What is Windows?
During the first decade of Microsoft
Windows (versions 1.01 to Windows 4.00.950A), Windows ran on MS-DOS and was merely a glorified shell, not
really an OS (OS).
It does not matter how many times Microsoft says otherwise.
For the first ten years, Microsoft marketed it as a stand-alone shell, not
With the release of Windows 95B (Windows
4.x running on MS-DOS
7.x) in 1996, Microsoft marketed Windows as a stand-alone OS.
and ME continue
this misunderstanding and misconception. For these reasons, many
people say that Windows 95B
and up are real operating
systems. Because Windows 95B and up run on
MS-DOS 7 even
though it is buried in C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND, many others
(myself included) say that
4.x in general is a descent tool, but not a real OS.
With the release of Windows
NT 3.1, Microsoft
finally dropped the MS-DOS-dependent Windows
NT 4.0 and up offered some compatibility with 16-bit applications.
offers little to none whatsoever. I
really do not care about any version past 98SE
since I stopped using Windows after Windows 2000 (descent
version) in favor of PC-BSD
(2005) and then Linux soon after (original run in
1999 and then ever since 2009). As such, this page mostly covers
my experience with Windows 3.1x to 98SE.
Installing Windows 3.1x:
I rebuilt an old (a
junker) i386 PC
for fun, just because I could. I installed MS-DOS
6.22 as the OS and
the Windows 3.11 users
with the Calmira shell.
Rebuilding an old computer
makes interesting project, from which one can learn a lot about
and old software.
For Windows 3.1x and 4.00.950A (Windows 95A, first edition),
you must first install MS-DOS because they are not bundled with MS-DOS. Read the
instructions on installing MS-DOS.
For Windows 95B
(1986) and up, you can bypass installing MS-DOS running FDISK.EXE and FORMAT using a boot disk (FAT 32-bit). Windows
4.xx (95, 98 and ME) includes MS-DOS 7 and does not have
low-level memory utility. Because MS-DOS 7 is direly limited, I
recommend you to install MS-DOS
6.22 and run memory management. Note that MS-DOS has MEMMAKER and PC DOS has RAMBOOST.
4.xx (95, 98 and ME) has CONFIG.SYS, a system file that can create
a RAM drive to
speed up whatever you do. Of course, do not save anything there
that you need or want to keep. Add the following line to CONFIG.SYS to optimize
DEVICEHIGH=C:\WINDOWS\RAMDRIVE.SYS 2048 /E
The latter creates a bytes (2 MB) assigned as E:,
which is nothing by today's standards, but significant if using
an i386 or i486.
Do not install Windows 1 (1985) or 2 (1987) as they are merely
If you are installing Windows 3.1x, (6 floppies for Windows 3.1x; 9 floppies for and the Windows 3.11) do not forget to install Calmira on
Also refer to my instructions on how to maintain
the HDD in a i386 computer running MS-DOS and Windows 3.1x.
If installing version Windows
95A), get ready for twenty-one (21) floppies. For the record, IE is
not included. You can get any 16-bit web browser on floppies.
Installing Windows 95B or Later:
If installing Windows 95B or later, make
sure the BIOS will
read CD-ROM first.
Reboot the system with the Windows CD-ROM. Once the CD-ROM starts running, watch TV
or something exciting for the next half an hour or longer.
Finally follow the last steps of the installation and registration (no way around it
The architecture of Windows
4.xx can be FAT 32-bit while MS-DOS is FAT 16. Do not change the structure
of the File
Allocation Table (FAT) running C:\WINDOWS\CVT1.EXE. If you do,
you would have wasted about an hour of work and possible access
to your upper
memory and extended
If installing Windows 95B or later from a
disk, forget everything that you have read so far. Most recovery disks do not
have the OS
with SETUP.EXE and all the CAB files (as you would buy
it in any store). These recovery disks are merely
images of a HDD
with the OS, drivers and whatever
other junk the manufacturer wants to promote — usually as shareware. These recovery disks are also
BIOS-locked. This means that only an recovery disk from
manufacturer `A` will work with a certain BIOS specified by
manufacturer `A`. Therefore a recovery disk from
manufacturer `A` will most likely not work on a PC
from manufacturer `B` most of the times. Try booting your PC
with the recovery
disk. Most likely the PC
will boot to an installation program and follow whatever instructions you are
given. Every manufacturer makes these recovery
disks differently. There is no way to work around this
problem. This is the result of Microsoft's Piracy Policy.
If installing Windows
NT 4.0 or later including Windows 2000 (NT 5.0), XP (NT 5.1 and NT 5.2 for
x64, 7 (NT 6.1), Windows 8 (NT 6.1), 8.1 (NT 6.3) and 10 (NT 10), first get a list of
what hardware is in
At the beginning of the installation, there are various questions about hardware.
