9:47 AM Saturday, August 27, 2016 (UTC)

History of Microsoft Operating Systems Timeline

History of Microsoft Operating Systems Timeline

Microsoft has been effective in Operating Systems bazaar since 1980s. From the start Microsoft divided Operating System into two family lines. The one is MS DOS Family and the other is Windows NT. Each family line has multiple families like as Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 3.x, NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Vista & Windows 7. And also in Server’s section Windows Server 2003 that I will discuss latter.

MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System): The Began

IBM came up to Microsoft in regarding developing a new OS for their computers machines in 1980s. That’s before; Microsoft had never created any Operating System before. Tim Paterson created the OS for IBM on “Quick and Dirty Operating System” (QDOS). That he sold to Microsoft for $50,000.00. And Microsoft modify that and sold it to IBM under the name “Personal Computing Disk Operating System” (PC-DOS). Microsoft keeps hold on the rights of the OS. This allowed them to market the OS to vendors other than IBM under the name Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS). MS-DOS was officially released in 1981.

MS DOS Family Line

Microsoft Windows | Graphical Shell

Disk Operating System was a character based Operating System which used only text commands for controlling & working. But Microsoft needed to make that trouble-free to use. On the next step, logically “Graphical User Interface” (GUI) has been given to that OS with a pointing device. So it made more user-friendly while user doesn’t need to remember the commands.

Microsoft created Windows as GUI for DOS in 1981, the GUI was called Interface Manager, but was later renamed Windows. In the early years, Microsoft named their OSs with version numbers example, Windows 3.1 was released after Windows 3.0. Starting with Windows 95, each OS was named after the year in which it was released.

Microsoft Windows 1.0

Windows 1.0 was Microsoft’s first attempt as GUI. It was officially released on November 10, 1983, although it didn’t appear in retail outlets until November 1985. Windows 1.0 was not an OS in itself, it was an extension of DOS—a graphical shell that ran on top of DOS. It used bitmap displays and added the mouse as a way to navigate the OS.

Windows 1.0 also allowed users to switch between programs. This was a huge improvement over DOS, which required that you quit one application before opening another. Windows 1.0 was still based on DOS, only one application ran at a time, but users could multitask and switch between paused applications without closing them.

With Windows 1.0, Microsoft had already begun the tradition of including a number of applications and utilities built into the OS: a calendar, card-file, clock, text editor, word processing and graphics programs (Write and Paint).

Microsoft Windows 2.0

Windows 2.0 was released in April 1987. It allowed users to control screen layout and overlap windows. It supported the Video Graphics Array (VGA) display system, which allowed you to use 16 colors at 640×480. Windows 2.0 supported the 286 processor, but to keep up with the changing times, Microsoft released a provisional version of Windows 2.0 called Windows/386 2.03 to support the new 386 processor. The 386 version was able to run more than one DOS application at a time. Many applications were developed for Windows 2.0, such as Excel, Word, CorelDraw, and PageMaker.

Microsoft Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0 was released on May 22, 1990, when Windows began to take off in sales. The GUI in Windows 3.0 was updated with all new icons. Windows 3.0 was able to make use of memory beyond 640K so that much more powerful applications could be developed. The driving force behind the popularity of this version of windows was the Windows Software Development Kit (SDK), which made it easier for developers to write applications for Windows. Prior to this version, a large portion of development time was spent creating device drivers. However, Windows 3.0 supported virtual device drivers (VxDs), which minimized hardware dependencies by adding a virtual device (another software layer) between the devices and the OS.

Microsoft Windows 3.1

Windows 3.1 was released on April 6, 1992 and became the best-selling GUI in the history of computing. It added multimedia functionality, which included support for connecting to external musical instruments and MIDI devices. TrueType font support was provide Windows with a WYSIWYG interface (“What You See Is What You Get”). Windows 3.1 added the ability to close applications by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del and terminating hung applications from the running programs. Drag-and-drop functionality provided and Embedding (OLE) was added. OLE allowed embedding elements from different applications into one document.

Microsoft Windows 3.11

Windows 3.11 was released on November 8, 1993. It didn’t add any improvements; it only corrected problems, most of which were network problems. Microsoft replaced all new retail versions of Windows 3.1 with Windows 3.11 and provided a free upgrade to anyone who currently owned Windows 3.1.

Microsoft Windows for Workgroups 3.1

Windows for Workgroups (WFW) 3.1 was released in April 1992. It was the first Microsoft OS to provide support for peer to peer networking. It supported file/printer sharing. WFW also included Microsoft Mail.

