"Windows" redirects here. For the part of a building, see window. For other uses, see Windows (disambiguation).
Screenshot of Windows 10 (Fall Creators Update, version 1709), showing the Action Center and Start Menu
|Source model||Closed / shared source|
|Initial release||November 20, 1985; 32 years ago (1985-11-20), as Windows 1.0|
|Latest release||1709 (10.0.16299.251) (March 5, 2018; 9 days ago (2018-03-05))[±]|
|Latest preview||RS4 (10.0.17115) (March 6, 2018; 8 days ago (2018-03-06))[±]|
|Marketing target||Personal computing|
|Available in||137 languages|
|Package manager||Windows Installer (.msi), Windows Store (.appx)|
|Platforms||ARM, IA-32, Itanium, x86-64, DEC Alpha, MIPS, PowerPC|
|Default user interface||Windows shell|
Microsoft Windows is a group of several graphicaloperating system families, all of which are developed, marketed, and sold by Microsoft. Each family caters to a certain sector of the computing industry. Active Windows families include Windows NT and Windows Embedded; these may encompass subfamilies, e.g. Windows Embedded Compact (Windows CE) or Windows Server. Defunct Windows families include Windows 9x, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone.
Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985, as a graphical operating system shell for MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal computer (PC) market with over 90% market share, overtaking Mac OS, which had been introduced in 1984. Apple came to see Windows as an unfair encroachment on their innovation in GUI development as implemented on products such as the Lisa and Macintosh (eventually settled in court in Microsoft's favor in 1993). On PCs, Windows is still the most popular operating system. However, in 2014, Microsoft admitted losing the majority of the overall operating system market to Android, because of the massive growth in sales of Android smartphones. In 2014, the number of Windows devices sold was less than 25% that of Android devices sold. This comparison however may not be fully relevant, as the two operating systems traditionally target different platforms. Still, numbers for server use of Windows (that are comparable to competitors) show one third market share, similar to for end user use.
As of December 2017[update], the most recent version of Windows for PCs, tablets, smartphones and embedded devices is Windows 10. The most recent versions for server computers is Windows Server 2016. A specialized version of Windows runs on the Xbox Onevideo game console.
By marketing role
Microsoft, the developer of Windows, has registered several trademarks each of which denote a family of Windows operating systems that target a specific sector of the computing industry. As of 2014, the following Windows families are being actively developed:
- Windows NT: Started as a family of operating system with Windows NT 3.1, an operating system for server computers and workstations. It now consists of three operating system subfamilies that are released almost at the same time and share the same kernel. It is almost impossible for someone unfamiliar with the subject to identify the members of this family by name because they do not adhere to any specific rule; e.g. Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are members of this family but Windows 3.1 is not.
- Windows Embedded: Initially, Microsoft developed Windows CE as a general-purpose operating system for every device that was too resource-limited to be called a full-fledged computer. Eventually, however, Windows CE was renamed Windows Embedded Compact and was folded under Windows Compact trademark which also consists of Windows Embedded Industry, Windows Embedded Professional, Windows Embedded Standard, Windows Embedded Handheld and Windows Embedded Automotive.
The following Windows families are no longer being developed:
Main article: History of Microsoft Windows
See also: List of Microsoft Windows versions
The term Windows collectively describes any or all of several generations of Microsoftoperating system products. These products are generally categorized as follows:
Main articles: Windows 1.0, Windows 2.0, and Windows 2.1x
The history of Windows dates back to 1981, when Microsoft started work on a program called "Interface Manager". It was announced in November 1983 (after the Apple Lisa, but before the Macintosh) under the name "Windows", but Windows 1.0 was not released until November 1985. Windows 1.0 was to compete with Apple's operating system, but achieved little popularity. Windows 1.0 is not a complete operating system; rather, it extends MS-DOS. The shell of Windows 1.0 is a program known as the MS-DOS Executive. Components included Calculator, Calendar, Cardfile, Clipboard viewer, Clock, Control Panel, Notepad, Paint, Reversi, Terminal and Write. Windows 1.0 does not allow overlapping windows. Instead all windows are tiled. Only modal dialog boxes may appear over other windows.
Windows 2.0 was released in December 1987, and was more popular than its predecessor. It features several improvements to the user interface and memory management. Windows 2.03 changed the OS from tiled windows to overlapping windows. The result of this change led to Apple Computer filing a suit against Microsoft alleging infringement on Apple's copyrights. Windows 2.0 also introduced more sophisticated keyboard shortcuts and could make use of expanded memory.
