Each model of Home windows, ranked from worst to greatest

Windows ranked

PC Gamer Ranked are our ridiculously complete lists of the most effective, worst, and all the things in-between from each nook of PC gaming.

Does Invoice Gates have a favourite model of Home windows? If I needed to guess, it will be Home windows 95โ€”he is most likely nonetheless actually pleased with the Begin menu and having fun with the billions of {dollars} he made when Microsoft’s inventory exploded. Or possibly he is feeling wistful about life and simply needs we might all return to easier occasions and Home windows 3.1. Perhaps he makes use of a Mac lately.

We did not ask Invoice to rattle off his favorites, however with Home windows 11 upon us, it felt like the suitable time to look again on the 35 12 months historical past of Home windows and rank all of them. There have been darkish days (Video games For Home windows Reside) and joys we have all shared (that factor the playing cards do in Solitaire). Principally, there’s been a number of clicking that button that stops Home windows Replace from rebooting.

The Standards

Variety of entries: 13.

What’s included: Each client model of Home windows (and one skilled model that sufficient regular folks ended up utilizing).

What’s not included: Enterprise-focused variations of Home windows NT. Home windows Server. Home windows Embedded. Minor variants like Home windows XP 64-bit (which sucked, by the way in which). Home windows Cellphone, clearly.

red line

And now: each model of Home windows, ranked from worst to greatest.

13. Home windows 8 (2012)

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Steve Ballmer holding a Windows 8 laptop

(Picture credit score: Bloomberg)

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Windows 8 desktop

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)

Microsoft focuses on contact, alienates PC customers all over the place


๐Ÿ‘ The Job Supervisor received some candy upgrades

๐Ÿ‘ Flat “Trendy” aesthetic is good


๐Ÿ‘Ž Actually all the things else concerning the UI was a catastrophe

๐Ÿ‘Ž The Home windows Retailer and Common Home windows apps have been a decade-long headache

๐Ÿ‘Ž DirectX 11 exclusivity tried and didn’t pressure players onto Home windows 8

  • All of us performed: The identical video games we have been enjoying on Home windows 7, as a result of we saved utilizing it
  • How we put in it: 8GB+ USB drive or Home windows Replace
  • Finest screensaver: Mystify, an outdated traditional that allow us fake we have been utilizing a special model of Home windows
  • Area required: 20GB

Coming off the enormously polished, profitable, and beloved Home windows 7, Microsoft did the inevitable: screwed all of it up. Home windows 8’s apparent missteps make a number of sense in hindsight. The early 2010s have been a time of big and speedy change for the tech business, largely as a result of the success of smartphones and tablets (particularly, iPhones and iPads) broke everybody’s brains. Pundits referred to as for the loss of life of the PC. The whole lot wanted to have a contact display. Microsoft appeared on the huge success of Apple’s mixed software program and {hardware} companies, particularly the App Retailer, and mentioned “We wish that.”

And so was born the worst model of Home windows: an OS constructed for each desktops and touchscreen laptops that did not excel on both. An OS that needed to manage (and promote) all functions by means of the brand new Microsoft Retailer, regardless of Home windows’ legacy as an open platform. ย Microsoft tried to resolve Home windows 8’s most egregious UI points with Home windows 8.1 in 2013, backpedaling to convey again the taskbar Begin button. It made Home windows 8.1 extra usable, however it was nonetheless an ungainly mix of desktop and pill interface.

The stagnant adoption mirrored that. In accordance with NetMarketshare, by spring 2015, proper earlier than Home windows 10 launched, 8 and eight.1 mixed had solely 14% of the PC market. Home windows 10 would move that share inside a 12 months.

Wes: This was Microsoft at its absolute worst, a lumbering misguided firm attempting to place its finger in each tech pie and managing to spoil all of them without delay. I hated the Home windows 8 person interface on PCs, however I will give Microsoft credit score for one factor: it was really fairly nice on smartphones. Home windows Cellphone deserved higher!

Tyler: Wes, no. I had a buddy who beloved his Home windows Cellphone, however consider the associated fee we might be paying now had Microsoft efficiently gone down Apple’s path. You need us to dwell in an alternate universe the place Tim Sweeney is taking Phil Spencer to court docket to testify about WindOS App Retailer coverage?

