I read an article by Mary Jo Foley the other day that talked about enthusiasts bringing the Windows Longhorn project back to life. Microsoft eventually transformed the Longhorn project into what we now know as Windows Vista, but a small group of people are looking to revive the original operating system with a project called Longhorn Reloaded! If you don’t remember what Longhorn was supposed to be, here is a small reminder:


Longhorn Reloaded is a modified version of Windows 4074 which was handed out at WinHEC in May 2004. While it featured a lot of improvements, there was still a long ways that Microsoft had to go on it. In the end, Microsoft had put too much work on their plate so they decided to modify their original plans so that they were more feasible. Windows Vista was the result of the new plans.

The Longhorn Reloaded project has released their first milestone which includes some nice touches to the operating system, and is still based strongly on the Windows XP foundation. You’ll notice on the download page that they provide the serial number required for installation, which puts the legality of this project in question.

I decided to try out Longhorn Reloaded myself, and the first thing that I had to do was download the 780MB ISO image from their site. This was done via a Torrent file and took me about 6 hours to complete. 

I then created a small partition (16GB) on my hard drive to install the operating system. It is still based on XP so it uses only a small amount of hard drive space initially. Then I stuck the CD in and let it go!

The setup process is fairly straightforward for anyone that has done a fresh install of XP before:

Longhorn Longhorn Longhorn

Then the fun begins…

Before playing with Longhorn Reloaded, I had forgotten about what the project really was. The sidebar is meant to replace the Quick Launch Bar and System Tray, which I think is a cool idea. The transparency isn’t quite like what Vista now has, but there is some of it in this release.

Instead of giving you a bunch of screenshots to checkout, I put together a quick video that demonstrates the current state of the Longhorn Reloaded project:

Download the original video (32MB)

There is still a lot of work needed, and one thing that you need to keep in mind while using the operating system is that there are no Windows Updates. You can see this in the video when I open the Automatic Updates tab, where everything there is grayed out. So you get no updates from Microsoft, which also means that there could be open vulnerabilities.

A big downfall of this project is that it still requires activation through Microsoft. Well, I’m sure there is a way to patch the 60–day activation limitation, but that would definitely take the project over-the-edge in terms of legality.

Playing with Longhorn Reloaded was kinda fun, but the operating system was still in the very early stages when it was dropped by Microsoft which makes me weary to use it on a regular basis. It’s not really something that I can compare to Vista either, because they are very different concepts and have very different features. If you have a spare partition on your hard drive it might be fun for you to give it a shot though, and make sure to let us know what you think of it! 

Longhorn Reloaded Homepage