Windows Timeline of Introduction


In order to understand how Windows works and how a Windows operating system it is first necessary to understand some developmental changes into the various Windows operating systems released by Microsoft. This blog provides a complete time-line to explain when the various Windows operating systems were first released and what changes were made to the operating systems during introduction. Although this article focuses on concepts using the Media Centre Edition of Windows XP Professional, the concepts apply to all previous and subsequent versions of Windows including some versions of Windows 2000 and XP.

A Windows Time Line

This table represents a time line illustrating the various Windows releases by Microsoft and noted date of introductions.

Windows Version Label

Release Year

Significant Changes:

Windows 1.0 Nov. 20, 1985
  1. The absolute first release of the Windows opearting system.
Windows 2.0 / Windows 286 Dec. 9, 1987
  1. 16-bit Microsoft Windows graphical user interface based operating environment.
  2. It was released on December 9, 1987.
Windows 3.0 / Windows 386 May 22, 1990
  1. Capable of addressing memory segments beyond 640K.
  2. More powerful / useful user interface.
  3. More than ten million copies sold.
Windows 3.1 April 6, 1992
  1. More tha 3 million copies sold in a little over
    two months.
Windows for Workgroups 3.1 Oct. 27, 1992
  1. Free upgrade from Microsoft.
Windows NT 3.1 Jul. 27, 1993
  1. Added supported for workgroup computing including
    peer-to-peer networking.
  2. Two additional applications included: Microsoft
    Mail a Schedule+.
  3. High end operating system intended for servers
    a software development machines.
  4. Based on all new operating system kernel; far
    different an e one used in Windows 3.1.
Windows NT 3.5 Sep. 21st, 1994
  1. Improved performance through new OLE 2.0 interface.
  2. Replaced Windows NT 3.1; NT 3.5 Server replaces
    NT 3.1 Advanced Server.
Windows NT 4.0  Aug. 24, 1996
  1. Codename “Cairo”. Microsoft’s object
    oriented Windows.
Windows 95A Aug. 24, 1995
  1. 32-bit based pre-emptive multitasking based operating
  2. Advanced file systems and networking components.
  3. Included MS-DOS 7.0.
  4. Completely new user interface.
Windows 95C Aug. 24, 1997
  1. Most notable change is built in support for USB
  2. Also fixes previous issues discovered in the 95A
    a 95B releases.
Windows 98 Jun. 25 1998
  1. Following design concepts presented wiin Windows
    95, specifically better user interface including
    a built in internal and external web browser.
  2. New Active Desktop features.
  3. Enhanced support for larger hard drives using
    FAT32 file system.
  4. Support for DVD, Firewire, USB, and AGP devices.
  5. Better defragmentation tools.
Windows 98 Second Edition (SE) May 5, 1999
  1. Win 98 SE includes fixes for many minor issues, improved WDM audio a modem support, and featured improved USB support, replacement of Internet Explorer 4.0 with Internet Explorer 5.0, Web Folders (WebDAV namespace extension for Windows Explorer), and related shell updates.
Windows NT 4.0 Aug. 24, 1996
  1. Windows NT 4.0 is a preemptively multitasked graphical operating system, designed to work with their uniprocessor or symmetric multi-processorcomputers. It was part of Microsoft’s Windows NT family of operating systems.
Windows 2000 Professional Feb. 17, 2000
  1. New highly scalable operating system with better
    security features for files and network connections.
  2. Built in support for VPN (Virtual Private Networks).
  3. Easier methods for setting access permissions
    to files and folders locally and on a network.
  4. Windows installer features make it simple to distrbute
    software over a network.
Windows ME Sep. 14, 2000
  1. Targeted at the home user, offering added multimedia
    support including automated video editing tools,
    and improved Internet browsing.
  2. Windows ME is a simple upgrade to the original DOS-based
    code that all previous Windows versions utilized.
Windows XP Oct. 25, 2001
  1. Entirely new and improved Windows operating system
    adding a 32-bit based kernel a drive set (the same found in Windows NT and 2000 machines).
  2. Backwards compatibility for programs requiring
    earlier versions of Windows or DOS.
  3. Released in two flavours: XP Home and XP Professional.
  4. Home edition more suitable for the average home
    user not requiring advanced networking and system