Morgan: I all the time thought it was bizarre that the “Metro” interface was quarantined to its personal zone on the Begin menu. One of the best factor I can say about Home windows 8 was it will definitely turned Home windows 8.1, which I had few complaints about. That was the purpose at which I might inform buddies operating into compatibility points in Home windows 7 that, don’t fret, Home windows 8 is not that unhealthy anymore.

Chris: As quickly as I noticed all of the rectangles and squares I assumed: “I’m in serious trouble.” I’ve nonetheless by no means owned a pill.ย 

ย 12. Home windows Me (2000)

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N'Sync promoting their new MSN site

There aren’t any good images of Home windows Me on the web, so here is one among N’Sync selling their MSN web site (Picture credit score: Jeff Christensen/Newsmakers)

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Windows ME desktop

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)

The buggy one you by no means used, should you have been fortunate


๐Ÿ‘ Constructed-in zip file assist

๐Ÿ‘ Launched System Restore


๐Ÿ‘Ž โ€ฆhowever it did not really work very nicely

๐Ÿ‘Ž Probably the crashiest model of Home windows ever

๐Ÿ‘Ž All its good options have been from Home windows 2000

  • All of us performed: No matter video games our family members who purchased a crappy Pentium III Gateway from Wal-mart occurred to personal.
  • How we put in it: 1 CD-ROM
  • Finest screensaver: The one confusingly referred to as Home windows, which assembles a cubed 3D depiction of your present desktop block-by-block
  • Area required: 320MB

You recognize it is not an excellent signal when a model of Home windows lasts lower than a 12 months. Home windows Millennium Version is really an ideal identify for a poorly aged of-its-time piece of software program. Critically, ME is so 2000, its set up CD was holographic. Data superhighway, right here we come!!

Home windows ME was meant to be the successor to the Home windows 95/98 line. It was, within the sense that it collected all of the bugs and issues of these variations and mixed them into one completely crappy working system. In follow it appeared about the identical as Home windows 98, and not one of the new options it launched did a lot to compensate for the notorious instability. ME crashed. It crashed rather a lot. It made Home windows 95 look secure. At the least, that was the expertise for lots of peopleโ€”should you scored the motive force and {hardware} lottery, it might have run simply in addition to Home windows 98.

Maybe the gravest sin ME dedicated was limiting person entry to DOS regardless of being the ultimate Home windows working system constructed on prime of DOS. It ended a groundbreaking period of Home windows with a whimper, however XP got here in with a bang simply barely a 12 months later.

Morgan: I’d’ve used this at college after I was 4?

Tyler: Keep in mind when Home windows Media Participant had that ugly UI with rounded edges, like one thing out of 3D Film Maker? That is what I affiliate with Home windows ME. Plenty of anime VCDs have been watched in that factor. It additionally had that tremendous pores and skin that was a inexperienced face with audio system for ears and a visualizer within the mind case. Media Participant Man lastly discovered his soulmate a couple of years later when the phrases “Evanescence – Deliver Me To Life” entered the world.

Wes: Mainly all I bear in mind about ME is {that a} household buddy had a pc operating it, and it reliably crashed just about each time I used it. This was the model of Home windows for chumps, whereas these within the know landed on the rock strong Home windows 2000 till XP got here alongside (and received its first few patches).

11. Home windows Vista (2006)

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Windows Vista - The

(Picture credit score: Ramin Talaie/Corbis)

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Windows Vista

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)

Duuuuuude. Transparency!


๐Ÿ‘ Launched Begin Menu seek for shortly launching packages

๐Ÿ‘ Aesthetic appeared shiny and smooth after XP


๐Ÿ‘Ž Safety restrictions and warnings have been an enormous annoyance

๐Ÿ‘Ž Steep {hardware} necessities meant it was sluggish for a lot of customers

๐Ÿ‘Ž Driver woes

  • All of us performed: Crysis, BioShock
  • How we put in it: 1 DVD
  • Finest screensaver: Ribbons
  • Area required: 20GB

Nowadays I believe folks look again on Vista with some sympathy. As Linus Tech Ideas argued, Vista did not fully deserve its unhealthy rap.

