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This is a work in progress by Z98

This page contains a list of reference materials separated by topic. Most are relevant to ReactOS development and several others are related to Microsoft(C) technologies. They have been separated by category so you can better choose what materials are of interest to you. Some duplication of links may happen if the need arises to put them into two categories.


Before you can begin programming an operating system, you need to know how to program. The following are references and tutorials that one can use to learn various principles. As ReactOS uses primary C, C++, and Assembly, we will only cover those in this section. The Assembly languages we will cover will be for Intel/AMD and PowerPC, as those are the only architectures ReactOS has code for. For C# and .NET related matters, scroll downwards. Each reference will be ranked as Introductory, Intermediate, or Advanced. Introductory assumes no knowledge of programming, Intermediate assumes you know how to use the language in question, and Advanced covers some of the more tricky topics in programming. Some may be more than one and a rare few will cover topics from all three.


A general C++ tutorial that covers the first basic program to more advanced topics like templates. -Introductory/Intermediate

This tutorial is huge. It covers a large range of topics in C programming and focuses a lot on its use on UNIX platforms. However, in doing so, it also teaches you a lot about what C is capable of and how it's used in an operating system. -Introductory/Intermediate/Advanced

Pointers are some of the trickiest things to work with in C/C++. This tutorial provides examples of various techniques that take advantage of them. -Intermediate/Advanced

A very nice reference to the C and C++ Standard Libraries. In order to do anything substantial or even trivial, you're likely to be using things from the Standard Libraries. -Intermediate/Advanced

An introduction to IBM's PowerPC. If you've never seen assembly code before, I'd advise you start with learning the assembly for a RISC architecture like the PPC. Good PPC tutorials can actually be hard to come by, but these should get you started. -Intermediate -Intermediate -Intermediate

These two are guides to Intel's assembly language. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but they seem to complement each other well. -Intermediate -Intermediate

A fairly verbose win32 tutorial. There isn't a lot of meat in it, but it provides a basic understanding of how the Windows API operates. -Intermediate

SEH is how exceptions are handled in Windows. If you want to do system programming, you're going to need to learn it. -Advanced


The book for the Windows API. ReactOS uses the win32 API extensively for any of its own graphical applications as well as support the various win32 applications written by third parties.

Programming Windows, 5th Edition ISBN 1-5723-1995-X -Intermediate/Advanced

The book for using the Microsoft Foundation Classes. While ReactOS does not support MFC, we could potentially do so in the future if someone were to implement it. Of course, one would have to be thoroughly familiar with MFC to do so.

Programming Windows with MFC ISBN 1-5723-1695-0 -Intermediate/Advanced

Operating Systems

The intent of this section is to pick up where the programming section left off in getting people up to speed. As such, the links here are aimed at familiarizing people with OS fundamentals and then introducing the Windows NT architecture. It is not intended to provide links to every other operating system in existence. The references here are tagged as Introductory, Intermediate, or Advanced. However, the tags are in the context of operating system knowledge, not general computer science knowledge. In general, one should be at the Intermediate for programming to fully understand the Introductory material here. Introductory material tends to be concept explanations. By the time implementation begins being covered in depth, we're in the Intermediate range.


An excellent overview and introduction to the principles behind operating systems. This link contains much of the information the Minix OS book also has, but of course does not include OS specific implementations, just generalized ones. If you want an introduction to operating systems, this is the page to start with. -Introductory

This explains the principles behind how a computer boots into an operating system. It doesn't delve into the code behind it, but provides the general outline of what is going on. -Introductory

A tutorial on how to write your own simple kernel. Some of this won't make much sense unless you're familiar with the Introductory materials. -Intermediate

WDM is the driver model used in 2000, XP, and Vista, though Vista is slowly transitioning it out. This provides an outline of WDM as well as links to getting the Driver Development Kit. -Intermediate

WDF is the new driver model for Windows Vista. This provides an introduction and links to various resources. Also, the new Windows Driver Kit includes the various headers needed for filesystem drivers, which will come in handy once ReactOS can handle new filesystems. -Intermediate


A book that covers the theory behind operating systems and also examines their implementation in Minix. It's a great book for learning the fundamentals and immediately delve into how they're transformed into code. While this book does cover the basics, its implementation angle is based on a microkernel design, not the monolithic kernel in general use today.

