Windows is a family of proprietary graphical operating systems created and marketed by Microsoft. It is the dominant OS in the world, running on over 90% of PCs.
The System Information app already shows a good amount of details on your computer, but it’s easy to go deeper with other free tools. One such is PC Wizard, which offers a wealth of technical specs.
Today, Microsoft’s Windows operating system is the world’s most popular desktop computer platform. But it didn’t start that way. Back in the ’80s, mouse-based graphical user interfaces and multitasking were the hot new technology.
The original Windows ran as a graphical shell on top of MS-DOS, providing an environment for both GUI programs designed for the OS and existing MS-DOS software. It included built-in programs like Calculator, Paint and Notepad as well as the game Reversi.
The second major release in Microsoft Windows’ graphical operating system series, it was first released on December 9, 1987. It allowed application windows to overlap and resize, introduced menu keyboard shortcuts and desktop icons and featured support for 16 color VGA graphics.
This version also included a variant for the 386 processor called Windows/386 and it could preemptively multitask MS-DOS applications in protected mode, solving the one megabyte memory barrier that dogged previous versions of Windows.
In May of 1990 Microsoft introduced Windows 3.0, a graphical operating system extension for DOS. It allowed multitasking of both MS-DOS programs and specially written Windows applications.
Windows 3.0 also broke DOS’s infamous one megabyte memory barrier, allowing programs to use 16 MB of RAM. It’s the version that really put Windows on the map. It featured large, beautiful 16-color icons that matched (and surpassed) the visual fidelity of expensive color Macintosh computers.
Windows 3.1 is the first widely used version of Microsoft’s GUI-based operating system that made personal computers easier to use. Windows 3.1 is sometimes also abbreviated to Win3.x or Win3 for Workgroups 3.11.
It was released on 6 April 1992 and succeeded by Windows 95. It introduced many new features to the consumer version of Windows, including a file window that shows an expandable folder tree and directory in the middle, with individual files listed on the right.
Windows XP is Microsoft’s last version of Windows to use the MS-DOS operating system. This version introduced the ability to display graphical “windows” that let users navigate their electronic folders and files, instead of typing commands and directory paths at a text prompt.
It also included a new system tool called System Restore, a Help and Support Center and updated versions of other system tools. A separate Windows/386 edition used a protected mode kernel that required an 80386 compatible processor.
Windows Vista introduced new systems for local messaging between applications, a system for automating tasks and a user identity system. It also included an XML Paper Specification document format that enables digital signatures and retains page layout across systems.
Some observers have pointed to similarities between Vista’s visual effects and those of Apple Computer’s Mac OS X. It also has a system of fonts that include several designed for screen reading and high-quality Chinese, Japanese and Korean fonts.
Microsoft Windows 7 was released to manufacturing in July 2009 and commercially available in October 2009. It is a successor to Windows Vista and the predecessor to Windows 8.
A new graphical user interface was introduced with Windows 7. It also includes multitouch support. It also features HomeGroup, a system for sharing media files and printers on the local network.
The taskbar contains several application icons pinned to it by default. These include IE8, Windows Explorer and Windows Media Player.
Windows 8 is a bold move into the future. It’s stunningly fast, presents apps in a way that avoids the repetitiveness of Android and iOS, and feels connected to your life and the Internet.
It also improves on previous Windows versions by making programs install faster and by reducing overall system boot times. And it provides cool new log-in options like picture passwords. It also enables users to synchronize their settings across multiple computers.
Windows 10 is the latest iteration of Microsoft’s operating system. This version includes a return of the traditional desktop interface, reliable performance, and features for touchscreen devices and hybrid 2-in-1 laptops.
Like games, operating systems require a certain amount of hardware horsepower to run smoothly. Microsoft has published minimum and recommended requirements online. Check that your hardware meets these standards before installing the software.