Microsoft Windows for Workgroups 3.11

Windows for Workgroups (WFW) 3.11 released in Feb. 1994 and geared towards local area networking. The default networking protocol was NetBEUI, which support TCP/IP or IPX/SPX. Windows for Workgroups 3.11 clients could connect to both workgroups and domains, and it provided built-in support for Novell NetWare Networks. It also improved support for remote access services.

Microsoft Windows 95

Windows 95 was released on August 24, 1995. It changed the face of Windows forever. It was designed with features such as Plug & Play to make hardware installations easier and dial-up networking for connecting any network via a modem. Win95 was the first MS Operating System that supported long filenames. Unlike its predecessors, it did not require DOS to be installed first. Windows 95b (OSR2), an improved version that was never offered for sale to the public; it was only available to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to install on new computers. Windows 95b added support for USBs devices and the FAT32.

Microsoft Windows 98

Windows 98 was released on June 25, 1998 that provided support for reading DVDs and using USB devices. Applications in Win98 opened and closed more quickly. The backup program was revamped to support more backup devices (including SCSI) and Microsoft added the Disk Cleanup utility. Win98 also included Internet Explorer 4.0 and the Active Desktop.

Microsoft Windows 98 (Second Edition)

Windows 98 Second Edition was released on June 25, 1998, an incremental update to Win98. Win98 SE improved the home multimedia, networking and Internet browsing. This edition of windows introduced Internet Connection Sharing (ICS), which allowed a machine to function as a Network Address Translation (NAT) server for other machines on the home network. Win98 SE also included NetMeeting conferencing and Internet Explorer 5.0.

Microsoft Windows ME

Windows Millennium Edition (ME) was the last OS built on MS-DOS kernel. It was released on September 14, 2000, and added improved support for digital media. Image Acquisition was added to downloading images from digital cameras. Movie Maker was included to editing and recording video media files. Media Player was used to play multimedia files. Windows ME added the system restore feature, which used to restore any deleted system files. Another important feature was system file protection, which prevented important OS files from being changed.

OS/2: IBM & Microsoft Joint Venture

In the beginning to late 1980s, Microsoft and IBM decided to work together for replacement of the MS-DOS kernel. This replacement was called OS/2. It supported multitasking, used up to 16MB of memory, and was backward compatible with DOS applications. OS/2 1.0 released in December 1987. OS/2 1.0 was a text-based OS that ran on 80286 systems, but its version 1.1 added a GUI named Presentation Manager. Version 1.20 improved the Presentation Manager and introduced the High Performance File System (HPFS), which provided many of the features later offered by Microsoft in NTFS. Microsoft and IBM were working together on the first 32-bit OS, which was to be OS/2 2.0, when the two companies parted ways.

Microsoft Windows 9x versus Windows

Microsoft NT-Based Operating Systems

Windows 9x and NT support peer-to-peer and domain networking. Win9x supports logging on a domain, but doesn’t support being joined to a domain. This means that Windows 9x machines cannot have a machine account on the domain and cannot be managed with domain tools. Win9x can function as a client/server in a workgroup environment, but Windows NT comes in two distinct versions:

  • A workstation version can be used primarily as client OS.
  • A server version that can operate as standalone file/print server or as domain controller.

Unlike Win9x, NT is multithreaded and can support symmetric multiprocessing (SMP), which allows you to increase the performance of an application by adding more processors (if the application is able to support multiple processors).

Win9x is based on the MS-DOS kernel. This is good for consumers who need to run older applications, but compatibility does come at a cost. Older 16-bit apps all run in the same memory address space, which means that if one 16-bit app fails, it can bring down the entire OS.

Windows NT was built with stability and security. 32-bit applications run in their own separate memory spaces, and older applications run in virtual machines. So the failure of an application cannot bring down the entire OS.

Microsoft NT Operating System Family Tree

Microsoft comes up with a completely new kernel; all future versions of Windows would be descendants of the NT family line. Just as with the MS-DOS family line, Microsoft started naming Windows 2000, Windows was named after the year when it was released, and the letters NT were removed from the name.

Windows NT Family Line – Click to Enlarge

Microsoft Windows NT 3.x

The Windows NT 3.x family was in production from 1993 to 1996 (Windows NT 3.1, Windows NT 3.5, and Windows NT 3.51). WinNT 3.x GUI was similar to the Windows 3.x GUI, which made for an easy transition for the end user. Each release of WinNT 3.x had two versions, desktop version and server version.

Microsoft Windows NT 3.1

This version of windows was released on July 27, 1993. This was the first version of NT. It was created with a client/server networking model. WinNT 3.1 supported domain concept by functioning as a domain controller, MS applications server (SQL Server, SNA Server and Mail Server. It provided centralized server management and centralized logons. NT 3.1 introduced NTFS, multiprocessor support, and the Win32 application programming interface (API). Win32 API was a big hit with developers because it made it easy to port over existing 16-bit apps.

