The following chart lists the consumer Windows version since Windows 95. System requirements are based on our experience and do not equal Microsoft’s official requirements, which are lower, but often result in serious system performance issues.
|Version||Code name||Introduction||Key Features||Requirements||Comments|
|Windows 95||Chicago||August 1995||32-bit preemptive multi-tasking with 16-bit kernel, long file names, new shell, 32-bit disk access||486 CPU8MB RAM120MB storage||Internet Explorer 3.0 and FAT32 file system added later, USB support added later (OEM SR2 – Detroit)|
|Windows 98||Memphis||June 1998||first to use WDM (Windows Driver Model), Internet Connection Sharing (ICS)||Pentium CPU32MB-64MB RAM210MB storage||Second Edition (SE) in May 1999|
|Windows ME||Millennium||Sept 2000||.Net framework supported,Windows 2000 TCP/IP stack with NDIS 5.0, System Restore, DirectX 7.1, compressed folders, USB mass storage||Pentium II CPU128MB RAM320MB storage||With Internet Explorer 5, Media Player 7, Movie Maker, DOS mode dropped,Dubbed “Mistake Edition” by PC World|
|Windows XP||Whistler||October 2001||Windows NT 5.0 architecture, product activation, faster, user switching, multiple editions, 32- and 64-bit||300 MHz CPU256MB to 1GB RAM1.5GB-2.5GB storage||Internet Explorer 6,SP1 in 2002: USB 2.0, 137+ GB HDDs SP2 in 2004: new Firewall|
|Windows Vista||Longhorn||November 2006||Aero GUI, new Explorer and shell, Sidebar, Indexing, SuperFetch, ReadyDrive, ReadyBoost, User Access Control, IPv6 support, DirectX 10, virtualization support||800 MHz CPU1GB RAM15GB storageDX9 graphics||Internet Explorer 7, Media Player 11, DVD Maker, simple file and media sharing, .net framework 3.0, Backup and RestoreExtras such as BitLocker encryption|
|Windows 7||Blackcomb/Vienna||October 2009||Performance benefits, new Superbar taskbar, multi-touch support, home group networking, SSD/TRIM support||1 GHz CPU1GB-2GB RAM20GB storageDX9 graphics||Extras such as Calendar, Mail, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery available through Windows Essentials (free)|
While Windows Vista introduced a number of improvements over Windows XP, Windows 7 was primarily designed to be “more user-centric” (Bill Gates), faster, and more broadly compatible. Still, there are several enhancements that should be mentioned.
Touch (referred to as multi-touch technology) and handwriting recognition have been improved, which should come in handy for tablet PC and keyboard-free PC solutions, such as kiosks, ATMs, and the like. Windows 7 also implements heterogeneous graphics card support, which allows users to run multi-monitor setups with completely different graphics processors (such as one card from Nvidia and another from AMD). The WindowsSecurityCenter, which wasn’t very popular, has now become the WindowsActionCenter. It includes security settings and general system management. Instead of the old taskbar, which allowed users to add application shortcuts, we now have application “pinning” into the Superbar, which helps simplify access to common applications and reordering of task buttons.
Windows 7 also implements the TRIM feature. This is a valuable add-on for solid state drive (SSD) users, allowing the operating system to tell the SSD which blocks are no longer needed. This is important because SSDs can write only 4KB blocks at a time. Deletion requires much larger block sizes. Once the SSD knows which blocks can be flushed, the entire write process of read, erase, modify, and write can be done much quicker and eventually help to maximize and maintain SSD performance.