Follow the same steps as for
95B, but you will not get much of a break. The installation is more interactive. Make sure that
you select NTFS (New Technology File System)
instead of FAT 32 (File
Allocation Table 32-bit) when asked for the file format system. NTFS will give you more protection
and privacy, in a multi-user OS.
After you finish installing Windows 2000 or later,
refer to the Black Viper website to know
what services (programs running in RAM all the time, sometimes without your control
and/or interaction; referred to as a daemons in Unix) can be stopped and
Calmira: Making Windows 3.x Look Like Windows
Calmira was originally developed by Li-Hsin Huang under the name of
Calypso. Nowadays Erwin Dokter, Brian Johnson and other
developers work on this "shell
3.1x that adds Windows 95 look and
functionality" written (coded) in Delphi.
If you are still running Windows 3.1x at home or
work, Calmira is a shell
worth trying. It is very good, user-friendly and free.
Calmira requires an i386 microprocessor or higher, Windows
3.1x, at least 4 MB of RAM, a VGA monitor or better and a mouse, of course.
The new version of Calmira has an installer. Just follow the proper instructions.
The older versions do not have installers. Simply copy the decompressed files to a directory outside C:\WINDOWS or
C:\DOS. A good idea is C:\CALMIRA. At this
point, run CALMIRA.EXE.
If you want to bypass PROGRAM
MANAGER (PROGMAN.EXE) to start, edit SYSTEM.INI changing
SHELL=PROGMAN.EXE to SHELL=C:\CALMIRA\CALMIRA.EXE
considering that the latter is the correct path
for the Calmira executable. It is a good
idea to back up the
original SYSTEM.INI first.
COPY SYSTEM.INI SYSTEM.BAK
I installed Calmira on the no-name i386 computer running a whopping 40
MHz with 20 MB of RAM that I owned at the
time. Calmira merely
uses 4 KB of RAM.
It took me under twenty (20)
minutes to learn what Calmira can and cannot do. As
usual, I did not read any
instructions because "real men do not need
instructions" (a joke between my
best friend and me).
Other Replacement Graphic User Interfaces for
Windows 3.x & 95:
Before you do any changes, remember to back up SYSTEM.INI.
COPY CONFIG.SYS CONFIG.BAK
Then you can change SHELL=PROGMAN.EXE to SHELL=[path].
Packard Bell Navigator (c. 1994) by Packard
(1994-1997) by Xerox
Read about OpenGEM as a full Windows 3.1x replacement
on old i386 and i486 PCs.
Probably from all the operating
systems I have used, Microsoft
Windows might have the worst memory
management. I have had to write batches to clean up left over garbage. As such, CLI might still be the way to manage a Windows machine.
There are also third-party utilities that handle memory
management, but most of these are not loaded on boot. Windows
Registry hacking can also be used to clean the PAGEFILE.SYS file.
When I first started working on
this page, not to mention VintageOS as a
NT 4.0, Windows
2000, XP and 7 were the newer Microsoft technologies. The
device versions of Windows were shabby and have never acquired a descent
share. Case in point, sales of Windows CE and Windows
Mobile were nowhere near iPhone (iOS) or Android.
My experience with Microsoft's attempt of a mobile device OS has
been less than exciting. Windows CE was Microsoft's PDA, which was a pain to configure its
synchronization via a serial cable.
attempt to make a smartphone has included
acquisitions of Danger Hiptop (Sidekick) and the Lumia
division from Nokia.
Although I had a Windows Phone for work,
I did not care for it. My unit was nothing more
than a glorified portable
FM radio with an .MP3 player and a 4" display.
Surprisingly I found an app in the Windows
Phone Store that I really liked
— MS-DOS Mobile
1.0 released by Microsoft
Studios, which emulated MS-DOS 5.0 with Windows 3.1x and includes
an ASCII/CGA camera.
It is said that an OS is
as good as its applications (apps, in this case). Windows
Phone has a poor library — hence its weak market share. The latter
is heavily impacted by limited user space. The model that
I am using has only 4 GB, which is used by apps (all files inaccessible and
hidden even when mounted)
(\Documents, \Downloads, \Music,
\Ringtones and \Videos). To make matters more
annoying, although the unit has a slot for a microSD,
the card was not seen by Windows Phone unless
resetting it clearing all user
configuration with the card in place.
Needless to say, Windows Phone is much
more difficult (not to mention frustrating) to use than Android, iOS and even the now defunct Palm. It actually made me really miss my previous beat up Android mobile phone even if it
was broken, literally falling apart and held with electrical tape.
I was glad when it
broke and I got a crappy Android replacement a few months later.