History Of Microsoft Windows

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Michael Justin Allen Sexton

Michael Justin Allen Sexton is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware component news, specializing in CPUs and motherboards.

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  • Sc00ps
    Keep these sort of articles coming! They are interesting!
  • nine9fingers
    You have to remember, Gates added nothing to PC-dos, Dos or Windows, all he was ever interested was collecting a penny from each USER
  • shrapnel_indie
    Although you don't hear about it anymore, rumors existed of Bill Gates dumpster diving to get his BASIC code. It was also Microsoft's partnership with OEMs that ensured no other OS had a shot of becoming popular. MS had legal issues that appeared later for the practice as it forced OEMs who wanted to use MS Operating Systems into exclusivity.


    WARNING: Conspiracy theory found within comment.

    I also still think the history between OS/2 and Windows NT is sketchy. Look at some of the naming conventions between parts (i.e. OS/2: HPFS, WinNT:NTFS), which I see is mentioned when talking about NT3.1. Also, look at how OS/2 didn't actually make major and needed improvements until after Microsoft ended the partnership between IBM and themselves. IMHO, MS was, despite what they told IBM, working on their OS/2 killer from day 1 (mostly planning, and learning at the earliest of stages.) Using the knowledge of IBM to learn and build from from the early stages, while making sure OS/2 wasn't good enough too compete when the time came.
  • bit_user
    Too bad OS/2 got killed off. I knew some folks who really liked it.

    Also, please review ReactOS (http://reactos.org).

    A couple points:


    Me: DOS 5.0 -> DOS 6.22 -> Win3.1 -> (briefly Win95) -> WinNT 4 Server -> Win2k Server -> WinXP Pro -> Win7 Pro

    And I first booted Linux in 1991.
  • lunyone
    And I have used about every one of these OS's (except the XP 64bit)... :)
  • synphul
    I ran most of these at one point in time. Before switching to xp I was happy to get rid of win9x and replace it with win2k, the nt based os's were a lot more stable and seemed to have better memory management.

    I think it's why xp was so successful, prior to xp there was a sort of division between home and business operating systems. The home varieties still being dos based with the business versions like win2k being nt based. Most things ran well on win2k but they didn't have quite the expansive program/driver support that the dos based had.

    When xp rolled out it merged the best of both worlds, the stability of the nt kernel, improved memory management and the broader driver/app support of the 'home' flavors. Likely one of the best single moves MS made in their history of the windows os.
  • Martell1977
    What about Windows 3.11 for Workgroups? That was my first Windows operating system. I had DOS 6.22 with it, which is where I spent most of my time.

    Also, I was surprised there was no mention of when MS partnered (with no contract) with Apple and took the GUI/mouse interface, which ironically they got from Xerox.

    Lastly, when did NTFS get introduced? And I was surprised there was no mention of how Windows XP was able to install/run on FAT32 or NTFS, but on NTFS it seemed more stable and ran faster. IIRC, Windows XP was the last Windows OS to use FAT32.

    I remember someone telling me that Windows 98 got it's name from the fact that you had to reinstall it every 98 days as it degraded so fast...LMAO!
  • bit_user
    421295 said:
    I remember someone telling me that Windows 98 got it's name from the fact that you had to reinstall it every 98 days as it degraded so fast...LMAO!
    There was an infamous bug in Win95 or Win98, where the machine would crash every 28 days when some timer overflowed.

    I think Win98 had some sort of background optimizer that ran defrag and maybe something else. I seem to recall it got a lot of bad press, at least until SE. I never ran either, as I was already on NT 4 Server, with a quad-CPU machine!
  • Tom Griffin
    Seems to be missing Windows/286, Windows/386 and Windows NT 3.5x. Fun days using Microsoft Macro Assembler to access the Windows API.
  • turkey3_scratch
    I vaguely remember when I was like 3 years old on the Windows 2000 machine playing some Teletubbies game on the Internet. That old machine is still in the basement, I should open it up. I don't think it works anymore.
  • shrapnel_indie
    289610 said:
    Seems to be missing Windows/286, Windows/386 and Windows NT 3.5x. Fun days using Microsoft Macro Assembler to access the Windows API.


    Read again. Window/286 Windows/386 got a brief mention, but not as their own panel.
  • CRITICALThinker
    Love the article, now if only windows could make the search function actually useful in windows 10
  • dannyjr
    I loved using DOS as a child. Even when there was Windows 3.1 at the time, I still preferred doing stuff on the command line. I even used WordStar over MS Write. I started using Windows more when Win95 came out. I also used Win98/SE, and Win2k up until XP. It took me awhile to transition out of XP and use Vista. Win7 is, I think, still the best Windows ever made. Win8 and 8.1 were disappointing. I currently have Win10, and while it was better than 8, I would rate it a notch below 7, because of the lack of the classic start menu, and because they keep hiding/disabling expert features, to "protect dumb users from themselves".

    Oh, and I writing this comment using Lubuntu. Cause while I like Windows, I also like using Linux.
  • David_509
    Where's Bob?
  • mitch074
    Windows 95 integrated Internet Explorer with the OSR2.5, or when you installed Internet Explorer 4 over a previous OSR.
    As for Windows XP Pro x64, it was actually a slightly modified Windows Server 2003; they did use the same service pack file, and merely had different defaults at install.
  • weakerthans4
    As a windows phone owner, I feel that I should point out that you failed to mention the part where MS muffed a great mobile opportunity that Nokia laid out for them. I want to see what that slide looks like...
  • IInuyasha74
    289610 said:
    Seems to be missing Windows/286, Windows/386 and Windows NT 3.5x. Fun days using Microsoft Macro Assembler to access the Windows API.


