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
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 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.
I rebuilt an old 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 old hardware
and old software.
Note that this page mostly covers my experience with Windows
3.1x to 98SE.
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).
Installing Windows 3.1x:
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.
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 &
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.
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
DEVICEHIGH=C:\WINDOWS\RAMDRIVE.SYS 2048 /E
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
Do not install Windows
1 (1985) or 2 (1987) as they are merely useful.
If you are installing Windows
3.1x, (6 floppies for
3.1x; 9 floppies for
and the Windows 3.11) do not forget to install Calmira
on your PC. Also refer to my instructions on how to maintain the HDD in a
i386 computer running MS-DOS and Windows
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 memory blocks.
If installing Windows
95B or later from a recovery
disk, forget everything that you have read so far. Most
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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.
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
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 Bell
TabWorks (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 whole, Windows NT 4.0, Windows
2000, XP and
the newer Microsoft
technologies. The mobile
device versions of Windows were shabby and have never acquired a
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
has been less than exciting. Windows
CE was Microsoft's PDA, which was a pain to configure its
synchronization via a serial
Microsoft's attempt to make a smartphone has included acquisitions of
Hiptop (Sidekick) and the Lumia division from Nokia.
Although I use a Windows
Phone for work, I 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 I
found an app in
the Windows Phone Store that I 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.
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 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 me really miss my beat up Android mobile
phone even if it was broken and literally falling
apart held with electrical tape.