    tools; XP Professional was best suited for a high performance
    PC or end user wishing to operate a small business.
  5. New product activation features reduces software
    piracy through automated software registration tools.
Windows XP 64-Bit Edition (v2002) Oct. 25, 2001
  1. Code-named “Freestyle” during its development, was first released in September 2002.
Windows XP Media Centre Edition Oct. 31st, 2002
  1. Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) is a version of the Windows XP operating system which was the first version of Windows to include Windows Media Center, designed to serve as a home-entertainment hub.
Windows XP 64-Bit Edition (v2003) Mar. 28, 2003
Windows Server 2003 Apr. 24, 2003
  1. It was a successor of Windows 2000 Server a incorporated some of Windows XP’s features.
  2. An updated version, Windows Server 2003 R2, was released to manufacturing on December 6, 2005. Its successor, Windows Server 2008, was released on February 4, 2008.
  3. Windows Server 2003’s kernel was later adopted in the development of Windows Vista.
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 Sep. 30, 2003
Windows XP Media Centre Edition 2005 Oct. 12, 2004
  1. Windows XP Media Center Edition is distinguished with its exclusive component, Media Center, a media player at supports watching a recording TV programs, as well as playing DVD-Video, photo slideshows, and music.
  2. Media Center sports a user interface that is optimized for use from a distance with large fonts and icons.
  3. Due to its strict hardware requirements, Microsoft opted not to supply Media Center as an independent retail version.
  4. Microsoft only distributed it to MSDN subscribers a original equipment manufacturers in certain countries.
  5. Consumers purchase Media Center preinstalled on a new computer, set-top box or embedded device.
  6. Successors of Windows XP did not have a Media Center edition but the player itself came with Windows.
Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Apr. 25, 2005
  1. An edition of Windows XP for x86-64 personal computers. It is designed to use e expanded 64-bit memory address space provided by e x86-64 architecture.
  2. Windows XP Professional x64 Edition uses the same kernel a code tree as Windows Server 2003 and is serviced by the same service pack.
Windows Server 2003 R2 Dec. 6, 2005
  1. Follow-up to Windows 2000 Server, incorporating compatibility and other features from Windows XP. Unlike Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003’s default installation has none of e server components enabled.
  2. Includes compatibility modes to allow older applications to run with greater stability. It was made more compatible with Windows NT 4.0 domain-based networking.
  3. Enhanced Active Directory compatibility, a better deployment support, to ease the transition from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows Server 2003 a Windows XP Professional.
Windows Fuamentals for Legacy PCs Jul. 8, 2006
  1. Thin client operating system from Microsoft. WinFLP is based on Windows XP Embedded a is optimized for older, less powerful hardware.
Windows Vista for Business use Nov. 30, 2006
  1. Codenamed Longhorn for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablet PCs a media center PCs.
  2. Development was completed on 8 November 2006, and over th following three months, it was released in stages to computer hardware and software manufacturers, business customers and retail channels.
  3. On 30 January 2007, it was released worldwide and was made available for purchase and download from the Windows Marketplace.
Windows Vista for Home use Jan. 30, 2007
  1. Microsoft’s primary stated objective with Windows Vista was to improve the state of security in the Windows operating system.
  2. One common criticism of Windows XP a its predecessors was their commonly exploited security vulnerabilities and overall susceptibility to malware, viruses a buffer overflows.
Windows Home Server Nov. 7, 2007
  1. Windows Home Server, code-named Quattro, is a home server operating system from Microsoft.
  2. Windows Home Server is based on Windows Server 2003 R2 and is intended to be a solution for homes with multiple connected PCs to offer file sharing, automated backups, print server, and remote access.
Windows Server 2008 Feb. 27, 2008
  1. Sometimes abbreviated as “Win2K8” “WinServer2K8” “Windows 2008” or “W2K8”) is one of Microsoft Windows’ server line of operating systems.