There have been definitely some painful efficiency points initially; Vista was definitely extra demanding than Home windows XP, and a few methods that have been touted as having the ability to run Vista actually could notโ€ฆ or they solely might should you turned off all of the graphical niceties, just like the Aero transparency results. And Vista was such a significant overhaul of the OS coming from XP, Vista wanted fully new drivers which have been sluggish to reach. That meant some {hardware} simply did not work on Vista and plenty of video games ran far worse than they did on XP. It was a horrible launch.

Oh, and the fantastic Consumer Account Management pop-ups! Yeah, everybody hated these, and nobody understood why Vista was taking on your whole display to warn you each time you tried to vary a setting within the management panel or launch a program.

However beneath these very obtrusive flaws, Vista launched an enormous slew of recent options and appeared innovative in comparison with XP. It overhauled virtually each Home windows system from XP. It was a giant step ahead! In return for that step, you simply needed to put up together with your video games operating worse, your printer not working, and pop-ups nagging you on a regular basis. One of the best factor that may be mentioned for Vista is that almost all of its basic enhancements returned virtually unchanged in Home windows 7 only a few years laterโ€ฆ and everyone beloved them.

Jody: I purchased a laptop computer that got here with Vista pre-installed, and it actually should not have. That rattling OS made it run like arse. Took without end besides, or do something actually, even with all of the swishy nonsense turned off. I am nonetheless mad at Vista like 12 years later.

Morgan: Like Jody, my first laptop computer ever got here with Vista. I bear in mind staring on the little clock widget on my desktop whereas I waited 15-20 seconds for Minecraft to open. I don’t advocate attempting to sport on a bottom-of-the-line 2009 Dell laptop computer operating Vista.

Evan: It is inseparable from the darkness and struggling of Video games for Home windows Reside, for me. GfWL got here a 12 months later, in 2007. I would peg it as one of many lowest factors in PC gaming’s historical pastโ€”Microsoft at its least-competent as a steward for the platform, and at its most meddlesome. By no means once more.

Wes: I used to be considerably obsessive about the glassy “Aero” aesthetic of Home windows Vista and its shiny tackle the taskbar and Begin button. It appeared so excessive tech on the time as a result of, whoa, transparency! I positively put in a Home windows XP pores and skin to imitate Vista’s aesthetic, however I held out from really utilizing the OS for awhile, as a result of it had some pretty heavy system necessities on the time. One in every of my buddies upgraded simply to play Halo 2 for PC, which was unique to Vista. It wasn’t value it.

Tyler: Like Wes, I used to be actually into the look right here. I would all the time beloved the thought of getting little widgets on my desktop, regardless that I didn’t then and have by no means wanted a bigger clock sitting on the desktop, which I by no means take a look at. I suppose I simply needed my PC to really feel like a management heart for, I do not know, somebody necessary.ย 

10-8. Home windows 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 (1985, 1987, 1990)

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Windows running on an Ogivar computer

(Picture credit score: David Cooper/Toronto Star)

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Windows 2.0

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)

Third time’s the allure


๐Ÿ‘ Launched Home windows as a graphical shell for MS-DOS

๐Ÿ‘ Home windows 3.0 set the stage for explosive progress


๐Ÿ‘Ž Home windows in Home windows 1.0 could not even overlap

๐Ÿ‘Ž Home windows 1.0 and a couple of.0 have been way more restricted than the Macintosh’s Mac OS

  • All of us performed: DOS video games! King’s Quest, Ultima…
  • How we put in it: 5 5.25″ floppy disks (1.0)
  • Finest screensaver: Flying Home windows
  • Area required: 8MB

Within the early days, Home windows was not common. Or significantly good. As a graphical overlay for MS-DOS, it was restricted in what it might really do; heck, in Home windows 1.0, the home windows could not even overlap. The Macintosh OS was way more sturdy, and Home windows solely noticed restricted use with variations 1.0 and a couple of.0. 2.0 was an necessary milestone although: it additionally noticed the introduction of Microsoft Phrase and Excel and Paint, together with some fundamentals like a calculator, calendar, and card file (should you’re below the age of 30, let me introduce you to the rolodex).

Home windows 3.0 is the place issues actually began taking place. Up till that time, PC customers might do some issues in Home windows, however nonetheless needed to swap over to the DOS immediate to run many functions. Home windows 3.0 (and each model up by means of 98) was nonetheless based mostly on DOS and also you’d nonetheless have to modify over for some packages, particularly to play most video games, however it was a giant step ahead.

