Free ReactOS Windows clone in VirtualBox

The ReactOS VirtualBox install procedure gives a Free (GPL) Windows replacement that can use USB devices. Sometimes one needs to use a Windows VM when USB devices are required, since WINE does not yet support USB devices without considerable hacking.

Install

  1. Use VirtualBox ≥ 5.2.22.
  2. create a new VM with name “ReactOS”, which should auto-populate needed settings, including VM for Windows 2003, 32-bit
  3. Verify: System → Enable I/O APIC unchecked.
  4. set Network → Advanced → adapter type: PCnet-FAST III
  5. when installing, use FAT file system instead of buggy, experimental BTRFS at this time.
  6. disable JavaScript in ReactOS Firefox browser as ReactOS might hang at 100% CPU for JavaScript intensive websites. Type about:config in address bar and Toggle javascript.enabled to false.

ReactOS advantages vs. Windows

  • ReactOS boot image is under 150 MB and 400 MB for base installation, while Windows is nearing a 10 GB install
  • no OS license maintenance with Free (GPL) ReactOS
  • no licensing worries about making many copies of a working ReactOS install. Get a VM working and copy it to many workstations.
  • ReactOS “Lautus” theme looks, works and feels like Windows XP, so there are few concerns about transitioning users reluctant to change

ReactOS limitations

ReactOS is 32-bit, so all programs installed must not be 64-bit. ReactOS 0.4.x is at Windows NT 5.2 (Windows 2003 / XP), so programs requiring Windows NT 6.0 (Vista) or newer will likely not run. You might consider trying an older version of the program you want to install, that is still noted to work with Windows XP when using ReactOS.

ReactOS 0.5.x is anticipated to have better NT 6.x (Windows Vista support). This is important as many programs, including open source programs, have left Windows NT 5.x unsupported and non-functional for their programs.