    For Windows/286 and Windows/386, look a little closer at the Windows 2.1 page. The three OSes are the same, just sold with a different name occasionally for marketing purposes.

    I wrestled with the idea of putting Windows NT 3.5 in, but didn't. I wanted this to piece to mostly focus on consumer oriented OSes. Windows NT was really more of a business solution, and although I did discuss Windows NT 3.1 and 4.0, I didn't want to dwell on NT too much. I may go back and add in an additional slide for Windows NT 3.5 later, however, as I'm still a little on the fence.
  • jhansonxi
    OS/2 included Windows and could run Windows apps.

    OSR2.1B (or C) was the gold standard for Win95 installs.

    Win98 was not less prone to crashing. 98lite was mandatory to make it usable. Win98SE was at least stable.

    WinME didn't just fail because of DOS support. It was slow. System File Protection was more useful for creating persistent malware infections than preventing typical DLL hell from bad installers.

    WinXP wasn't usable until SP1 (many people stayed with Win2K). SP2 was a substantial improvement over SP1 and is when it became popular.

    Vista was an attempt to fix 20 years of bad third-party programming practices, especially the practice of user-generated files sharing the same directory as the apps creating them. It wasn't popular but the problems had to be dealt with.
  • bit_user
    2361974 said:
    Where's Bob?
    OMG, I totally missed this, the first time I read it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Bob Not really an OS, though.

    Speaking of which, I wonder if you can get some sort of Clippy avatar for Cortana.
  • Cryio
    If you had 2 articles for W8 and W8.1 and 3 articles for XP, I think you could've had 3 articles for Windows 10, given it's a radically different state now, 2016, RS1 than in 2015 in TH1. We're at the 3rd major build of W10 people.
  • rwinches
    Windos for Workgroups 3.11 ran Netbios which was not routable. It was fine for SOHO.
    Windows 3.1 with 32bit extensions added for internet access was confusingly became labled 3.11

    NT 3.1 Workstation mem min requirement was originally 4MB recommended 16MB at a time when mem was very expensive due to a factory fire where a majority of the grey goop for mem chips was made.

    After Ray Noorda doomed Novell buying Wordperfect (we're not gonna do Windows) instead of going with the SuperNetOS that Novell founder Drew Major wanted (UNIX and Novell running on Carousel) Microsoft added that crappy LanManager16 (from OS/2) to NT which upped the min mem rec. So NT went from Workstation to Workstation/Server.
  • shrapnel_indie
    328798 said:
    2361974 said:
    Where's Bob?
    OMG, I totally missed this, the first time I read it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Bob Not really an OS, though. Speaking of which, I wonder if you can get some sort of Clippy avatar for Cortana.


    I'd rather have an easy way to shut Cortana down and remove her completely... but as is MS style when they feel they know better (or want an excuse for bundling something that is a monopolistic move) they integrate her into the OS to make it a royal pain to remove. (Made so to remove her is to cripple something else that is unrelated, in Windows)
  • bit_user
    330834 said:
    330834 said:
    Speaking of which, I wonder if you can get some sort of Clippy avatar for Cortana.
    I'd rather have an easy way to shut Cortana down and remove her completely... but as is MS style when they feel they know better (or want an excuse for bundling something that is a monopolistic move)
    Ah, well, I never used Cortana but I wanted to somehow weave together Bob -> Clippy -> Cortana into some sort of progression. If I were forced to use Cortana, I feel that sticking such a widely-reviled face on it would be somehow appropriate.

    Personally, I find that things like Cortana and Siri don't appeal to me, but I'm also pretty old skool. It sounds like MS hasn't fully learned their lesson from Windows 8. They need to understand that they won't regain their fortunes by forcing change down people's throats. Because if you force change on me, I might opt for a different sort of change. The first time I have some hardware that Win 7 won't support, I expect I'll be taking ReactOS for a spin.

    About the only thing that still interests me about MS is Hololens.
  • lunyone
    328798 said:
    330834 said:
    330834 said:
    Speaking of which, I wonder if you can get some sort of Clippy avatar for Cortana.
    I'd rather have an easy way to shut Cortana down and remove her completely... but as is MS style when they feel they know better (or want an excuse for bundling something that is a monopolistic move)
    Ah, well, I never used Cortana but I wanted to somehow weave together Bob -> Clippy -> Cortana into some sort of progression. If I were forced to use Cortana, I feel that sticking such a widely-reviled face on it would be somehow appropriate. Personally, I find that things like Cortana and Siri don't appeal to me, but I'm also pretty old skool. It sounds like MS hasn't fully learned their lesson from Windows 8. They need to understand that they won't regain their fortunes by forcing change down people's throats. Because if you force change on me, I might opt for a different sort of change. The first time I have some hardware that Win 7 won't support, I expect I'll be taking ReactOS for a spin. About the only thing that still interests me about MS is Hololens.


    I agree with what you say. I'm holding onto Win 7 as long as it makes sense to me. The only way I will use Windows 10 is if my new laptop comes with it, which it will when I get around to saving up the $ for it :) I ran into an old Windows 98 SE disk the other day and game me flashbacks to all of the times I used to format and re-install it to clean out all of the internet crap :)