Windows 2.1 was released in two different versions: Windows/286 and Windows/386. Windows/386 uses the virtual 8086 mode of the Intel 80386 to multitask several DOS programs and the paged memory model to emulate expanded memory using available extended memory. Windows/286, in spite of its name, runs on both Intel 8086 and Intel 80286 processors. It runs in real mode but can make use of the high memory area.
In addition to full Windows-packages, there were runtime-only versions that shipped with early Windows software from third parties and made it possible to run their Windows software on MS-DOS and without the full Windows feature set.
The early versions of Windows are often thought of as graphical shells, mostly because they ran on top of MS-DOS and use it for file system services. However, even the earliest Windows versions already assumed many typical operating system functions; notably, having their own executable file format and providing their own device drivers (timer, graphics, printer, mouse, keyboard and sound). Unlike MS-DOS, Windows allowed users to execute multiple graphical applications at the same time, through cooperative multitasking. Windows implemented an elaborate, segment-based, software virtual memory scheme, which allows it to run applications larger than available memory: code segments and resources are swapped in and thrown away when memory became scarce; data segments moved in memory when a given application had relinquished processor control.
Main articles: Windows 3.0 and Windows 3.1x
Windows 3.0, released in 1990, improved the design, mostly because of virtual memory and loadable virtual device drivers (VxDs) that allow Windows to share arbitrary devices between multi-tasked DOS applications. Windows 3.0 applications can run in protected mode, which gives them access to several megabytes of memory without the obligation to participate in the software virtual memory scheme. They run inside the same address space, where the segmented memory provides a degree of protection. Windows 3.0 also featured improvements to the user interface. Microsoft rewrote critical operations from C into assembly. Windows 3.0 is the first Microsoft Windows version to achieve broad commercial success, selling 2 million copies in the first six months.
Windows 3.1, made generally available on March 1, 1992, featured a facelift. In August 1993, Windows for Workgroups, a special version with integrated peer-to-peer networking features and a version number of 3.11, was released. It was sold along Windows 3.1. Support for Windows 3.1 ended on December 31, 2001.
Windows 3.2, released 1994, is an updated version of the Chinese version of Windows 3.1. The update was limited to this language version, as it fixed only issues related to the complex writing system of the Chinese language. Windows 3.2 was generally sold by computer manufacturers with a ten-disk version of MS-DOS that also had Simplified Chinese characters in basic output and some translated utilities.
Main article: Windows 9x
The next major consumer-oriented release of Windows, Windows 95, was released on August 24, 1995. While still remaining MS-DOS-based, Windows 95 introduced support for native 32-bit applications, plug and play hardware, preemptive multitasking, long file names of up to 255 characters, and provided increased stability over its predecessors. Windows 95 also introduced a redesigned, object oriented user interface, replacing the previous Program Manager with the Start menu, taskbar, and Windows Explorershell. Windows 95 was a major commercial success for Microsoft; Ina Fried of CNET remarked that "by the time Windows 95 was finally ushered off the market in 2001, it had become a fixture on computer desktops around the world." Microsoft published four OEM Service Releases (OSR) of Windows 95, each of which was roughly equivalent to a service pack. The first OSR of Windows 95 was also the first version of Windows to be bundled with Microsoft's web browser, Internet Explorer. Mainstream support for Windows 95 ended on December 31, 2000, and extended support for Windows 95 ended on December 31, 2001.
Windows 95 was followed up with the release of Windows 98 on June 25, 1998, which introduced the Windows Driver Model, support for USB composite devices, support for ACPI, hibernation, and support for multi-monitor configurations. Windows 98 also included integration with Internet Explorer 4 through Active Desktop and other aspects of the Windows Desktop Update (a series of enhancements to the Explorer shell which were also made available for Windows 95). In May 1999, Microsoft released Windows 98 Second Edition, an updated version of Windows 98. Windows 98 SE added Internet Explorer 5.0 and Windows Media Player 6.2 amongst other upgrades. Mainstream support for Windows 98 ended on June 30, 2002, and extended support for Windows 98 ended on July 11, 2006.
On September 14, 2000, Microsoft released Windows ME (Millennium Edition), the last DOS-based version of Windows. Windows ME incorporated visual interface enhancements from its Windows NT-based counterpart Windows 2000, had faster boot times than previous versions (which however, required the removal of the ability to access a real mode DOS environment, removing compatibility with some older programs), expanded multimedia functionality (including Windows Media Player 7, Windows Movie Maker, and the Windows Image Acquisition framework for retrieving images from scanners and digital cameras), additional system utilities such as System File Protection and System Restore, and updated home networking tools. However, Windows ME was faced with criticism for its speed and instability, along with hardware compatibility issues and its removal of real mode DOS support. PC World considered Windows ME to be one of the worst operating systems Microsoft had ever released, and the 4th worst tech product of all time.
