Windows logo and wordmark 2015

The current Windows logo as of Windows 10's release.

Microsoft Windows (known simply as Windows) is a family of graphical operating systems developed, marketed, and sold by Microsoft. First released on November 20, 1985 as Windows 1.0, the current version for PCs, tablets, phones, and embedded devices is Windows 10. The most recent version for server computers is Windows Server 2019, and there is a specialized version of Windows that runs on the Xbox One. Notable defunct Windows families include Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, and Windows 9x.


Main article: History of Microsoft Windows

The first versions of Windows, specifically 1.0 through 3.11 were graphical shells that ran on MS-DOS; the release of Windows 95, though still being based on MS-DOS, was its own operating system using a 16-bit DOS-based kernel and a 32-bit environment.

Early versions

The first independent version of Microsoft Windows, version 1.0 was released on November 20, 1985 and achieved little popularity. It was an "operating environment" that extended MS-DOS instead of being a complete operating system; it ran on a shell program known as the MS-DOS Executive. Programs supplied with Windows 1.0 include Calculator, Calendar, Clipboard Viewer, Clock, Notepad, Paint, Reversi, Terminal, Cardfile, and Microsoft Write. Windows 1.0 does not allow overlapping windows; rather, all windows are tiled with the exception of dialog boxes that cannot be minimized.

Windows 2.0 came out on December 9, 1987 and proved slightly more popular than its predecessor due to the ability for windows to overlap each other, more sophisticated keyboard shortcuts. New features for Windows 2.0 included VGA graphics (in 16 colors only), and it was the last version of Windows that did not require a hard disk. The addition of a printer spooler program and an integrated control panel was also new to Windows 2.0.

Windows 2.1 was released in two different version: Windows/286 and Windows/386, based on different Intel processors.

Windows 3.x

Main article: Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0, released in 1990, improved the design and user interface. It is the first version of Windows to achieve broad commercial success, selling 2 million copies in the first six months.[Citation needed]

Windows 3.1, made generally available on March 1, 1992, featured a facelift. In August 1993, Windows for Workgroups – a special version with integrated peer-to-peer networking features and a version number of 3.11, was released. It was sold alongside Windows 3.1. Support for Windows 3.1 ended on December 31, 2001.[Citation needed]

Windows 3.2, released in 1994, is an updated version of the Chinese version of Windows 3.1.[Citation needed] The update fixed issues related to the complex writing system of the Chinese language.[Citation needed]

Windows 9x

Main article: Windows 9x

Windows 95 was released on August 24, 1995. Though it is still based on MS-DOS, Windows 95 introduced support for native 32-bit applications, plug and play hardware, preemptive multitasking, long file names of up to 255 characters, and increased stability. The Program Manager was replaced with the Start menu, taskbar, and Windows Explorer shell. Windows 95 was the first version of Windows to be bundled with Microsoft's web browser, Internet Explorer.[Citation needed] Mainstream support ended on December 31, 2000 and extended support ended on December 31, 2001.

Windows 98 was released on June 25, 1998 as a follow-up to Windows 95. It introduced the Windows Driver Model, support for USB composite devices, support for ACPI, hibernation, and support for multi-monitor configurations. Integrated with Windows 98 was Internet Explorer 4 via Active Desktop and other aspects of the Windows Desktop Update. In May 1999, Microsoft released Windows 98 Second Edition, an updated version of Windows 98 that added Internet Explorer 5 and Windows Media Player 6.2 among other upgrades.

Windows ME (Millennium Edition) was released on September 14, 2000 and is the last DOS-based version of Windows. Windows ME incorporated visual interface enhancements from its Windows NT based counterpart Windows 2000, had faster boot times than previous versions, expanded multimedia functionality, additional system utilities such as System File Protection and System Restore, and update home networking tools.

Windows NT

Main article: Windows NT

Early versions

In November 1988, a new development team within Microsoft began work on a revamped version of IBM and Microsoft's OS/2 operating system known as "NT OS/2". It was intended to be a secure, multi-user operating system with POSIX compatibility and a modular, portable kernel with preemptive multitasking and support for multiple processor architectures. The NT development, following the successful release of Windows 3.0, decided to rework the project to use an extended 32-bit port of the Windows API called "Win32" instead of those of OS/2. Win32 maintained a similar structure to the Windows APIs (allowing existing Windows applications to easily be ported to the platform), but also supported the capabilities of the existing NT kernel. Following its approval by Microsoft's staff, development continued on what was now Windows NT, the first 32-bit version of Windows. However, IBM objected to the changes, and ultimately continued OS/2 development on its own.[Citation needed]

Windows NT 3.1, the first release of the NT line of operating systems, was released in July 1993 with versions for desktop workstations and servers.[Citation needed] Windows NT 3.5 was released in September 1994, with focus on performance improvements and support for Novell's NetWare, and was followed by Windows NT 3.51 in May 1995, which included support for the PowerPC architecture. Windows NT 4.0, released in June 1996, introduced the redesigned interface of Windows 95 to the NT line. Windows 2000, a successor to NT 4.0, was released on February 17, 2000 and would be the last release to retain the Windows NT name.

Windows XP

Main article: Windows XP

The next major Windows NT version, Windows XP, was released on October 25, 2001. XP sought to unify the consumer-oriented Windows 9x series with the architecture introduced in Windows NT. Windows XP would also introduce a redesigned user interface (including an updated Start menu and a "task-oriented" Windows Explorer), streamlined multimedia and networking features, Internet Explorer 6, integration with Microsoft's .NET Passport services, modes to help provide compatibility with software designed for previous versions of Windows, and Remote Assistance functionality.

At retail, Microsoft marketed a "Home" release for consumers and a "Professional" edition for businesses and power users, the latter of which included additional security and networking features. Later they were accompanied by the "Media Center" edition (designed form home theater PCs, with an emphasis on support for DVD playback, TV tuner cards, DVR functionality, and remote controls) and the "Tablet PC" edition (designed for tablet mobile devices, with support for stylus pen input and additional pen-enabled applications).[Citation needed] Mainstream support for Windows XP ended on April 14, 2009, with extended support ending on April 8, 2014.

Windows Vista

Main article: Windows Vista

Windows Vista, after a lengthy development process that involved a reset, was released on November 30, 2006 for volume licensing and would be released to consumers on January 30, 2007. It contained a number of new features from a redesigned shell to security changes. Vista was subject to some criticism due to its drop in performance, longer boot time, criticism of the new User Account Control (UAC), and stricter license agreement.[Citation needed]

Windows 7

Main article: Windows 7

Windows 7 was released publicly on October 22, 2009. Unlike its predecessor Windows Vista, which introduced a large number of new features, Windows 7's goal was to be more of a focused, incremental upgrade to the product line, with the goal of being compatible with applications and hardware with which Windows Vista was already compatible.[Citation needed] Windows 7 has multi-touch support, another redesign in the Windows hell with an updated taskbar, a home networking system called HomeGroup, and performance improvements.[Citation needed]

Windows 8 and 8.1

Windows 10


Client versions

Server versions

Device versions


Mobile devices


See also

  • macOS – a series of operating systems made by Apple Inc., a competitor of Microsoft.
  • Linux – a free and open-source operating system that uses the Linux kernel, typically packaged in a distribution like Ubuntu.