And Home windows 3.0 was a success, promoting 10 million copies, with a graphical interface significantly improved over Home windows 2.0. You might do a couple of factor at a time because of smarter reminiscence administration! It had Solitaire! This was the purpose the place Home windows crossed the brink from being a kinda-useful add-on to DOS, to being a greater, simpler manner for most individuals to do issues on their pc.

Morgan: Wait, Home windows is that outdated?

Wes: Sure, youngling, however like most different ’90s children I really feel just like the OS virtually did not exist till Home windows 3.1. Each pc I utilized in my early childhood, besides the varsity pc lab Macs, ran Home windows 3.1. Besides my dad’s actually outdated PC we saved within the shed to often play video games on; that was simply DOS. Shout out to Norton Commander for being the primary software program I realized how one can use.ย 

7. Home windows 95 (1995)

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Windows 95 customer Mikol Furneaux waves two boxes in the air

(Picture credit score: Torsten Blackwood/AFP)

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Windows 95

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)

The one the place Chandler & Rachel introduce the Begin Menu


๐Ÿ‘ Bridged MS-DOS with a brand new period of computing

๐Ÿ‘ Revolutionized UI with the Begin Menu and taskbar

๐Ÿ‘ Brian Eno’s unbelievable startup jingle


๐Ÿ‘Ž Extra BSODs than blue males within the Blue Man Group

๐Ÿ‘Ž Clippy

  • All of us performed: Area Cadet Pinball, FreeCell, Myst
  • How we put in it: 1 CD-ROM or 13 floppy disks
  • Finest screensaver: ย 3D Maze, cuz whoooaaaa
  • Area required: 55 megabytes

Was the Begin menu the most important development in pc UI after the clickable icon? Home windows 95 actually did really feel like a quantum leap in how we used our computer systems, complicated and new sufficient that it wanted a prolonged video from the most well liked sitcom stars round to elucidate the way it labored.

A lot of what Microsoft launched in Home windows 95 continues to be key to our PCs at present. We nonetheless use a begin menu, taskbar, and system tray in largely the identical manner; these options have confirmed resilient even to Microsoft itself attempting to exchange them. Home windows 95 set a precedent for compatibility that later variations of Home windows would largely observe, operating on prime of DOS and nonetheless supporting 16-bit functions whereas being constructed for a 32-bit future.

And other people beloved it. Home windows 95’s adoption was super. By mid-1999, Home windows 95 nonetheless owned almost 60% of the PC market, which Home windows 98 could not hope to surpass. In 1995, Microsoft made about $6 billion in income. In 1997, that quantity grew to greater than $11 billion.

Home windows 95 definitely had its flaws and was liable to crashing, however that was the value of its innovation. In affect, it is most likely a very powerful model of Home windows ever made. But it is outranked right here by a few of its successors as a result of they present how shortly expertise developed from ’95-2000; they merely did what Home windows 95 did, however higher.

Shaun: All I bear in mind is my Uncle Invoice being extraordinarily indignant about Home windows 95 for some motive that was inexplicable to me on the time.

Evan: Vivid reminiscence of seeing the Begin button for the primary time on a desktop in my uncle’s basement and being afraid to push it. I assumed it was some sort of ignition. (I used to be 10.)

Chris: I bear in mind the business concerning the Begin button. It was a button, and so they made a business for it utilizing a Rolling Stones tune about being sexy. I ponder if Invoice Gates knew it was a tune about being sexy.

Wealthy: The primary ‘trendy’ OS I used. Earlier than this it was instructions and tape loaders. I do know Home windows was ‘outdated’ by this level however it was new to me, and I nonetheless bear in mind the amazement on the thought of Home windows itself.

Wes: I performed Tomb Raider on Home windows 95, and bear in mind studying to hate the brand new Home windows key on the keyboard. One unintended press would crash the sport. Now it is probably the greatest keys, although.ย 

6. Home windows 98 (1998)

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Windows 98 - A customer looks at a box in Japan

(Picture credit score: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP)

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Windows 98

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)

Home windows 95, refined and able to surf the online


๐Ÿ‘ Truly good on the web

๐Ÿ‘ Did not screw up something that made Home windows 95 so common

๐Ÿ‘ Crashed lower than Home windows 95, most likely?


