Microsoft Windows has seen nine major versions since its first release in 1985. Over 29 years later, Windows looks very different but somehow familiar with elements, increases in computing power and – most recently – a shift from the keyboard and mouse to the touchscreen.

Here’s a brief look at the history of Windows, since Windows 1 to the latest arrival under new Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.


Windows 1

It is officially released on November 20, 1985, this 16-bit OS that costs less than 1MB in overall is Microsoft’s very first operating system that allows multi tasking with graphical user interface on PC platform that runs on MS-DOS 5.0.

Development was spearheaded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and ran on top of MS-DOS, which relied on command-line input.

It was notable because it relied heavily on use of a mouse before the mouse was a common computer input device. To get people familiar with this method, Microsoft had also included a game.


Windows 1

Two years after the release of Windows 1, Microsoft’s Windows 2 replaced it in December 1987. The big innovation for Windows 2 was that it introduced the ability to minimise or maximise windows instead of “iconising” or “zooming”.

The control panel, where various system settings and configuration options were collected together in one place, was introduced in Windows 2 and survives to this day.

Microsoft Word and Excel also made their first appearances running on Windows 2.

Taking advantage of the speed of Intel 286/386 processor at that time, Windows 2.03 is a replacement for Windows 1.x. It also starts the era where users are able to overlap windows, customize screens, etc.


Windows 3

This is the third major released of Microsoft Windows with a improved set of Windows icons and applications like File Manager, Program Manager that is still being used in today’s Windows. This 22 May 1990 released OS is then replaced by Windows 3.1 two years later.

The first Windows that required a hard drive launched in 1990. Windows 3 was the first version to see more widespread success and be considered a challenger to Apple’s Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga graphical user interfaces, coming pre-installed on computers from PC-compatible manufacturers including Zenith Data Systems.

Windows 3 introduced the ability to run MS-DOS programmes in windows, which brought multitasking to legacy programmes, and supported 256 colours bringing a more modern, colourful look to the interface.

More important – at least to the sum total of human time wasted – it introduced the card-moving timesink (and mouse use trainer) Solitaire.


The first Windows New Technology (NT) was introduced. It maintains consistency with the Windows 3.1, a well-established home and business operating system at the time, the new Windows NT operating system began with version 3.1. It was a 32-bit operating system.

Windows 1 and 2 both had point release updates, but Windows 3.1 released in 1992 is notable because it introduced TrueType fonts making Windows a viable publishing platform for the first time.

Minesweeper also made its first appearance. Windows 3.1 required 1MB of RAM to run and allowed supported MS-DOS programs with a mouse controller. Windows 3.1 was also the first Windows to be distributed on a CD-ROM, although once installed on a hard drive it only took upto 10 – 15MB of storage.


Windows 95

Windows 95 was arrived in August 1995 and with it is the first to come with a Start Button and Start Menu(launched with a gigantic advertising campaign.

It also introduced the concept of “plug and play” – connect a peripheral and the operating system finds the appropriate drivers for it and makes it work.

Windows 95 also introduced a 32-bit environment, the task bar and focused on multitasking. MS-DOS still played an important role for Windows 95, which required it to run some programmes and elements.

Internet Explorer also made its debut on Windows 95, but was not installed by default requiring the Windows 95 Plus! pack. Later revisions of Windows 95 included IE by default, as Netscape Navigator and NCSA Mosaic were popular at the time.

Previously code-named Chicago, Windows 95 is a successor to all the existing Windows operating system so far. It gives full graphical user interface support, integrated a 32-bit TCP/IP stack for built-in Internet support, dial-up networking, and new Plug and Play capabilities for easy installation of Hardware and Software.


Windows 98

Windows 98 was the upgrade from Windows 95. USB support was much improved in Windows 98.Windows 98 was the first version of Windows designed specifically for consumers – Microsoft.

It was released in June 1998, Windows 98 was built on Windows 95 and brought with it IE 4, Outlook Express, Windows Address Book, Microsoft Chat and NetShow Player, which was replaced by Windows Media Player in Windows 98 Second Edition(1999)

Windows 98 introduced the back and forward navigation buttons and the address bar in Windows Explorer, apart from this, one of the biggest changes was the introduction of the Windows Driver Model for computer components and accessories – one driver to support all future versions of Windows.


Windows 2000

Windows 2000 was released in February 2000 and was based on Microsoft’s business-orientated system Windows NT and later became the basis for Windows XP.

Microsoft’s automatic updating played an important role in Windows 2000 and became the first Windows to support hibernation.

More than just the upgrade to Windows NT Workstation 4.0, Windows 2000 Professional was also designed to replace Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT Workstation 4.0 on all business desktop and laptops. This version of Windows added major improvements in reliability, ease of use, Internet compatibility, and support for mobile computing.


