Windows OS Versions: Evolution Of Windows OS

Before starting the article let me ask you a quick question. How many of you have ever used Microsoft Windows operating system? I know the answer would be yes for 100% of people. Obviously, 100% of people do not use windows regularly but they have used windows at some point in time. That’s the impact of windows.

Despite tons of criticism, Windows is still the most widely used operating system ever for personal computers. With the announcement of the first-ever Windows on the 10th November 1983 by two Microsoft founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, it had gone for several releases for last 25-30 years.

In this article, we will try to flashback the history of Windows releases and will figure out the Windows OS versions and evolution of Windows OS

Microsoft brought the first-ever graphical user interface for personal computers. Before that, we had no option except to use CLI ( Command Line Interface) to do our regular tasks on personal computers.

What Microsoft Did special with Windows?

Having a GUI helped people to get involved with computers and that’s the trump card Microsoft played. Do I need to show you the return on investment? The data says it all. As of 2019, more than 87% of computers in this world use Windows ( Source: Wikipedia).

Though Windows has its own share of criticism for being very easy to hack and usually unstable for many applications, no one can deny the fact that it is very easy to use. That’s one area Windows outperforms and still, people love to have Windows over any other operating system.

Having said that, Let’s jump into the Evolution Of Microsoft Windows Operating System.

As of 2019 Windows has 15 major releases with Windows XP being the most successful and Windows Vista being the worst attempt by Windows. Apart from that that were many service pack or pack updates happened which are not included in the list.

Windows OS Versions: Evolution Of Windows

Microsoft Windows 1.0 ( November 20, 1985)

Windows 1.0 is the first windows release that happened during the fall of 1985. It is considered to be the front end of the typical MS-DOS operating system. It allowed multitasking with a graphical user interface shell on top of the boring MS-DOS.

windows os versions
Image Credit: Wikipedia

It brought icons for commands instead of using a CLI. It also introduces graphical user input through the mouse though the mouse was not at all popular at that time. It was a 16-bit operating system with a RAM requirement of just 256 KB. Though Windows 1.0 was highly criticized for being buggy and slow, it set the roadmap for Windows.

Microsoft Windows 2.0 (December 9, 1987)

Windows 2.0 was a 16-bit operating system that introduces the multi-windows overlapping. It also introduces the maximize and minimize option in windows. More sophisticated application icons and keyboard shortcuts in Windows 2.0 helped people to tilt towards Windows. This is also the last windows operating system which did not require a hard drive to install.

windows os versions
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Microsoft Windows 3.0 ( May 22, 1990)

Windows 3.0 was considered being the first successful Windows. With a revamp of a graphical user interface, it soon became a competitor of Apple’s Machintosh. Its superior multitasking ability and better memory management capability help Windows 3.0 to become an instant hit.

windows os versions
Image Credit: Wikipedia

A separate stand-alone application like notepad, paintbrush, solitaire was introduced in Windows 3.0. Though it was still operating on top of the MS-Dos shell, the amount of commands required in CLI is reduced by the GUI. For the first time, windows needed a hard drive to install with a free space of around 6-7 MB and the required RAM is 384 KB.

Microsoft Windows 95 (August 24, 1995)

Windows 95 was a major overhaul of Windows 3.0 in terms of the graphical user interface. For the first time, internet explorer was introduced along with windows explorer. The taskbar and start button also made its presence in windows 95.

windows os versions
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Before that, all running application was showing on desktop. But with the taskbar in windows 95, all running application started showing in the taskbar. It was a 32-bit operating system with a hard disk space requirement of 50-55 MB and a RAM requirement of 4 MB.

Microsoft Windows 98 (June 25, 1998)

Windows 98 is generally considered as a bug-fixed version of windows 95 rather than a full-fledged release. Few updates to windows explorer-like gradient color in windows toolbar, back and forth navigation, image thumbnails, animation were introduced in Windows 98.

evolution of windows
Image Credit: Wikipedia

An update to Internet Explorer was released in this version along with some other internet applications like Outlook, Netmeeting, etc. For the first time, windows media player were introduced in Windows 98

Microsoft Windows 2000 ( February 17, 2000)

Windows 2000 brought a list of security features under the box and typically considered as first-ever secured windows until it became attacked to viruses like Code red and Nimda.

