The History Of Windows Operating Systems (1985-2021)

Do you know how many Windows versions have been in existence? We have compiled a summary of the different versions of Windows and their functions.

The Development History of Microsoft Windows Operating System

Microsoft Windows operating system was first introduced in 1985. Hence it has been in existence for 35 years now. This is why the operating system has grown to be popular and features many different functions that have helped in making work easier for many agencies, organizations, and institutions.

history of microsoft windows versions

Not only is Windows known for its ease of use and compatibility with many applications, but also the ease of upgrading to the latest versions. Even with the emergence of other popular operating systems, Windows remains one of the most preferred ones.


Different Windows Versions ( 1.0 – 10)


Windows 1.0

microsoft windows version 1.0

Release Date: November 20th, 1985

Other Versions:

  • Windows 1.02 – May 14th, 1986
  • Windows 1.03 – August 21st, 1986
  • Windows 1.04 – August 10th, 1987

Support: Unsupported as of December 31, 2001

Functions:

  • It allowed users to point and click to access the windows.
  • It was named due to the computing boxes or windows that represented an aspect of the operating system.
  • It ran on top of MS-DOS that relied on command line input.
  • It relied heavily on the use of the mouse.
  • It has a game – Reversi that relied on mouse control.

Windows 2.03

Microsoft Windows Versions 2.03

Release Date: December 9th, 1987

Other Versions:

  • Windows 2.10 – May 27th, 1988
  • Windows 2.11 – March 13th, 1989

Support: Unsupported as of December 31st, 2001

Functions:

  • It was designed for the Intel 286 processor
  • The version was added desktop icons, keyboard shortcuts, and improved graphics support.
  • Windows could overlap each other.
  • It could minimize and maximize windows instead of iconizing or zooming
  • Microsoft Word, Excel, and control panel made their first appearance.

Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0

Release Date: May 22nd, 1990

Other versions: Windows 3.1 – April 6th, 1992

Support: Unsupported as of December 31st, 2001

Functions:

  • It offered better icons, performance, advanced graphics, and 16 colors designed for Intel 386 processor.
  • It was the first version that provided the standard “look and feel.”
  • It included a Program Manager, File Manager, Print Manager, and games such as Hearts and Solitaire.
  • The first Windows required a hard drive.

Windows NT 3.1

Windows NT 3.1 version

Release Date: July 27th, 1993

Support: Unsupported as of December 31st, 2001

Functions:

  • It introduced the TrueType fonts and Minesweeper game.
  • It required 1MB of RAM to turn and allowed support of MS-DOS programs to be controlled with a mouse.
  • The first Windows to be distributed on CD-ROM.
  • Added peer-to-peer workgroup and domain networking support.
  • The network-based PCs were network-aware and became an integral part of the emerging client/server computing evolution.

Windows for Workgroups 3.11

Windows for Workgroups 3.11

Release Date: November 8th, 1993

Support: Unsupported as of December 31st, 2001

Functions:

  • It included the Base windows environment and networking extensions all in one package.
  • It included improved network drivers and protocol stacks.
  • It provides support for peer-to-peer networking.
  • It ran in 386 Enhanced modes only.
  • It allowed access to the Internet through corporate networks.

Windows NT 3.5

Windows NT 3.5

Release Date: September 21st, 1994

Support: Unsupported as of December 31st, 2001

Functions:

  • Introduction of a new 32 bit API to replace the legacy 16bit Windows API.
  • It was the first Windows operating system based on a hybrid kernel.
  • It added support for new types of hardware and improved performance and data reliability.
  • The 3.51 release was to update the WIN32 APIs to be compatible with the software being written for the WIN 32c that advanced to Windows 95.

Windows NT 3.51

Windows NT 3.1 version

Release Date: May 30th, 1995

Support: Unsupported as of December 31st, 2001

Functions:

  • It provided the highest degree of protection for critical business applications and data.
  • It had support for the OpenGL graphics standard.
  • It helped power high-end applications for software development, engineering, financial analysis, scientific and business-critical tasks.

Windows 95

Windows 95

Release Date: August 24th, 1995

Other versions:

  • Windows 95 SP1 – December 31st, 1995
  • Windows 95 OSR1 – February 14th, 1996
  • Windows 95 – OSR2 – August 24th, 1996
  • Windows 95 – OSR 2.1 – August 27th, 1997
  • Windows 95 – OSR 2.5 – November 26th, 1997

Support:

  • Mainstream support ended on December 31st, 2000.
  • Extended support ended on December 31st, 2001.

Functions:

  • It supports 32-bit applications meaning they run real fast.
  • It can run older Windows and DOS applications.
  • It can automatically detect and configure installed hardware.
  • Many old DOS limitations, such as 640K of main memory and 8-character filenames, were removed.
  • It launched the first-ever start button, start menu, the taskbar and focused more on multi-tasking.

Windows NT 4.0

Windows NT 4.0

Release Date: August 24th, 1996

Support:

  • Mainstream support ended on June 30th, 2002.
  • Extended support ended on June 30th, 2004.

Functions:

  • The Windows NT is a 32-bit operating system that supports preemptive multitasking.
  • It featured an NT server that acts as a server in networks and Windows NT Workstation for stand-alone or client workstations.

Windows 98

Windows 98

Release Date: May 15th, 1998, Availability – June 25th, 1998

Support:

  • Mainstream support ended on June 30th, 2022.
  • Extended support ended on July 11th, 2006.