Main article: Windows NT
In November 1988, a new development team within Microsoft (which included former Digital Equipment Corporation developers Dave Cutler and Mark Lucovsky) began work on a revamped version of IBM and Microsoft's OS/2 operating system known as "NT OS/2". NT OS/2 was intended to be a secure, multi-user operating system with POSIX compatibility and a modular, portablekernel with preemptive multitasking and support for multiple processor architectures. However, following the successful release of Windows 3.0, the NT development team decided to rework the project to use an extended 32-bit port of the Windows API known as Win32 instead of those of OS/2. Win32 maintained a similar structure to the Windows APIs (allowing existing Windows applications to easily be ported to the platform), but also supported the capabilities of the existing NT kernel. Following its approval by Microsoft's staff, development continued on what was now Windows NT, the first 32-bit version of Windows. However, IBM objected to the changes, and ultimately continued OS/2 development on its own.
The first release of the resulting operating system, Windows NT 3.1 (named to associate it with Windows 3.1) was released in July 1993, with versions for desktop workstations and servers. Windows NT 3.5 was released in September 1994, focusing on performance improvements and support for Novell's NetWare, and was followed up by Windows NT 3.51 in May 1995, which included additional improvements and support for the PowerPC architecture. Windows NT 4.0 was released in June 1996, introducing the redesigned interface of Windows 95 to the NT series. On February 17, 2000, Microsoft released Windows 2000, a successor to NT 4.0. The Windows NT name was dropped at this point in order to put a greater focus on the Windows brand.
Main article: Windows XP
The next major version of Windows NT, Windows XP, was released on October 25, 2001. The introduction of Windows XP aimed to unify the consumer-oriented Windows 9x series with the architecture introduced by Windows NT, a change which Microsoft promised would provide better performance over its DOS-based predecessors. Windows XP would also introduce a redesigned user interface (including an updated Start menu and a "task-oriented" Windows Explorer), streamlined multimedia and networking features, Internet Explorer 6, integration with Microsoft's .NET Passport services, modes to help provide compatibility with software designed for previous versions of Windows, and Remote Assistance functionality.
At retail, Windows XP was now marketed in two main editions: the "Home" edition was targeted towards consumers, while the "Professional" edition was targeted towards business environments and power users, and included additional security and networking features. Home and Professional were later accompanied by the "Media Center" edition (designed for home theater PCs, with an emphasis on support for DVD playback, TV tuner cards, DVR functionality, and remote controls), and the "Tablet PC" edition (designed for mobile devices meeting its specifications for a tablet computer, with support for stylus pen input and additional pen-enabled applications). Mainstream support for Windows XP ended on April 14, 2009. Extended support ended on April 8, 2014.
After Windows 2000, Microsoft also changed its release schedules for server operating systems; the server counterpart of Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, was released in April 2003. It was followed in December 2005, by Windows Server 2003 R2.
Main article: Windows Vista
After a lengthy development process, Windows Vista was released on November 30, 2006, for volume licensing and January 30, 2007, for consumers. It contained a number of new features, from a redesigned shell and user interface to significant technical changes, with a particular focus on security features. It was available in a number of different editions, and has been subject to some criticism, such as drop of performance, longer boot time, criticism of new UAC, and stricter license agreement. Vista's server counterpart, Windows Server 2008 was released in early 2008.
Main article: Windows 7
On July 22, 2009, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 were released as RTM (release to manufacturing) while the former was released to the public 3 months later on October 22, 2009. Unlike its predecessor, Windows Vista, which introduced a large number of new features, Windows 7 was intended to be a more focused, incremental upgrade to the Windows line, with the goal of being compatible with applications and hardware with which Windows Vista was already compatible. Windows 7 has multi-touch support, a redesigned Windows shell with an updated taskbar, a home networking system called HomeGroup, and performance improvements.