Operating Systems: Design and Implementation (The Minix Book) ISBN 0-4716-9466-5 -Introductory/Intermediate/Advanced

The book for learning about the Windows operating system. This book covers 2000, XP, and Server 2003.

Windows Internals, Fourth Edition ISBN 0-7356-1917-4 -Intermediate/Advanced

This is perhaps the only book that examines the internals of the NTFS file system.

Windows NT File System Internals ISBN 1-5659-2249-2 -Advanced

WDM is the driver model used in 2000, XP, and Vista, though Vista is slowly transitioning it out. As ReactOS' aim is for XP compatibility, we will also be implementing WDM.

Programming the Microsoft Windows Driver Model, Second Edition ISBN 0-7356-1803-8 -Advanced

WDF is the new driver model for Windows Vista. As Microsoft has tied in DirectX 10 to this, ReactOS will eventually need to implement it.

Developing Drivers with the Windows Driver Foundation ISBN 0-73-562374-0 -Advanced


While ReactOS does not have any components to support .NET, it is the future of Windows application programming and will have to be dealt with. .NET is a remarkable piece of technology, though not without its own issues. Some of the more interesting ways to use C# have only begun to emerge as Microsoft begins releasing some of the technology they've developed as part of their Singularity project. While this section does include links to some things still in R&D, our primary focus will be on the underlying principles of what is in production use today. Unlike the programming section above, we won't bother linking intro tutorials on C# and the like. Instead we'll focus on the underlying technologies and concepts as well as some of its more interesting applications.


The Introduction to MSIL by Kenny Kerr is a very nice set of tutorials on MSIL, the bytecode Visual Studio generates for .NET applications. While learning MSIL is not essential to learning how to use .NET, it is somewhat analogous to learning assembly in order to understand the foundations of C. The articles are in reverse order, bottom to top. -Intermediate/Advanced

Windows 9x and 3.x

Prior to XP, Windows existed in two main versions, server versions (2000,NT) based on the NT model, and desktop versions (ME,98,95) which whilst mostly 32bit, still relied on DOS.

Prior to NT, Windows 3.x (3.11,3.1,3.0) was a 16 bit based Grpahical shell and user interface provided over DOS. An extension for 3.11 Win32s provided some of the NT api under limited circumstances.

Even earlier versions of Windows (286,386,2.0,1.0) exist, but these were mainly used as shells over DOS, with few native applications.

16-bit Generation

The operating system that got Microsoft off the ground, the 16-bit DOS is still with us today, acting as the command line interface for Windows. DOS was also the core of the Windows 9x family, which had thousands of applications written for it. The main reason for application breakage as people moved to 2000 and XP was because DOS allowed far more freedom in accessing hardware and other system resources. While DOS itself has long been made obsolete, knowledge of it is still useful and several projects exist trying to update it for the 21st century.

In modern versions, Microsoft has a variety of tools and applications that have allowed 16bit applications to continue to run on their 32bit operating systems. This compatibility is achieved through the combination of NTVDM and WOWEXEC.


There are two primary open source DOS implementations. FreeDOS attempts to create a system completely compatible with MS-DOS while updating it for newer hardware. However, FreeDOS also duplicates some of the limitations that MS-DOS had. FreeDOS-32 attempts to expand upon what Microsoft created, producing a pure 32bit operating system capable of running 16bit DOS applications. FreeDOS would in theory make a great foundation for attempts to clone the Windows 9x family, which was ReactOS' goal before the target was shifted to NT.

Even if one has a DOS system to work with, guides to use it are certain useful. -Introductory

Batch files are basically command scripts. As DOS was a command line operating system, it figures you could chain commands together into a single script and then execute that script. Also, batch files can be used in 2000 and XP to do certain tasks. -Intermediate


Before WDM, VxD was the driver model for the Windows operating system. Many people described it as excruciating and hard to work with, which was what prompted the shift to WDM. Though it has long been deprecated, knowing an operating system's driver model exposes a lot about its kernel and internal architecture.

Writing Windows VxD and Device Drivers, Second Edition ISBN 0-8793-0438-3