Windows Version History

What We'll Learn

  1. Learn a bit of history about various versions of Windows
  2. Understand goals and direction of Windows 10

What is Windows?

Microsoft Windows is an operating system, it provides a foundation for all other software to work on your computer. The picture below shows how software is layered on your computer when running annd where Microsoft windows fits in: 
  1. First the computer loads a small software program from a chip inside the computer called the BIOS. This "wakes-up" the computer and gives it some basic information, including where to look for theWindows Operating System.
  2. Next the computer typically goes to Drive C: and loads up the RAM with the necessary parts of the Windows Operating System.  Now the system is fully aware of all it's hardware and how to use it.   Windows also provides the basic tools to work with files and folders and administer your system.
  3. At anytime you can run programs, such asInternet Explorer.  
  4. When you use Internet Explorer for special tasks, such as viewing a YouTube video, it will load anAdobe Flash plugin to help you successfully complete the task.
As you can see from the diagram, each piece of software builds on the next.  A problem in one layer can affect all the other layers, so sometimes troubleshooting can get quite complicated.

Windows Versions Over Time

Microsoft Windows is the most important piece of Software on your computer.  It is also the most common computer operating system in the world.  Over the years, Microsoft has released different versions of Windows:

  • 1985 - Windows 1.0
  • 1987 - Windows 2.0
  • 1990 - Windows 3.0
  • 1992 - Windows 3.1
  • 1995 - Windows 95
  • 1998 - Windows 98
  • 2000 - Windows ME
  • 2001 - Windows XP
  • 2007 - Windows Vista
  • 2009 - Windows 7
  • 2012 - Windows 8
  • 2013 - Windows 8.1
  • 2015 - Windows 10
 For more information, you can read the detailed history of Microsoft Windows.

Microsoft also has expiry dates for the various versions. If you continue to use a version after its expiry date, you run the risk of having an insecure environment and should not use the computer connected to the Internet. Here are the published extended support expiry dates for some of the recent versions:
  • Windows XP - April 8, 2014
  • Windows Vista - April  11, 2017
  • Windows 7 - January 14, 2020
  • Windows 8 - January 10, 2023
  • Windows 10 - October 14, 2025

Get Windows 10 for Free

Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 for Windows 7 and Windows 8 customers that meet the necessary hardware requirements. Currently the free upgrade expires on July 29, 2016. For detailed information check the Microsoft 10 FAQ page.

At present, no one knows what will happen after July 29 but the speculation is that Microsoft will extend this free upgrade and eventually try to move people towards a more subscription based model instead of selling the operating system out right.

In general, it's a great idea to get the new Windows 10 upgrade if you don't already have it. Here are some challenges to keep in mind when considering the upgrade:
  • Don't interrupt the upgrade once it is started. It can take several hours.
  • If your computer is five or more years old, it's probably not worthwhile to upgrade since the existing windows is viable for the expected life span of your system.
  • You may have install your printer if it doesn't work properly after the upgrade.
  • You should consider creating a Microsoft account if you don't already have one.