Windows 8 and 8.1
Main articles: Windows 8 and Windows 8.1
Windows 8, the successor to Windows 7, was released generally on October 26, 2012. A number of significant changes were made on Windows 8, including the introduction of a user interface based around Microsoft's Metro design language with optimizations for touch-based devices such as tablets and all-in-one PCs. These changes include the Start screen, which uses large tiles that are more convenient for touch interactions and allow for the display of continually updated information, and a new class of apps which are designed primarily for use on touch-based devices. Other changes include increased integration with cloud services and other online platforms (such as social networks and Microsoft's own OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) and Xbox Live services), the Windows Store service for software distribution, and a new variant known as Windows RT for use on devices that utilize the ARM architecture. An update to Windows 8, called Windows 8.1, was released on October 17, 2013, and includes features such as new live tile sizes, deeper OneDrive integration, and many other revisions. Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 has been subject to some criticism, such as removal of the Start menu.
Main article: Windows 10
On September 30, 2014, Microsoft announced Windows 10 as the successor to Windows 8.1. It was released on July 29, 2015, and addresses shortcomings in the user interface first introduced with Windows 8. Changes include the return of the Start Menu, a virtual desktop system, and the ability to run Windows Store apps within windows on the desktop rather than in full-screen mode. Windows 10 is said to be available to update from qualified Windows 7 with SP1 and Windows 8.1 computers from the Get Windows 10 Application (for Windows 7, Windows 8.1) or Windows Update (Windows 7).
On November 12, 2015, an update to Windows 10, version 1511, was released. This update can be activated with a Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 product key as well as Windows 10 product keys. Features include new icons and right-click context menus, default printer management, four times as many tiles allowed in the Start menu, Find My Device, and Edge updates.
In February 2017, Microsoft announced the migration of its Windows source code repository from Perforce to Git. This migration involved 3.5 million separate files in a 300 gigabyte repository. By May 2017, 90 percent of its engineering team now uses Git, in about 8500 commits and 1760 Windows builds per day.
Multilingual support is built into Windows. The language for both the keyboard and the interface can be changed through the Region and Language Control Panel. Components for all supported input languages, such as Input Method Editors, are automatically installed during Windows installation (in Windows XP and earlier, files for East Asian languages, such as Chinese, and right-to-left scripts, such as Arabic, may need to be installed separately, also from the said Control Panel). Third-party IMEs may also be installed if a user feels that the provided one is insufficient for their needs.
Interface languages for the operating system are free for download, but some languages are limited to certain editions of Windows. Language Interface Packs (LIPs) are redistributable and may be downloaded from Microsoft's Download Center and installed for any edition of Windows (XP or later) – they translate most, but not all, of the Windows interface, and require a certain base language (the language which Windows originally shipped with). This is used for most languages in emerging markets. Full Language Packs, which translates the complete operating system, are only available for specific editions of Windows (Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows Vista and 7, and all editions of Windows 8, 8.1 and RT except Single Language). They do not require a specific base language, and are commonly used for more popular languages such as French or Chinese. These languages cannot be downloaded through the Download Center, but available as optional updates through the Windows Update service (except Windows 8).
The interface language of installed applications are not affected by changes in the Windows interface language. Availability of languages depends on the application developers themselves.
Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 introduces a new Language Control Panel where both the interface and input languages can be simultaneously changed, and language packs, regardless of type, can be downloaded from a central location. The PC Settings app in Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 also includes a counterpart settings page for this. Changing the interface language also changes the language of preinstalled Windows Store apps (such as Mail, Maps and News) and certain other Microsoft-developed apps (such as Remote Desktop). The above limitations for language packs are however still in effect, except that full language packs can be installed for any edition except Single Language, which caters to emerging markets.
Windows NT included support for several different platforms before the x86-based personal computer became dominant in the professional world. Windows NT 4.0 and its predecessors supported PowerPC, DEC Alpha and MIPS R4000. (Although some these platforms implement 64-bit computing, the operating system treated them as 32-bit.) However, Windows 2000, the successor of Windows NT 4.0, dropped support for all platforms except the third generation x86 (known as IA-32) or newer in 32-bit mode. The client line of Windows NT family still runs on IA-32, although the Windows Server line has ceased supporting this platform with the release of Windows Server 2008 R2.
With the introduction of the Intel Itanium architecture (IA-64), Microsoft released new versions of Windows to support it. Itanium versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 were released at the same time as their mainstream x86 counterparts. Windows XP 64-Bit Edition, released in 2005, is the last Windows client operating systems to support Itanium. Windows Server line continues to support this platform until Windows Server 2012; Windows Server 2008 R2 is the last Windows operating system to support Itanium architecture.