Microsoft Windows NT 3.5

It was released in 1994. It kept the stability of NT 3.1, but improved upon connectivity with other OSs. It was designed to work well in UNIX and Novell NetWare networks. Microsoft added new administration tools and automatic reboot capabilities. NT 3.5 supported filenames up to 255 characters and supported the OpenGL graphics standard.

Microsoft Windows NT 3.51

Windows NT 3.51 was an update to WinNT 3.5. It added a utility to assist customers with managing Client Access Licenses (CALs) for the BackOffice suite and a tool for network installations of Win95. It also supported remote booting and PCMCIA devices.

Microsoft Windows NT 4.0

NT 4.0 family was in production from 1996 to 2000. There were four releases within the 4.0 family (NT 4.0 Workstation, NT 4.0 Server, NT 4.0 Server Enterprise Edition, and NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition). The NT 4.0 GUI was similar to the Windows 95 GU.

Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Server

This was the first version of NT to be 32-bit in 1996. It provided higher network throughput and made for quick file and print services. NT 4.0 was bundled with Internet Information Server (IIS), Microsoft’s Web server product.

Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 (Enterprise Edition)

It was released in 1997. This was a good release toward large companies that needed more than NT Server could offer. Enterprise Edition provided higher availability due to the built-in support for the Microsoft Cluster Service (MSCS) and for Windows Load Balancing (WLB). It also supported more memory and more processors (up to eight) than Server. Enterprise Edition allowed applications to communicate at different times with systems on heterogeneous networks via MS Message Queue Server (MSMQ).

Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 (Terminal Server Edition)

This Edition was released in 1998. It was a multiuser server OS that allowed multiple desktop machines to simultaneously run sessions on the Terminal Server via client software. Desktops would run the Terminal Server client software, but all processing took place on the server.

Microsoft Windows 2000

Windows 2000 was released in February 2000. It was built on the same NT kernel. This version of windows was shipped with four versions (Professional, Server, Advanced Server, and Datacenter Server). Professional was the replacement for NT 4.0 Workstation and was used as a desktop/client OS. Windows 2000 added defragmenter, device manager, and Plug-and-Play support.

Microsoft Windows XP & Windows Server 2003

Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 are based on the same code and are the client and server editions of the same OS. Microsoft released the desktop version before the server version was completed, and changed the names.

Windows XP is available in four 32-bit editions:

  • Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition
  • Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

There is also a 64-bit version of XP, designed to run on the Itanium processor. Home Edition and Media Center Edition are for consumers, while Professional and Tablet PC are for business users (all built on the same NT kernel).

Windows Server 2003 comes in four editions:

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Web Edition
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Server

Windows Server 2003 comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

Windows XP introduced a new variation to the 9x style GUI. The new interface is called LUNA and is also used by Windows Server 2003. The idea behind LUNA is to clean up your desktop and access everything that you need from the Start menu. Both XP and Windows Server 2003 also support the classic style GUI.

New LUNA Interface in Windows Server 2003


Classic Start Menu in Windows Server 2003

Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition

XP Home Edition released in 2001. It is the first consumer OS based on the NT code. Home Edition supports the Internet Connection Firewall (ICF). Multiple users sharing is easier than ever, Fast User Switching, which allows you to switch between user’s desktops without having to log off first. Networking and multimedia capabilities have been enhanced in Home Edition. Remote Assistance is a new feature that lets you ask someone for help. The helper can then remotely control your desktop and chat with you online. Also included are features that are familiar to Windows 2000 Professional users such as Task Manager, System Monitor, and brand new features such as the taskbar grouping, etc.


For full detail of Windows XP Home Edition’s features, search in: http://www.Learn44.com

Microsoft Windows XP Professional

Professional Edition includes all of the features of Home Edition, and many new features toward business uses. Some of the new features include:

  • Remote desktop, which allows XP Professional to act as a mini Terminal Server, hosting one remote session.
  • Encrypting File System (EFS), which allows you to encrypt files stored on disk. Professional Edition adds the ability to share encrypted files with other users.
  • Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), allows you encryption of data that travels across the network to protecting from sniffers.
  • Integrated smart card support, provides the ability to use smart card authentication to log on to the network.
  • Recovery of console, provides a CLI, so that administrators can use to perform repair tasks if the computer won’t boot.
  • Ability to join a domain, domain members can log onto the domain from an XP Home computer, the Home computer cannot have a computer account in the domain. XP Professional computers have computer accounts, allows the administrator to manage them centrally.