NTFS 3.0, a file encryption mechanism was introduced in Windows 2000 and a bunch of technologies was put for disabled people. Plug and play support were enhanced and GUI saw a minor improvement as well.

evolution of windows

Overall Windows 98 and Windows 2000 were just trying to follow the path of Windows 95 with bug fixes and minor improvement. It was a 32-bit operating system and the system requirement was a free HDD space of 500 MB and a RAM requirement of 45 MB

Microsoft Windows XP (October 25, 2001)

Windows XP is the most successful Windows that Microsoft has released ever. It was so popular that even as of 2019, 2% of the computer still uses Windows XP. Originally it was released as a 32-bit version in 2001, but in 2005 Microsoft released the 64-bit version as well.

Although Windows XP followed the traditional architecture of Windows 95- 2000, the major changes that happened is in the GUI. For the first time, XP introduced ClearType, a subpixel rendering system for Liquid crystal displays.

evolution of windows

The start menu got a major overhaul followed by the taskbar. The speed has been increased and had fewer bugs. Prefetch function was introduced in Windows XP to speed up execution of frequently used applications resulting in faster boot time.

Microsoft Windows Vista ( January 30, 2007)

After the success of Windows XP, Microsoft started thinking that people love eye-catching graphics, transparent toolbars, animations. With that impression, they started developing a new windows version called Vista. The result is, Vista became the worst windows ever in terms of overall sales figure.

evolution of windows

People loved XP not only because of the GUI but the speed and optimization that is offered. Vista was an eye-catching window but it did not have anything else that Windows XP had. Very slow performance, irritative user access control, poor hardware compatibility helped vista to become a sales dud.

Microsoft Windows 7 ( October 22, 2009)

Windows 7 is what we can call the true successor of Windows XP. Windows 7 blended the performance of XP and the GUI of Vista which resulted in an instant hit. In fact, Windows 7 is the best windows after windows XP.

evolution of windows

Microsoft fixed all bugs of windows vista, introduced a newly revamped taskbar, and Start menu. It removed an excessive user access control system and many other useful features.

It was offered in both 32 and 64-bit versions with a system requirement of 16 GB disk space and 1 GB ram. It usually runs fast when the processor has a minimum 1 GHz clock speed

Microsoft Windows 8 ( October 26, 2012)

The blunder that Microsoft did with Windows Vista got repeated in Windows 8. With the world moving towards a touch screen interface, Microsoft thought to have windows designed for the touch screen interface. But Microsoft again could not study the market properly as people love to use their computer using mouse and keyboard rather than a touch screen interface.

evolution of windows

The result is Windows 8 failed to impress. Windows 8 removed the start button, instead brought a mobile-like app interface. Introduces an application repository similar to the android play store. But soon that app store backfires as there was hardly any developer who was ready to develop apps for Windows.

Microsoft Windows 10 ( July 29, 2015)

After learning from windows 8 mistakes, Microsoft brought back the traditional start button and provided an option of having a traditional desktop along with a mobile-like interface.

People loved it and windows 10 became a success. Its material design helped to increase the speed along with a list of new features. It is widely accepted as the successful replacement of windows 7 and many corporates started transitioning to windows 10.

windows 10

As of 2019, Windows 10 is the latest release. There is news that Microsoft might introduce windows 11 by the fall of 2020 but nothing is confirmed yet.

Let’s Wrap Up: Windows OS versions

Well, it’s really fascinating to recap the history of about 30 years of Windows. Many of us may not use the old version of Windows. This article might make you feel nostalgic. If yes do let me know what is the first Windows version you have used.

I personally started using Windows 95 and as of today, I use Windows 10 though I am not a big fan of Windows.

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A 2004 batch Mechanical Engineering graduate From NIT, Agartala. Close to 16 years of experience in the field of consumer electronics and appliances domain as a Sr. Design Engineer and Team Leader in India and the United States. A gadget freak by passion and profession and in his free time love to go for a ride with his champ, Rian.

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