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85 votes
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Why did Windows 95 crash the whole system but newer Windows only crashed programs?

You are comparing apples to motorcycles. Windows 95 traces its lineage back through Windows 3.x all the way to Windows 1.x and MS-DOS/PC-DOS, themselves inspired by CP/M. It was conceived and ...
user's user avatar
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82 votes
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How exactly did Windows become the OS of the home PC?

The short version is that Windows became the de facto operating system thanks to Microsoft’s business acumen (or shenanigans, depending on your point of view), marketing, skilled developers, a strong ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
78 votes
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Why did Microsoft start Windows NT at all?

Windows 1.0 most certainly did not have Win32; it had limited DOS support, and its multi-tasking was cooperative only (so one wayward program could lock up the whole system). Like MS-DOS, early ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
75 votes

Why did fonts in Windows 1.01's Write application look so poor?

Your images appear to have been generated via emulation, with heavy anti-aliasing that doesn't show what it looked like in reality. Here's Windows 3.1 Write in native VGA resolution without any image ...
Bruce Abbott's user avatar
  • 6,653
69 votes

Why does Windows 1.01 crash at the splash screen?

This is a botched version check error message. Windows 1.x was designed to run under MS-DOS 2.0, 3.0 and 3.10; to ensure it only runs under one of these, it performs a version test on its host DOS. ...
user3840170's user avatar
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66 votes
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How should we interpret Dave Cutler's criticism of Unix?

The I/O model on "Cutler systems" – RSX-11M, VAX/VMS, Windows NT – is an asynchronous packet-driven I/O model, rather than the fundamentally synchronous I/O model of Unix. At its core, you ...
dave's user avatar
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64 votes
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Did Windows NT 4 emulate x86 on non-Intel platforms?

There was x86 emulation on Windows NT, on MIPS, Alpha, and PowerPC — in fact, more than x86 emulation, PC emulation. The operating system itself ran natively, and applications could be built natively ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
63 votes
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Did Microsoft really reserve secret APIs in Windows?

The 1992 book Undocumented Windows: A Programmer’s Guide to Reserved Windows API Functions by Andrew Schulman, David Maxey, and Matt Pietrek, lists them. Its section on “Microsoft’s Use of ...
Davislor's user avatar
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47 votes
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What are the "virtual machines" that were running on 80386 and later x86 CPUs before full hardware virtualization?

I would think the articles you've read were most likely about the Virtual 8086 Mode introduced with the 386. Here a host OS (running at privilege 0) would create a standard protected process, but mark ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 218k
45 votes

Why did fonts in Windows 1.01's Write application look so poor?

Because those were low-resolution bitmap fonts. In Windows 1.01, most fonts were monochrome bitmap fonts, and not particularly high-resolution at that. (There were CONTINUOUSSCALING ‘plotter’ fonts ...
user3840170's user avatar
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41 votes
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Where did the term ‘blue screen of death’ come from?

I bear disappointing news: the conventional wisdom seems to be that the term arose organically among Windows users of the mid-to-late 1990s. It’s probably hopeless to establish a definite coinage of ...
user3840170's user avatar
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41 votes
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In what ways was the Windows NT POSIX implementation unsuited to real use?

In what specific ways was the POSIX implementation unsuited to real use? It wasn’t unsuited, but it’s important to understand what was certified. In order to meet requirements for certain US ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
40 votes

Why did Windows 95 crash the whole system but newer Windows only crashed programs?

The decision about whether to kill a process or crash the OS generally depends on whether the problem can be isolated to the process. For example, if a running process in user mode attempts to read ...
dave's user avatar
  • 35.2k
40 votes

What are the "virtual machines" that were running on 80386 and later x86 CPUs before full hardware virtualization?

"Virtual machine" has a long and varied history, not always meaning exactly what it means today. Early designers of timesharing systems viewed what they were providing to their users was a ...
dave's user avatar
  • 35.2k
38 votes

Why did the original design of COM on Windows rely on the Registry?

At that time, developers at Microsoft were still dreaming the dream of version independent management of libraries, so newer, more powerful libraries could replace older, less powerful or buggy ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 218k
38 votes
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What did Windows 2 do about varying aspect ratio?

Most of Windows’ display model is device-independent, or at least provides all the information required to produce consistent displays, and it’s the display drivers that handle discrepancies. As a ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
37 votes

Why was the DOS kernel discarded?

The DOS kernel is made to provide basic filesystem and memory management for single-tasking 16-bit systems. This still was good enough up to Windows 3.1, as Windows consolidated all the Windows tasks ...
Michael Karcher's user avatar
37 votes

Why did DOS-based Windows require HIMEM.SYS to boot?

Windows in protected mode requires an XMS driver — HIMEM.SYS is the one provided by Microsoft, but others can be used¹ (and the Windows Me kernel includes its own XMS driver). The role of the XMS ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
37 votes
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Since when does Windows support forward slash as path separator?

TL;DR: Windows did not explicitly support both, but DOS did since 2.0 The answer is rather a clear "yes but" (*1): DOS 2.0 and later supported both ways, thus all DOS functions will work ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 218k
36 votes
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What is the best way to obtain old versions of MS-DOS and Windows?

The legal way to obtain old versions of Microsoft operating systems and software is to buy a Visual Studio subscription (formerly known as MSDN subscription). That page has a link to the complete list ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
35 votes

How exactly did Windows become the OS of the home PC?

The other answers include a lot of sound historical information about how Windows evolved into its dominant role on PC's in both the home and business environment. But I think the most fundamental, ...
Brian H's user avatar
  • 60.5k
32 votes

Did Microsoft really reserve secret APIs in Windows?

It is absolutely normal for large software products to not expose quite a number of functions (note I'm deliberately not calling these API functions) to customers. Any software has library functions ...
tofro's user avatar
  • 34k
31 votes

Why did ScanDisk exist?

There are quite a few differences between the MS-DOS CHKDSK and ScanDisk, beyond the latter’s friendlier interface. ScanDisk can “repair” cross-linked files, i.e. files which end up pointing (...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
29 votes

Where did the term ‘blue screen of death’ come from?

The Jargon File suggests the term is derived from an earlier Windows crash, the Black Screen of Death. This was a lockup experienced when launching a DOS session under Windows 3.1, commonly associated ...
john_e's user avatar
  • 7,045
28 votes

Why was the DOS kernel discarded?

TL;DR: DOS is not capable to deliver what any Windows after 2.0 needs. It can only handle real mode and 1 MiB of Memory. All Windows after 2.0/286 were essentially replacing/virtualizing large parts ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 218k
26 votes
Accepted

How does Windows 9x determine which disk drivers correspond to which BIOS disks/DOS drive letters?

By their contents. When Windows boots, the I/O Supervisor VxD (IOS) uses BIOS interrupt 0x13 services to read sector 0 (the Master Boot Record) of each drive. It then looks at two bytes at offset ...
user3840170's user avatar
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25 votes
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Running DOS, Windows 3, and Windows 98 from one FAT32 partition?

The first part isn’t too difficult: install Windows 98 as usual, then edit MSDOS.SYS to change its BootGUI setting to 0. This will disable the automatic GUI startup, and the computer will boot to a ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
25 votes
Accepted

How did malware spreading through PIF files work?

Real PIFs are indeed “only” configuration files, but they are executable: running a PIF will run the corresponding program, with the configuration specified by the PIF. This can be used as-is: a “real”...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
24 votes

Were Mac systems faster than Windows in processing performance?

Why Mac systems were always faster than Windows in processing performance? Mind to give any proof to this claim? According to various Benchmarks, the PCs usually outperform Macs of the same time. ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 218k

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