๐Ÿ‘Ž A dear improve for pretty modest modifications

  • All of us performed: Age of Empires 2, Unreal Match
  • How we put in it: 1 CD-ROM or 38 floppy disks
  • Finest screensaver: 3D Pipes (we matured previous the maze, you see)
  • Area required: 255MB

By the point Home windows 98 arrived, Microsoft had launched Web Explorer and developed it to model 4.0. Again in ’95 Microsoft was simply getting an inkling that the web may actually be a factor, however it could not end Web Explorer in time to ship it with the preliminary launch of Home windows 95. By 1998 it was a core a part of the working system (later the impetus for an enormous antitrust lawsuit), and Home windows 98 was general higher designed for web connectivity.

Home windows 98 appeared just about the identical, however launched some necessary options just like the Home windows Driver Module and higher USB assist that may change into extra common in its successors. 1999’s Second Version additional refined the OS. Wanting again, Home windows 98 is the predecessor to Home windows 10’s meatiest seasonal updates, or the tick-tock cadence of Vista-to-7 and 8-to-10. It wasn’t groundbreaking, however it made key upgrades that saved the OS aggressive and suitable with the most recent {hardware} throughout occasions of speedy change.

Evan: It is round this second that the second era of 3D video games was kicking off: Tribes, Thief, Half-Life, and the unique Unreal. These video games have been the avalanche of recent concepts began by Quake simply a few years earlier.

Andy: Home windows 98 was simply Home windows 95 that labored correctly. That will not sound like a giant deal however you would be stunned how a lot folks admire that sort of incrementalism after two or three years of Win95’s bullshit. It was so rock-solid that when ME got here alongside I did not even take into consideration upgrading, which in hindsight was a bullet dodged however on the time was merely a testomony to how proper Home windows 98 was.ย 

The High 5

5. Home windows 2000 (2000)

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Windows 2000 boxes rolling off the line

(Picture credit score: Jeff Christensen)

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Windows 2000 desktop

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)

The tremendous secure enterprise OS savvy PC house owners jumped on


๐Ÿ‘ Home windows NT’s codebase did not have 95/99/ME’s crashing issues

๐Ÿ‘ One of the best of 98’s options married with a ton of business-oriented tech

๐Ÿ‘ Service packs all over 2005

  • All of us performed: Baldur’s Gate 2, The Sims
  • How we put in it: 1 CD-ROM
  • Finest screensaver: It is nonetheless 3D Pipes
  • Area required: 1GB

There are a number of variations of Home windows excluded from this listing, as a result of it does not make a number of sense to rank, say, Home windows Server 2003 together with all of the variations that ordinary folks really used. However Home windows 2000 is the exception, as a result of it is the one workstation-oriented model of Home windows that ended up making its manner into frequent utilization. It additionally marks an necessary inflection level in Home windows historical past.

In 2000, Microsoft launched each Home windows Me (constructed on the 95/98 codebase) and Home windows 2000, constructed on Home windows NT. You might bury your self in technical particulars attempting to be taught the variations between the 2, however probably the most telling element is that when XP rolled round in late 2001, it was utilizing the Home windows NT kernel, marking the tip of Home windows constructed on prime of MS-DOS. Home windows 2000 appeared rather a lot like Home windows 95 and 98, however below the floor was a far extra secure working system full of options that may maintain it related and usable for years.

Home windows 2000 might hibernate. Home windows 2000 supported an unlimited array of USB units (and Firewire!) with straightforward plug-and-play. It began with DirectX 7 assist and was up to date to 9.0c, which saved it related for gaming till 2010. Home windows 2000 added the Occasion Viewer, a system log device that you have hopefully by no means had to make use of, however most likely love should you’ve ever needed to diagnose a extremely nasty difficulty. It supported encryption and had a logical disk supervisor, key for an period when placing exhausting drives in RAID was the first method to velocity up storage. Oh, and it launched some longstanding accessibility options, together with the on-screen keyboard and narrator. If it weren’t for the tasteless aesthetic, Home windows 2000 might have gotten all of XP’s love a full 12 months earlier than.