Windows XP

Windows XP Professional brings the solid foundation of Windows 2000 to the PC desktop, enhancing reliability, security, and performance. Windows XP Professional includes features for business and advanced home computing, including remote desktop support, an encrypting file system, and system restore and advanced networking features.

Arguably one of the best Windows versions, Windows XP was released in October 2001 and brought Microsoft’s enterprise line and consumer line of operating systems under one roof.

It was based on Windows NT like Windows 2000, but brought the consumer-friendly elements from Windows ME. The Start menu and task bar got a visual patch, bringing the familiar green Start button, blue task bar and vista wallpaper, along with various shadow and other visual effects.

ClearType, which was designed to make text easier to read on LCD screens, was introduced, as were built-in CD burning, autoplay from CDs and other media, plus various automated update and recovery tools.

Windows XP was the longest running Microsoft operating system, seeing three major updates and support up until April 2014 – 13 years from its original release date. Windows XP was still used on an estimated 430m PCs when it was discontinued.

Its biggest problem was security: though it had a firewall built in, it was turned off by default. Windows XP’s huge popularity turned out to be a boon for hackers and criminals, who exploited its flaws, especially in Internet Explorer, mercilessly – leading Bill Gates to initiate a “Trustworthy Computing” initiative and the subsequent issuance of to Service Pack updates that hardened XP against attack substantially.


Came more than 5 years after it’s predecessor Windows XP, Vista is the longest timeline break for Microsoft between two operating system.

Windows Vista updated the look and feel of Windows with more focus on transparent elements, search and security. Its development, under the codename “Longhorn”, was troubled, with ambitious elements abandoned in order to get it into production.

It was buggy, burdened the user with hundreds of requests for app permissions under “User Account Control” – the outcome of the Trustworthy Computing initiative which now meant that users had to approve or disapprove attempts by programs to make various changes. The problem with UAC was that it led to complacency, with people clicking “yes” to almost anything – taking security back to the pre-UAC state.

PC gamers saw a boost from Vista’s inclusion of Microsoft’s DirectX 10 technology.

Windows Media Player 11 and IE 7 debuted, along with Windows Defender an anti-spyware programme. Vista also included speech recognition, Windows DVD Maker and Photo Gallery, as well as being the first Windows to be distributed on DVD. Later a version of Windows Vista without Windows Media Player was created in response to anti-trust investigations.


Windows 7

Windows 7 was first released in October 2009. It was intended to fix all the problems and criticism faced by Vista, with slight tweaks to its appearance and a concentration on user-friendly features and less “dialogue box overload”.

Handwriting recognition debuted in 7, as did the ability to “snap” windows to the tops or sides of the screen, allowing faster more automatic window resizing.

Windows 7 saw Microsoft hit in Europe with antitrust investigations over the pre-installing of IE, which led to a browser ballot screen being shown to new users allowing them to choose, which browser to install on first boot.


Windows 8

This was released on October 26 2012. This OS introduced major changes to operating system platform and user experience by introducing it’s tile type start menu and they design their start menu without start button. Its better to suit for mobile devises like tablets, windows phones, touch screen laptops etc. Microsoft introduced Windows store to download app for windows. Also there were 64 bit version and 32 bit version to select users considering their PC performance.

Also Microsoft introduced new features in this version such as tile type start menu, live apps, charms bar, remote desktop etc. Also Microsoft introduced faster startup through UEFI integration and the new “Hybrid Boot” mode. Windows 8 required 20 GB free hard disk space and 4 GB minimum RAM memory to run this OS.

After that Microsoft released a feature update of Windows 8 named as Windows 8.1. Microsoft again introduced their well known start button on that edition.


Windows 10

It was announced on 30 September 2014, Windows 10 has only been released as a test version for keen users to try.

This is the latest Microsoft Windows version in the Operating System market. This was released on July 29 2015. The Windows 10 came with lots of new features such as support for universal apps, an expansion of the Metro-style apps, as well as user can transit mouse oriented interface and touch based interface, and this include their traditional start button. Windows 10 requires 32 GB free space of Hard disk and Minimum 4 GB RAM memory to run smoothly.

Also Microsoft designed this to compatible with both Touch and Mouse based devises. Windows 10 supports latest DirectX 12 technology.Microsoft improve the windows security with integrated Windows Defender Antivirus system and Multi factor authentication system for user login. Microsoft introduced Microsoft Edge Web Browser through Windows 10 it is faster than their previous Internet explorer web browser. Windows 10 is still developing by Microsoft.

Windows 10 represents another step in Microsoft’s U-turn, bringing back the Start menu and more balance to traditional desktop computer users. Some interesting features include the ability to switch between a keyboard and mouse mode and a tablet mode, for those computers like the Surface Pro 3 with a detachable keyboard.

Windows 10 – despite being the ninth version of Windows – is designed to unify all Windows platforms across multiple devices, including Windows Phone and tablets, with universal apps that can be downloaded from the Windows Store and run on all Windows devices.