  2. Released to manufacturing on February 4, 2008, and officially released on February 27, 2008, it is the successor to Windows Server 2003, released nearly five years earlier.
  3. A second release, named Windows Server 2008 R2, was released to manufacturing on July 22, 2009.
Windows 7 Oct. 22, 2009
  1. Primarily intended to be an incremental upgrade to e operating system intending to address Windows Vista’s poor critical reception while maintaining hardware a software compatibility.
  2. Windows 7 continued improvements on Windows Aero (the user interface introduced in Windows Vista) with the addition of a redesigned taskbar.
  3. A new “Action Center” interface was also added to provide an overview of system security a maintenance information, a tweaks were made to e User Account Control system to make it less intrusive.
  4. Windows 7 also shipped with updated versions of several stock applications, including Internet Explorer 8, Windows Media Player, a Windows Media Center.
Windows Server 2008 R2 Oct. 22, 2009
  1. Server operating system produced by Microsoft. It was released to manufacturing (RTM) on July 22, 2009 a launched on October 22, 2009.
  2. According to e Windows Server Blog, e retail availability was September 14, 2009.
  3. It is built on e same kernel used wi the client-oriented Windows 7. It is the first 64-bit–only operating system released from Microsoft.
  4. Enhancements include new functionality for Active Directory, new virtualization and management features
  5. Version 7.5 of e Internet Information Services (IIS) web server a support for up to 256 logical processors.
  6. There are seven editions: Foundation, Standard, Enterprise, Datacenter, Web, HPC Server and Itanium, as well as Windows Storage Server 2008 R2.
Windows Home Server 2011 Apr. 6, 2011
  1. Code named Vail, is a home server operating system by Microsoft designed for small office/home offices a homes with multiple connected PCs to offer protected file storage, file sharing, automated PC backup, remote access, a remote control of PC desktops.
  2. It was released on 6 April 2011 following the release of Power Pack 3 for its aging predecessor, Windows Home Server. Windows Home Server 2011 is the last Windows Home Server release a was succeeded by Windows Server 2012 Essentials.
Windows in PC July 1st, 2011
  1. On February 9, 2011, Microsoft announced Windows in PC, a branded derivative of Windows Embedded Standard.
  2. It succeeded Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, which was based on Windows XP Embedded. Windows in PC was released on June 6, 2011.
  3. Windows in PC is supported until October 12, 2021.
Windows Server 2012 Sep. 4, 2012
  1. Windows Server 2012, codenamed “Windows Server 8”, is the six release of Windows Server.
  2. It is the server version of Windows 8 and succeeds Windows Server 2008 R2. Two pre-release versions, a developer preview a a beta version, were released during development.
  3. The software was generally available to customers starting on September 4, 2012.
Windows 8 Oct. 26, 2012
  1. Development of Windows 8 started before the release of its predecessor, Windows 7, in 2009.
  2. It was announced at CES 2011, a followed by e release of ree pre-release versions from September 2011 to May 2012.
  3. The operating system was released to manufacturing on August 1, 2012, and was released for general availability on October 26, 2012.
  4. Introduced major changes to the operating system’s platform a user interface to improve its user experience on tablets, where Windows was now competing with mobile operating systems, including Android and iOS. In particular, these changes included a touch-optimized Windows shell based on Microsoft’s “Metro” design language, e Start screen (which displays programs a dynamically updated content on a grid of tiles), a new platform for developing “apps” with an emphasis on touchscreen input, integration with online services (including the ability to synchronize apps a settings between devices), a Windows Store, an online store for downloading a purchasing new software.
  5. Windows 8 added support for USB 3.0, Advanced Format hard drives, near field communications, a cloud computing. Additional security features were introduced, such as built-in antivirus software, integration wi Microsoft SmartScreen phishing filtering service a support for UEFI Secure Boot on supported devices with UEFI firmware, to prevent malware from infecting the boot process.
Windows RT Oct. 26, 2012
  1. Mobile operating system.