Functions:

  • It offers support for several new technologies including FAT2, AGP, MMX, USB, DVD, and ACPI.
  • It is the most visible feature with an Active Desktop that integrates the Internet Explorer with the operating system.
  • Introduction of Outlook Express, Windows Address Book, USB support, Microsoft Chat, and Net show player.
  • It also introduced the back and forward navigation buttons and address bar in Windows Explorer.

Windows 2000/NT 5.0

Windows 2000 NT 5.0

Release Date: December 15th, 1999

Support:

  • Mainstream support ended on June 30th, 2005.
  • Extended support ended on July 13th, 2010.

Functions:

  • It is an operating system for business, desktop and laptop systems to run software applications
  • It is also able to connect to the internet, intranet sites, access files, printers, and network resources.
  • It had four versions: Windows 2000 Professional, Server, Advanced Server, and Datacenter Server.

Windows ME

Windows ME

Release Date: September 14th, 2000

Support:

  • Mainstream support ended on December 31st, 2003
  • Extended support ended on July 11th, 2006

Functions:

  • It was an update of the Windows 98 Core.
  • It included some of the features of the Windows 2000 Operating System
  • The version included the “boot in DOS” option.

Windows XP

Windows XP

Release Date: August 24th, 2001, Availability – October 25th, 2001

Other versions: Windows XP starter, Home, Professional, 64-bit edition, Fundamentals for Legacy PCS.

Support:

  • Mainstream support ended on April 14th, 2009
  • Extended support ended on April 8th, 2014

Functions:

  • It had a redesigned look and feel to the user interface.
  • It is built on the Windows 2000 kernel that gives a user a more stable and reliable environment.
  • It is focused on mobility for both editions, including plug-and-play features for connecting to wireless networks.
  • It utilizes the 802.11x wireless security standard
  • Introduction of ClearType that was designed to make the text easier to read on LCD screens, built-in CD burning, autoplay from CDs, and other media.

Windows Vista

Windows Vista

Release Date: January 30th, 2007

Other Versions: Windows Vista – Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, Ultimate

Support:

  • Mainstream support ended on April 10th, 2012
  • Extended support ended on April 11th, 2017

Functions:

  • It has advanced graphics that allows newer video games to run at a higher video quality and will automatically run in DirectX 9 mode if the video card does not support DirectX 10.
  • It has a backup and restores center that gives you the option of restoring any backed-up files.
  • The Windows XP Media Center Edition is designed primarily for home entertainment purposes which allows one to play movies, music, and TV right from this interface.

Windows 7

Windows 7

Release Date – October 22nd, 2009

Other versions: Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, Ultimate, and Thin PC.

Support:

  • Mainstream support ended on January 13th, 2015
  • Extended support ended on January 14th, 2020

Functions:

  • Using Windows 7, the wireless connection is easier by one-click connections to available networks whether broadband, corporate VPN, or Wi-Fi.
  • Applications can be permanently pinned on the taskbar for easier access.
  • It is faster since the amount of memory needed to open windows and execute commands has been reduced, thus enhancing responsiveness to commands.
  • It has simplified functions such as Aero Shake, Jump Lists which opens files you regularly use in two clicks, and Snap, which enables one to arrange two Windows side-by-side by dragging them to opposite sides of your screen.
  • One can back up lost data over a home or business network.

Windows 8

Windows 8

Release Date: October 26th, 2012

Other Versions: Window 8 Pro, Enterprise, OEM

Support: Unsupported as of January 12th, 2016

Functions:

  • The speed while loading and booting up is quite fast when compared to Windows 7, as well as the hibernation function being introduced, which acts as a temporary shutdown.
  • The desktop is quite attractive since apps can display real-time information; for example, the weather app could show the current weather in a certain place.
  • The search function in Windows 8 is different since instead of having the search widget, one starts typing, and the search bar appears and shows whatever you are typing.
  • It has metro apps that display in full screen and easy to install, which is a win.
  • SkyDrive connectivity is more efficient in Windows 8 since all the data stored in the cloud can be easily accessed by a Windows 8 device.

Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1

Release Date: October 17th, 2013

Other versions: Windows 8.1 Pro, Enterprise, OEM, Bing

Support:

  • Mainstream support ended on January 9th, 2018
  • Extended support ends on January 10th, 2023

Functions:

  • It is easier to resize the desktop icons and the start menu tiles.
  • Windows 8.1 gives the user a chance to group apps into various categories.
  • It has hot corners whereby each corner in the screen has different functions.
  • In Windows 8.1, the apps update automatically, which is enabled by default though you can disable that function if you do not like it.
  • Windows 8.1 allows the user to set the same background for both the desktop and start home screen.

Windows 10

Windows 10 version

Release Date: July 29th, 2015

Other Versions: Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, Pro for Education, Enterprise, Enterprise LTSC, Education, IoT Core, IoT Enterprise, 10S

Support:

  • 2015 LTSB – Mainstream support until October 13th, 2020, extended support – October 14th, 2025
  • 2016 LTSB – Mainstream support until October 12th, 2021, extended support – October 13th, 2026
  • 2019 LTSC – Mainstream support until January 9th, 2024, extended support – January 9th, 2029

Functions:

  • It has fast browsing due to the presence of the newly introduced Microsoft edge.
  • Microsoft 10 uses tiles to personalize one’s start screen, which is done easily as well as making it easy for the user to access respective applications.
  • The taskbar can be used to pin more applications depending on one’s preference.
  • In the search bar, all applications on your PC will be arranged in alphabetical order.
  • It has an action centerthath, when clicked, shows all settings and maintenance tools in one area.

Conclusion

Windows has evolved over the years and will continue getting updated. Hence, whenever a new version comes up, it is way wiser to upgrade to get the most of the new features. However, ensure to research enough about it to ensure there are no bugs in the initial version.

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