Microsoft Windows Complete History

By | December 17, 2017

Microsoft Windows has been in development for over 30 years. Every release with more enhancements and features than its predecessor. There has been some winning releases and also some duds, but it is not difficult to see why Windows is the most popular computer operating system on the market to date. We have prepared a breakdown of the journey Windows took to arrive here. Hope you like it!

Windows is a graphical personal computer operating environment developed by Microsoft. While developing applications for Apple’s (Steve Jobs) Macintosh in 1984, Microsoft (Bill Gates) licensed certain parts of the Macintosh’s graphical user interface from Apple. Windows was a direct result from Microsoft’s involvement with Apple.

Windows 1

Windows 1.0 was released in November, 1985. It was 16-bit multi-tasking shell that runs on top of an existing MSDOS installation. It required only two floppy disks and 192KB of RAM to run. Microsoft described it as a device driver for MSDOS 2.0. It supported cooperative multitasking in tiled windows.

Microsoft Windows 1.0

Microsoft Windows 1.0 Multitasking Shell

Windows 2

Windows 2.0 was released in December, 1987 as the successor to Windows 1.0. Windows 2.0 allowed application windows to overlap each other and the terminology “Minimize” and “Maximize” was introduced in this version. It supported VGA graphics and EMS memory. Windows/286 2.10 and Windows/386 2.10 were released in May, 1988. It took advantage of specific features of the Intel 80286 and Intel 80386 processors. In March, 1989 Windows 2.11 was released with some minor changes in memory management.

Microsoft Windows 2.0

Microsoft Windows 2.0

Windows 3

Windows 3.0 was released in May, 1990 and featured an improved user interface and better multitasking. The MSDOS file manager/program launcher was replaced with the icon-based Program Manager and the list-based File Manager. The first Notepad, Paint (Paintbrush) and Solitaire versions also made their appearance in this release. Windows 3.0 was the only version of Windows that could be run in three different memory modes and required 384KB of free conventional memory (real mode), 1MB (Standard Mode), or 2MB (Enhanced Mode). It also required 6MB of free Hard Disk space for normal operation.

Microsoft Windows 3.0

Microsoft Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0a was released in December, 1990 with improved ability to move data pieces greater than 64KB. In October 1991 Windows 3.0 with Multimedia Extensions was released and supported sound cards (like Create Labs Sound Blaster) and CDROM drives. This release also added support for audio input and output including new applications like Media Player and the Audio CD player.

Windows 3.1 was released in April, 1992 and introduced several enhancements; including approved stability, expanded multimedia support, TrueType fonts and workgroup networking. Windows 3.11 was released in Novermber, 1993 and only corrected problems that came with Windows 3.1.

Microsoft Windows 3.11

Microsoft Windows 3.11

Windows for Workgroups 3.1 was releases in October, 1992 and featured native networking support. Windows for Workgroups 3.11 was released in August, 1993 and supported 32-bit file access.

Microsoft Windows for Workgroups

Microsoft Windows for Workgroups

Windows 95

Windows 95 was released in August, 1995 and features significantly improved graphical user interface (GUI) and plug-n-play. It moved from a mainly co-operatively multitasked 16-bit architecture to a pre-emptively multitasked 32-bit architecture. This released also saw the appearance of the taskbar and Start Menu.

Microsoft Windows 95 First Run

Microsoft Windows 95 First Run

Windows 98

Windows 98 was released in May, 1998 and was basically Windows 95 with some minor changes. Windows 98 Second Edition (SE) was released in May, 1999 and featured; improved WDM audio and modem support, improved USB support and Internet Explorer 4.0 was replaced with Internet Explorer 5.0.

Microsoft Windows 98

Microsoft Windows 98 Desktop

Windows Millennium Edition (ME)

Windows Millennium Edition (ME) was released in September, 2000 and came bundled with Internet Explorer 5.5, Windows Media Player 7 and Windows Movie Maker. The graphical user interface and shell features was also improved.

Microsoft Windows ME

Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition

Windows XP

Windows XP was released in October, 2001 as part of the Windows NT family of operating systems. The interface was overhauled with a new visual appearance. This release also added ClearType and subpixel rendering to improve the appearance of fonts on LCD displays. It also introduced new system icons. Windows XP also introduced product activation that required each Windows license be activated.

Microsoft Windows XP

Microsoft Windows XP Start Menu and Desktop

Windows Vista

Windows Vista was released in January, 2007 and featured an updated user interface, a visual style named Aero, a new search component called Windows Search, redesigned networking, audio, print and display sub-systems and new multimedia tools like Windows DVD Maker.

Microsoft Windows Vista

Microsoft Windows Vista

Windows 7

Windows 7 was released in October, 2009 and was intended to be an incremental upgrade to address the problems with Windows Vista. Windows 7 features an improved Aero interface and a redesigned taskbar that allowed applications to be pinned to it. It also came with other new features, like libraries, HomeGroups, support for multitouch and a new Action Centre interface. Windows 7 was also bundled with updated versions of Internet Explorer 8, Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center.

Microsoft Windows 7

Microsoft Windows 7

Windows 8

Windows 8 was released in October, 2012 and introduced major changes to the user interface to improve user experience on tablets. The main changes include touch optimized Metro design, Start Screen and a new platform for developing apps. This was done to compete against mobile operating systems like Android and iOS. Windows 8 added support for USB3.0, Advanced Format hard drives, near field communications and cloud computing. Windows 8.1 was released in October, 2013. Windows 8.1 was released as an upgrade to Windows 8 and featured an improved Start Screen, a visible Start Button on the taskbar and OneDrive integration.

Microsoft Windows 8

Microsoft Windows 8 Metro Start Screen

Windows 10

Windows 10 was released in July, 2015. Windows 10 introduces the “universal” application architecture as described by Microsoft; expanding on Metro-style apps, these apps can be designed to run across multiple Microsoft product families, including PCs, tablets, smartphones, embedded systems, Xbox One, Surface Hub and HoloLens. Windows 10 also introduced Task view, a Virtual Desktop system, the Microsoft Edge web browser and other new and updated applications. The Start Menu is back and updated after it was removed from Windows 8.

Microsoft Windows 10

Microsoft Windows 10 Start Menu and Desktop


I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Windows has come a long way since its introduction in 1985 and nobody can predict what the future will hold for the Windows operating system. I just hope that Microsoft learned from their Windows Vista and Windows 8 mistakes.

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One thought on “Microsoft Windows Complete History

  1. Pingback: Windows XP is almost 18 years old. It is time to get over it!