On April 25, 2005, Microsoft released Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions to support the x86-64 (or simply x64), the eighth generation of x86 architecture. Windows Vista was the first client version of Windows NT to be released simultaneously in IA-32 and x64 editions. x64 is still supported.
An edition of Windows 8 known as Windows RT was specifically created for computers with ARM architecture and while ARM is still used for Windows smartphones with Windows 10, tablets with Windows RT will not be updated.
Main articles: Windows CE and Windows Phone
Windows CE (officially known as Windows Embedded Compact), is an edition of Windows that runs on minimalistic computers, like satellite navigation systems and some mobile phones. Windows Embedded Compact is based on its own dedicated kernel, dubbed Windows CE kernel. Microsoft licenses Windows CE to OEMs and device makers. The OEMs and device makers can modify and create their own user interfaces and experiences, while Windows CE provides the technical foundation to do so.
Windows CE was used in the Dreamcast along with Sega's own proprietary OS for the console. Windows CE was the core from which Windows Mobile was derived. Its successor, Windows Phone 7, was based on components from both Windows CE 6.0 R3 and Windows CE 7.0. Windows Phone 8 however, is based on the same NT-kernel as Windows 8.
Windows Embedded Compact is not to be confused with Windows XP Embedded or Windows NT 4.0 Embedded, modular editions of Windows based on Windows NT kernel.
Main articles: Xbox One system software and Xbox 360 system software
Xbox OS is an unofficial name given to the version of Windows that runs on the Xbox One. It is a more specific implementation with an emphasis on virtualization (using Hyper-V) as it is three operating systems running at once, consisting of the core operating system, a second implemented for games and a more Windows-like environment for applications. Microsoft updates Xbox One's OS every month, and these updates can be downloaded from the Xbox Live service to the Xbox and subsequently installed, or by using offline recovery images downloaded via a PC. The Windows 10-based Core had replaced the Windows 8-based one in this update, and the new system is sometimes referred to as "Windows 10 on Xbox One" or "OneCore". Xbox One's system also allows backward compatibility with Xbox 360, and the Xbox 360's system is backwards compatible with the original Xbox.
Version control system
In 2017 Microsoft announced that it would start using Git, an open source version control system created by Linus Torvalds. Microsoft has previously used a proprietary version control system called "Source Depot". Microsoft began to integrate Git into Team Foundation Server in 2013, but Windows continued to rely to Source Depot. However, this decision came with some complexity. The Windows codebase is not especially well suited to the decentralized nature of Linux development that Git was originally created to manage. Each Git repository contains a complete history of all the files, which proved unworkable for Windows developers because cloning the repository takes several hours. Microsoft has been working on a new project called the Git Virtual File system (GVFS) to address these challenges.
Timeline of releases
Table of Windows versions
Older version, still supported
Latest preview version
|Product name||Latest version||General availability date||Codename||Support until||Latest version of|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows 1.0||1.01||November 20, 1985||Interface Manager||December 31, 2001||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows 2.0||2.03||December 9, 1987||N/A||December 31, 2001||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows 2.1||2.11||May 27, 1988||N/A||December 31, 2001||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows 3.0||3.0||May 22, 1990||N/A||December 31, 2001||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows 3.1||3.1||April 6, 1992||Janus||December 31, 2001||5||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows For Workgroups 3.1||3.1||October 1992||Sparta, Winball||December 31, 2001||5||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows NT 3.1||NT 3.1.528||July 27, 1993||N/A||December 31, 2001||5||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows For Workgroups 3.11||3.11||August 11, 1993||Sparta, Winball||December 31, 2001||5||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows 3.2||3.2||November 22, 1993||N/A||December 31, 2001||5||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows NT 3.5||NT 3.5.807||September 21, 1994||Daytona||December 31, 2001||5||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows NT 3.51||NT 3.51.1057||May 30, 1995||N/A||December 31, 2001||5||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows 95||4.0.950||August 24, 1995||Chicago, 4.0||December 31, 2000||December 31, 2001||5.5||6.1||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows NT 4.0||NT 4.0.1381||July 31, 1996||Cairo||June 30, 2002||June 30, 2004||6||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows 98||4.10.1998||June 