  2. First unveiled in January 2011 at Consumer Electronics Show, the Windows 8 RT operating system was officially launched alongside Windows 8 on October 26, 2012.
  3. Unlike Windows 8, Windows RT is only available as preloaded software on devices specifically designed for e operating system by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
  4. Microsoft inteded for devices with Windows RT to take advantage of e architecture’s power efficiency to allow for longer battery life, to use system-on-chip (SoC) designs to allow for inner devices, a to provide a “reliable” experience over time.
  5. In comparison to oer mobile operating systems, Windows RT also supports a relatively large number of existing USB peripherals a accessories, and includes a version of Microsoft Office 2013 optimized for ARM devices as pre-loaded software. However, while Windows RT inherits the appearance and functionality of Windows 8, it has a number of limitations; it can only execute software at is digitally signed by Microsoft (which includes pre-loaded software and Windows Store apps), and it lacks certain developer-oriented features.
Windows 8.1 Oct. 18, 2013
  1. Codenamed Blue is an upgrade for Windows 8.
  2. First unveiled a released as a public beta in June 2013, it was released to manufacturing on August 27, 2013, a reached general availability on October 17, 2013, almost a year after e retail release of its predecessor.
  3. Unlike service packs on previous versions of Windows, users who obtained Windows 8 outside of retail copies or pre-loaded installations (i.e., volume licensing) must obtain Windows 8.1 rough new installation media from their respective subscription or enterprise channel.
  4. Microsoft’s support lifecycle policy treats Windows 8.1 similar to previous service packs of Windows: It is part of Windows 8’s support lifecycle, a installing Windows 8.1 is required to maintain access to support a Windows updates after January 12, 2016. However, unlike previous service packs, Windows 8.1 cannot be acquired via Windows Update.
Windows RT 8.1 Oct. 18, 2013
Windows Server 2012 R2 Oct. 18, 2013
  1. Windows Server 2012 R2 was released on October 18, 2013.
  2. It was unveiled on June 3, 2013 at TechEd North America.
  3. A further update, formally designated Windows Server 2012 R2 Update, was released in April 2014, a cumulative set of security updates and enhancement updates.
  4. Windows Server 2012 R2 was succeeded by Windows Server 2016.
Windows 10 Jul. 29, 2015
  1. It was officially unveiled in September 2014 following a brief demo at Build 2014.
  2. The first version of this operating system entered a public beta testing process in October, leading up to its consumer release on July 29, 2015.
  3. Unlike previous versions of Windows, Microsoft has branded Windows 10 as a “service” at receives ongoing “feature updates”; devices in enterprise environments can receive updates at a slower pace, or use long-term support milestones at only receive critical updates, such as security patches, over eir five-year lifespan of mainstream support.
  4. Windows 10 introduces what Microsoft described as “universal apps”; expanding on Metro-style apps.
  5. The inteface includes an updated Start menu which incorporates elements of Windows 7’s Start menu,.
  6. The first release of Windows 10 also introduces a virtual desktop system, a desktop management feature called Task View, Microsoft Edge web browser, support for fingerprint a face recognition login, new security features for enterprise environments, a DirectX 12 a WDDM 2.0 to improve the operating system’s graphics capabilities for games.
Windows Server 2016 Sep. 27, 2016
  1. Windows Server 2016 is a server operating system developed by Microsoft as part of the Windows NT family of operating systems, developed concurrently wi Windows 10.
  2. The first early preview version (Technical Preview) became available on October 1, 2014.
  3. Windows Server 2016 was released on September 26, 2016 at Microsoft’s Ignite conference a became generally available on October 12, 2016.
Table 2.1a – Timeline History Of Microsoft Windows Operating Systems

Well there you have it, a complete overview of the timeline of introduction to Windows. Operating systems have come a long way since the first graphical user interface was created, but understanding the key differences between each operating system is helpful in understanding other windows concepts.

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