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 OS.

With the release of Windows 95B (Windows 4.x running on MS-DOS 7.x) on 1996, Microsoft marketed Windows as a stand-alone OS. Windows 98, 98SE 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 ( included) say that Windows 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 4.x kernel. Windows NT 4.0 and up offered some compatibility with 16-bit applications. Windows XP (NT 5.1) offers little to none whatsoever.

rebuilt an old i386 PC for fun, just because 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 old hardware and old software. Note that this page mostly covers experience with Windows 3.1x to 98SE. really do not care about any version past 98SE since 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).

Installing Windows 3.1x:

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 & ME) includes MS-DOS 7 and does not have low-level memory utility. Because MS-DOS 7 is direly limited, recommend you to install MS-DOS 6.22 and run memory management. Note that MS-DOS has MEMMAKER and PC DOS has RAMBOOST.

Windows 4.xx (95, 98 & 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 your system.


The latter creates a virtual disk of 2048 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 useful.

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 your PC. Also refer to 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 nowadays).

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 memory blocks.

If installing Windows 95B or later from a recovery disk, forget everything that you have read so far. Most recovery disks do not have the OS with a SETUP.EXE and all the .CAB files (as you would buy it in any store). These recovery disks are merely an image 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 and XP), first get a list of what hardware is in your PC. 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 the background, sometimes without your control or interaction; referred to as a daemons in Unix) can be stopped.

Calmira, Making Windows 3.x Look Like Windows 95:

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 for Windows 3.1x that adds Windows 95 look and functionality" written (coded) in Delphi.

Windows 3.11 workspace (Used
          with permission from Microsoft.)

Windows 95 Desktop
          screenshot (Used with permission from Microsoft.)

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 Desktop ({Information
          Description=Screenshot of Calmira Desktop Source=Own work
          Date= Author=Edokter Permission={pd-self} other_versions= })

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 installations. 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.


installed Calmira on the no-name i386 computer running a whopping 40 MHz with 20 MB of RAM that owned at the time. Calmira merely uses 4 KB of RAM.

It took under twenty (20) minutes to learn what Calmira can and cannot do. As usual, did not read any instructions because "real men do not need instructions" (a joke between best friend and ).

Newer Versions:

When first started working on this page, not to mention VintageOS as a whole, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, XP and 7 were the newer Microsoft technologies. The mobile device versions of Windows were shabby and have never acquired a descent market share. Case in point, sales of Windows CE and Windows Mobile were nowhere near iPhone (iOS) or Android.

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.

Microsoft's attempt to make a smartphone has included acquisitions of Danger Hiptop (Sidekick) and the Lumia division from Nokia.

Although use a Windows Phone for work, do not care for it. My unit is nothing more than a glorified portable FM radio with a MP3 player and a 4" display. Surprisingly found an app in the Windows Phone Store that really like — MS-DOS Mobile 1.0 released by Microsoft Studios, which emulates MS-DOS 5.0 with Windows 3.1x and includes an ASCII/CGA camera.

          Mobile, DIR C:\>

          Mobile, DIR C:\DOS>

          Mobile, DIR C:\GAMES>

          Mobile, DIR C:\PROGRAMS>

          Mobile, access to C:\SYSTEM> denied

          Mobile, DIR C:\TEMP>

          Mobile, DIR C:\WINDOWS>

          Mobile, DIR C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM>

          Mobile with Windows 3.1 (splash screen)

          Mobile with Windows 3.1 (shell)

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 am using has only 4 GB, which is used by apps (all files unaccessible and hidden even when mounted) and user files (\Documents, \Downloads, \Music, \Ringtones and \Videos). To make matters more annoying, although the unit has a slot for a microSD, the card is not seen by Windows Phone unless reseting 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 really miss my beat up Android mobile phone even if it was broken and literally falling apart held with electrical tape.