Free Windows Clones, Emulators and Emulation Layers

Run Windows Programs Without Needing Windows


Free Windows Clones, Emulators and Emulation Layers

The programs listed on this page are either clones of Windows, emulators or emulation layers for Windows programs. Most, if not all, do not implement the full feature set and facilities available in a true Windows system. Since Windows is a complex operating system with many undocumented features, it is generally harder to clone or emulate than simpler systems like MS-DOS, or more open systems like Unix (cloned by Linux).

Windows clones are software that attempt to mimic the entire operating system from its user interface down to its underlying programming interface (or Application Programming Interface, "API"). It can run directly on hardware, such as a new machine, and operates as a complete system on its own.

Windows emulators are software that run on top of another operating system that attempt to imitate the entire operating system from its user interface down to its API. There are no true Windows emulators listed on this page (at least, not at the time I wrote this paragraph).

Windows emulation layers are merely API layers that pretends to a program that it is running on top of Windows. The emulation layer runs on top of another full fledged operating system. It allows you to run Windows programs in your machine even though you are not actually running Windows.

Note that defunct Windows clone projects that have not released any code are not listed below. (There have been a couple of such projects that have announced grandiose plans but not actually released anything.)

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Free Windows Clones, Emulators and Emulation Layers

ReactOS - React Operating System

This is a free, open source operating system that attempts to clone the entire interface and programming interface of a Windows XP system. When it is fully operational, it intends to be able to run all the programs and device drivers that can work in a true Windows system. At the time this review was written, the system is still under development, although the source code and progress to date can be downloaded and experimented with. The OS is mostly released under the GNU General Public License, although some code from other projects (eg WINE) are licensed differently (eg LGPL).

WINE - Wine Is Not an Emulator

WINE stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator. In spite of its name, it is an emulation layer that allows programs written for Windows to run on POSIX type (Unix-based) systems like Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X and Solaris. That is, the software enables you to run Windows programs in your (say) Linux operating system as though it is running in Windows. This software has been around for many years, and a large number of Windows programs already run on it. It's useful if you prefer to use another operating system, but occasionally need to run certain Windows applications. You do not need a Windows licence to run Windows programs under the supported operating systems with this software.

EOS: Emulator Operating System

(Update: this project appears to be dead and is no longer available.) EOS is an operating system that intends to be able to run programs from Windows, Linux, MS-DOS, BEOS, and AmigaOS. You thus don't need to worry about what operating system the program is designed for, just download it and run it. It is based on Linux and FreeBSD, and uses code from various other projects like WINE and ReactOS (see other entries on this page).

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