages, they’re not kidding. Stay away from ReactOS unless you’re a developer who can help. I think it’s not even ready for testing and bug reports.
If you want Windows, stick with Windows. If you want something else, then you can try Linux. Open source Windows full compatibility is far, far off.