With the Microsoft recently taking Windows 7 off life support, it got me thinking that PC games released between 2007 and 2011 are beginning to fall into the “retro” category. I’ll need to put together a dedicated Windows 7 machine in the couple years so I can keep playing games form that era without compatibility problems. It also got me thinking about a project I first encountered nearly a decade ago, called ReactOS.

ReactOS is free and open source operating system that is essentially a Windows clone. It aims to replicate all the functionality of NT-based versions of Windows. Theoretically, ReactOS should be able to run most Windows software natively, and would be perfect for a retro gaming computer. Seeing as I already have a dedicated Windows XP gaming box, I decided to try installing ReactOS on it to see how it compared. I had planned to replace Windows XP with ReactOS if the test went well enough, and maybe even use it place of Windows 7 in the near future. Unfortunately, ReactOS is still in alpha, and it shows. The full results of my little experiment are documented in the video below.

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    • ReactOS is only really usable with a program like virtualbox because it currently has very limited support for real hardware. Virtual hardware is consistent across all platforms and can be tuned to the needs of the guest OS, so using a VM eliminates a lot of the compatibility issues that ReactOS has. The downside is that VMs require a host OS to run on and have limited support for things like 3D acceleration. This obviously isn’t very good for gaming where you generally want the best performance possible. The point of this test was to see if ReactOS able to work as a Windows substitute outside a VM, where it could be more than just a proof-of-concept.

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