Wes: Actually, I did not get the love for XP when it got here out, as a result of it simply appeared like a candy-colored model of the skilled Home windows we might been utilizing at residence for an excellent whereas. XP received out in the long term, after all, however was initially a bit buggy. I am undecided I ever noticed Home windows 2000 crash.

Evan: Did your dad put on suspenders and/or work as an engineer? He might have owned Home windows NT or 2000.ย 

4. Home windows 10 (2015)

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Windows 10 reveal

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)

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Windows 10 desktop

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)

Mounted what was broke, did not break a lot else

๐Ÿ‘ Mounted most of Home windows 8’s UI nonsense

๐Ÿ‘ Quick and practical: it is simply good Home windows

๐Ÿ‘ Microsoft ultimately relented on UWP apps


๐Ÿ‘Ž Inconsistent menus courting again to Home windows 7 (at the very least)

๐Ÿ‘Ž Microsoft attempting to make Cortana a factor

๐Ÿ‘Ž Invasive privateness settings at launch

  • All of us performed: The Witcher 3, Stardew Valley
  • How we put in it: 8GB+ USB drive
  • Finest screensaver: RIP screensavers ๐Ÿ™
  • Area required: 20GB

It has been an excellent run, Home windows 10. You’ve got definitely made a couple of blunders through the years. Keep in mind how all of your privateness settings have been opt-out at launch, which made folks actually mad? That wasn’t cool. Keep in mind the way you tried to pressure voice assistant Cortana into the working system and set up course of, regardless that it positive appeared like no person needed it? Yeah, that was annoying. And you realize, you continue to have some menus that have not modified since, like, 2005. You are positively not as constant as you could possibly be. However for probably the most half, it has been a pleasure working with you.

That is largely since you simply work nicely. You are quick, and your interface is usually fairly clear, and you’ve got a Begin menu. All of us admire that. The best way we will tint your window coloring and apply it constantly throughout the entire UI is a very nice contact. These lock display images are literally a deal with once we login on daily basis. And you’ve got achieved an excellent job of adapting to the excessive decision show period, with scaling that largely works with out an excessive amount of fuss. You tried some issues that did not work right here and thereโ€”and your Microsoft Retailer continues to be whole crapโ€”however you managed to not screw up a very powerful issues. Thanks for that.

Chris: As with each model of Home windows I’ve nearly reached the purpose the place it appears just about okay and nothing appears complicated. So naturally we’re about to get yanked into Home windows 11 the place as soon as once more I’ll fail to know what modified and why and how one can make it cease doing the factor that annoys me probably the most. Salut!

Morgan: I actually like Home windows 10. With that out of the way in which, holy crap why are there three completely different variations of each settings menu? Do you wanna mess with sound? Properly you’ll be able to’t simply go to the clear, Home windows 8-lookin’ panel menu. It’s important to crack into the correct Sounds display that appears straight out of XP. Is it referred to as “10” as a result of there are 10 different Home windows variations nonetheless working beneath all of it?

Wealthy: Home windows 10 is the most effective Home windows ever, so long as you’ll be able to google “Methods to flip off pointless Home windows 10 options.”ย 

3. Home windows 3.1 (1992)

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Windows 3.1 ad

(Picture credit score: Software program Spectrum)

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Windows 3.1

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)



๐Ÿ‘ Dragging and dropping icons was a giant deal

๐Ÿ‘ IBM PCs lastly had an OS that would compete with Macintosh

๐Ÿ‘ TrueType fonts have been really a Large Deal


๐Ÿ‘Ž In the end nonetheless only a GUI for DOS

  • All of us performed: MINESWEEPER AND SOLITAIRE, BABY
  • How we put in it: Six 3.5″ floppy disks or seven 5.25″ floppy disks
  • Finest screensaver: Starfield simulation
  • Area required: 8MB

Home windows 3.0 was the primary model of Microsoft’s OS to seek out breakout success, and was a giant enchancment over its predecessors. Right now an replace like Home windows 3.1 would simply be a seasonal patch for Home windows 10 somewhat than a noteworthy standalone launch, however within the early ’90s it received its personal field of floppy disks and established itself because the definitive model of Home windows till 1995. I am undecided I’ve ever heard somebody say “Home windows 3.0” out loud, however everybody who grew up utilizing PCs within the ’90s put their palms on Home windows 3.1 in some unspecified time in the future. Home windows 3.0 was successful, however 3.1 solidified Home windows’ place as the working system for IBM PCs. 3.1 bought greater than 3 million copies in simply six weeks.