25, 1998||Memphis, 97, 4.1||June 30, 2002||July 11, 2006||6||6.1||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows 98 SE||4.10.2222||May 5, 1999||N/A||June 30, 2002||July 11, 2006||6||6.1||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows 2000||NT 5.0.2195||February 17, 2000||N/A||June 30, 2005||July 13, 2010||6||N/A||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows ME||4.90.3000||September 14, 2000||Millenium, 4.9||December 31, 2003||July 11, 2006||6||9.0c||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows XP||NT 5.1.2600||October 25, 2001||Whistler||April 14, 2009||April 8, 2014||8||9.0c||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows XP 64-bit Edition||NT 5.2.3790||March 28, 2003||N/A||April 14, 2009||April 8, 2014||6||9.0c||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows Server 2003||NT 5.2.3790||April 24, 2003||N/A||July 13, 2010||July 14, 2015||8||9.0c||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows XP Professional x64 Edition||NT 5.2.3790||April 25, 2005||N/A||April 14, 2009||April 8, 2014||8||9.0c||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs||NT 5.1.2600||July 8, 2006||Eiger, Mönch||April 14, 2009||April 8, 2014||8||9.0c||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows Vista||NT 6.0.6002||January 30, 2007||Longhorn||April 10, 2012||April 11, 2017||9||11||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows Home Server||NT 5.2.4500||November 4, 2007||Quattro||January 8, 2013||8||9.0c||N/A|
|Older version, yet still supported:Windows Server 2008||NT 6.0.6002||February 27, 2008||Longhorn Server||January 13, 2015||January 14, 2020||9||11||N/A|
|Older version, yet still supported:Windows 7||NT 6.1.7601||October 22, 2009||Blackcomb, Vienna||January 13, 2015||January 14, 2020||11||11||N/A|
|Older version, yet still supported:Windows Server 2008 R2||NT 6.1.7601||October 22, 2009||N/A||January 13, 2015||January 14, 2020||11||11||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows Home Server 2011||NT 6.1.8400||April 6, 2011||Vail||April 12, 2016||9||11||N/A|
|Older version, yet still supported:Windows Server 2012||NT 6.2.9200||September 4, 2012||N/A||October 9, 2018||October 10, 2023||10||11.1||N/A|
|Old version, no longer supported:Windows 8||NT 6.2.9200||October 26, 2012||N/A||January 12, 2016||10||11.1||N/A|
|Older version, yet still supported:Windows 8.1||NT 6.3.9600||October 17, 2013||Blue||January 9, 2018||January 10, 2023||11||11.2||N/A|
|Older version, yet still supported:Windows Server 2012 R2||NT 6.3.9600||October 18, 2013||Server Blue||October 9, 2018||October 10, 2023||11||11.2||N/A|
|Current stable version:Windows 10||NT 10.0.14393||July 29, 2015||Threshold, Redstone||October 13, 2020||October 14, 2025||11||12||25|
|Current stable version:Windows Server 2016||NT 10.0.14393||October 12, 2016||N/A||January 11, 2022||January 12, 2027||11||12||25|
Windows timeline: Bar chart
Microsoft will heavily promote two main versions of its next operating system, Windows 7, in an attempt to avoid the problems it faced in marketing multiple tiers of Windows Vista.
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But while it will simplify its marketing message, Microsoft is not giving up the multi-tiered approach with Windows 7. There will still be at least six different versions of the new software, which is expected to have a full commercial launch in January 2010.
Microsoft said the primary version for consumers will be called Windows 7 Home Premium, and the main version for businesses will be called Windows 7 Professional.
Both versions will have the full Windows 7 GUI and more features than other basic versions. Prices have yet to be finalised.
In addition to these, Microsoft will sell two lower-end versions, Home Basic and Starter editions. The Home Basic edition is intended for sale in developing countries, while computer makers can install the Starter edition on PCs intended for sale anywhere in the world.
The company will also sell the high-end Enterprise version for big firms and a similar Ultimate version for consumers. These versions will include security features and other tools not available in the two main versions.
When Microsoft started selling Windows Vista in January 2007, some users buying the Home Basic version were disappointed that it lacked the full Vista user interface.
Microsoft had also run a Vista campaign with PC manufacturers under which Windows XP PCs were marketed as Vista ready. Some users were also disappointed to learn that when it came to upgrading to Vista, their machine could only handle Home Basic and not the Home Premium and Ultimate versions.
As a result, some users started an ongoing lawsuit against Microsoft.
Microsoft said the differences between the different versions of Windows 7 will be clearly communicated, and that all versions will run on increasingly popular netbooks - slimmed down PCs designed primarily for basic web functions.
Read more about Windows 7:
In pictures: Windows 7 Beta inside out
How Windows 7 will change applications
Top five technologies in Windows 7
Microsoft lifts Windows 7 beta download limit after technical problems