Microsoft Windows XP Professional 64-Bit Edition

XP Professional 64-Bit Edition runs on the Itanium 2 processor and gets full advantage of its floating-point capabilities. XP 64-Bit Edition designed to meet the demands of technical workstation users who require large memory and floating-point performance, 3D animation, video customization, and scientific computing applications. This Edition supports up to 16GB of RAM and will run 32-bit applications designed for Windows XP Professional.

While 64-bit edition of XP does not support many of the multimedia features those found in 32-bit, such as CD recording, some of the Media technologies, NetMeeting, and IEEE 1394 (FireWire) audio. It also doesn’t support old subsystems and protocols such as the MS-DOS and 16-bit subsystems, IPX/SPX, AppleTalk, DLC, NetBEUI, and Services for Macintosh. System Restore is not included, SharePoint Team Services isn’t included. So finally, a number of system administration and miscellaneous features those aren’t supported.

Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition

Windows XP Media Center Edition combines entertainment and personal computing. It has all of your media in one place and allows you to control it with remote control. Some of its features include: live TV, Video Recording, Electronic Program Guide, Audio/Video/DVD player and Media Center Remote Control.

Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

Tablet PCs look and function like laptops; you can rotate the screen around and write on them like a personal data assistant. This Edition is compatible with Windows XP applications. This edition of windows offers the following features:

  • Windows Journal, used to take handwritten notes.
  • Input Panel, used when you don’t want to use your keyboard for inputting data.
  • InkBall, a game that improves your skills with writing on PC.
  • Sticky Notes, are the electronic equivalent to yellow paper.

Microsoft Windows Vista

Windows Vista was released in 2006. It has the strong security system. User Account Control (UAC) helps prevent potentially harmful software. It has BitLocker Drive Encryption for data protection, enhancements for Media Player, home entertainment, photographs customization, videos editing, better display design and features such as the taskbar and the borders around windows get a new look and search helps people find files on their PCs faster. Vista is available in 35 languages. More than 1.5 million devices are compatible with Vista at launch.

Microsoft Windows 7

Windows 7 is released in October 2009. It provides new ways to work with windows—Snap, Peek, and Shake. Windows Touch enabling you to use your fingers to browsing, flipping photos, and open files/folders. You can stream music, videos, and photos from your PC to stereo or TV. Windows 7 is a second the fastest selling OS in history. Win-7 is evaluated by 8 million beta testers worldwide before it’s released.

Microsoft Windows 8

Windows 8 is the leading change in the history of Microsoft’s operating systems, since Microsoft released the Windows 95. Anyhow, Microsoft launched its new product Windows 8 in the year 2012 for personal computers, home desktops, business computer, laptops, and tablets and for home theater PCs. Microsoft started the Windows 8’s development prior to the release of Windows 7 in 2009. On August 1st, 2012 Windows 8 operating system was make available to manufacturing and on October 26th, 2012 was completely launch for common public use. In Windows 8, Microsoft presents noteworthy modification based on operating system display place and functionality, specially concentrate to enhancing end user familiarity on mobile devices like tablets, iPhone and iPods to equal other mobile operating systems like Android etc. taking advantage of advance, rising and upcoming technologies such as near field communications, Universal Serial Bus 3.0 (USB 3.0), low-power ARM architecture, cloud computing and UEFI firmware, latest and updated security features like malware filtering, spam detection, built-in antivirus capabilities, intrusion prevention system, intrusion removal like build in Microsoft Security Essential, similar to Windows 7 but much better optimized installation procedure for digital allocation and foundation support for secure boot (a UEFI trait that permits operating systems to be digitally signed to avoid malware/spam from changing the boot procedure), the capability to synchronize certain applications and settings between multiple devices, in conjunction with other modifications and performance enhancements. [ …. READ MORE …. ]


Written by: Fahad Bin Ali KhilGi

Filed in: Microsoft, Technology Updates, windows 7, Windows Server 2003

3 Responses to “History of Microsoft Operating Systems Timeline”

  1. January 23, 2013 at 12:16 #

    I am sure this post has touched all the internet people,
    its really really pleasant paragraph on building up new webpage.

  2. July 1, 2013 at 20:43 #

    You very well described the history of Microsoft OS timeline. I was searching for this and I have found it very helpful. Thank you very much.

  3. Chennai MCSA MCSE
    August 30, 2013 at 17:08 #

    Great information about Microsoft OS.

    Please add more details about Microsoft Server Operating Systems, and other Application Server products like Sharepoint Server, Exchange Server etc.

    Chennai MCSA MCSE

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