Macintosh was nonetheless the celebrated competitors, however throughout the Home windows 3.1 period IBM PCs shortly received less expensive, making them reasonably priced sufficient for the household pc to change into commonplace. 3.1 was a pleasant refinement to three.0’s interface, however it included a couple of key new options, like TrueType font assist, enabling desktop publishing, and multimedia assist so you could possibly play midi and different music recordsdata with out particular software program. It is a very powerful evolutionary step in Home windows historical past. Additionally it had a colour scheme referred to as Scorching Canine Stand.

Wes: One in every of my most vivid recollections of Home windows 3.1 was utilizing the Arches wallpaper as a result of it jogged my memory of Prince of Persia, which I performed again and again. It is humorous how a lot our tastes in person interfaces have modified since then. On the time everybody I knew would go away tons of home windows open on their desktop, displaying each icon they wanted to entry unexpectedly. Ultimately we shifted to the beginning menu and minimal taskbar icons to maintain the desktop pristine. Wanting again, I actually love how playful the icon design was.

Chris: I did not personal a PC on the time and I did not use one at work however throughout my lunch I would sit at a co-worker’s desk and check out completely different Home windows themes and alter her mouse cursor and issues like that. I understand now that should have been amazingly annoying for her. Sorry, Sherrie.ย 

2. Home windows XP (2001)

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Bill Gates holds a copy of Windows XP in Time Square

(Picture credit score: Jeff Christensen/WireImage)

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Windows XP

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)



๐Ÿ‘ That wallpaper

๐Ÿ‘ Nice revamps of necessities just like the Begin menu, taskbar and explorer

๐Ÿ‘ Made Home windows really feel private


๐Ÿ‘Ž 32-bit OS restricted XP to 4GB of RAM

๐Ÿ‘Ž Infamously exploitable Web Explorer

  • All of us performed: Warcraft 3, Half-Life 2ย 
  • How we put in it: 1 CD-ROM
  • Finest screensaver: Customized The Matrix screensaver, obvs
  • Area required: 1.5GB

There’s most likely no model of Home windows that evokes extra heat, fuzzy emotions than XP. Everyone used itโ€”it bought one thing like 500 million copies by the point Microsoft stopped supporting it in 2014. It made Home windows really feel private, with particular person person profiles and that daring blue and inexperienced theme that you could possibly reskin should you needed to. For thousands and thousands of individuals, XP was additionally possible the gateway to the web in a blossoming on-line period. AIM, MSN Messenger, Limewire, Winamp and Myspace are all key items of the XP period, regardless that most of them weren’t really tied to the OS.ย 

Antitrust lawsuits meant Microsoft needed to carve out a few of its software program as a substitute of together with it in XP, however XP nonetheless had a wealth of packed-in software program that enabled the typical pc person to do no matter they needed. Home windows Film Maker and Home windows Media Participant have been nice for the time. You might burn CDs and DVDs straight from the file explorer. Service Packs launched the thought of meaty downloadable updates for Home windows that made the OS even higher, fixing bugs and including new options like USB 2.0 assist and wi-fi safety modes. This prolonged Home windows XP’s life for years and years (most likely far longer than Microsoft actually needed), making it nearly definitely the model of Home windows most individuals used for the longest span of time. XP was secure. XP was cozy. It was the most effective model of Home windows ever madeโ€ฆ till 2009.

Morgan: XP is 20 years outdated, and I used to be nonetheless utilizing it at an outdated job as lately as 2019. If you happen to’re round my age, it is most likely what you see in your head while you suppose “pc.”ย 

Wealthy: I want Home windows 10 however Home windows XP is one thing I used from late highschool for many years. It was simply ‘there’ greater than any Home windows earlier than or since, it nearly felt like this was how computer systems would all the time be and, possibly I am simply delusional and outdated, however it genuinely felt quick. I do not suppose Home windows 10 has the zippiness or purity of XP, regardless that 10’s now the usual.ย 

Tyler: My early 2000s Home windows XP Job Supervisor would’ve included some mixture of AIM, ICQ, Winamp, a MUD consumer, Web Explorer (open to discussion board stuffed with unhealthy anime drawings), another person’s copy of Photoshop 5.5, and malware. Good occasions.ย 

Wes: Shout-out to anybody who realized by watching TechTV circa 2004 that you could possibly really customise the Home windows XP boot display. Riveting tv.

1. Home windows 7 (2009)

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Windows 7 boxes on a shelf

(Picture credit score: Oli Scarff/Getty Photographs)

Picture 2 of two

Windows 7 desktop

(Picture credit score: Microsoft)

Microsoft will get all the things proper


๐Ÿ‘ Higher-performing Vista with not one of the bullshit

๐Ÿ‘ Managed surprisingly good backwards compatibility with older Home windows

๐Ÿ‘ None of that crap you don’t need


๐Ÿ‘Ž Lastly left behind by trendy {hardware} and software program or we might use it without end

๐Ÿ‘Ž Poor scaling for hi-res shows

  • All of us performed: Skyrim, Minecraft, Portal 2
  • How we put in it: 4+GB USB drive (or 1 DVD)
  • Finest screensaver: Black display (we received boring)
  • Area required: 20 gigabytes

The As soon as and Future King of Home windowsโ€”the one which rescued us from Vista’s obnoxious person account controls and allow us to dwell freely in a shiny glass paradise. It was quick. It was secure. It did all the things Home windows wanted to do and made the OS prettier and simpler to make use of with out messing with years of built-up expertise. Aero nonetheless appears slick a decade later, even when up to date design has moved to trendy shading, and themes allow you to apply a constant look to the entire OS based mostly in your desktop.

So many little tweaks enhanced outdated Home windows options. Pinning gadgets to the taskbar gave you good, simply clickable icons; stacking browser and file explorer home windows right into a single icon helped maintain issues organized. Jumplists supplied fast entry to options inside these packages. Thumbnail previews allow you to mouse over to see a window with out even clicking. Libraries made it simpler to group recordsdata collectively in Home windows Explorer so you were not as beholden to the outdated “My Paperwork” folder setup. And snapping home windows to the perimeters of screens? Perhaps the most effective productiveness change Microsoft’s made within the final 20 years.

A few of what made Home windows 7 nice was sort of already there in Vista, however Microsoft cleared out to crud so it might shine by means of. Simply urgent the Home windows key and typing made launching any program a breeze, and added keyboard shortcuts for options like window snapping made it much more environment friendly. If Home windows 10 (or Home windows 11) had merely been Home windows 7, unchanged apart from under-the-hood efficiency enhancements and updates for contemporary {hardware}, would anybody have actually minded? Give us a model of this OS tweaked for contemporary {hardware} and safety and so forth, and we might use it without end.

Morgan: Ahhh, 7. Now that is a fortunate little quantity I can get behind.

Wes: It feels a bit foolish to really feel nostalgic for Home windows, however right here I’m feeling it. I’ve all kinds of childhood and teenage recollections hooked up to Home windows XP and Home windows 3.1, however my nostalgia for Home windows 7 is completely different. It is for a time when Home windows felt actually trendy and had all the things discovered, however Microsoft hadn’t gotten overeager stuffing it with no matter’s stylish within the tech world (lookin’ at you, Cortana). Home windows 7 had nice instruments like window snapping, keyboard shortcuts, a clear UI, common on-line updates, with not one of the bullshit we count on lately. There was no Microsoft retailer. There weren’t invasive, built-in advert monitoring profiles to show off.

These have been simply glad years of me utilizing my pc and never having a lot to complain about. And god, I performed a lot League of Legends.

Feeling nostalgic about Home windows now, or on the lookout for the deets on Home windows 11? We have now extra tales about Home windows new and outdated.

Wes Fenlon

Wes has been masking video games and {hardware} for greater than 10 years, first at tech websites like The Wirecutter and Examined earlier than becoming a member of the PC Gamer crew in 2014. Wes performs a bit of little bit of all the things, however he’ll all the time soar on the likelihood to cowl emulation and Japanese video games. When he is not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Passable (it is actually turning into an issue), he is most likely enjoying a 20-year-old RPG or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a give attention to writing and modifying options, he seeks out private tales and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its area of interest communities. 50% pizza by quantity (deep dish, to be particular).