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Watch this now: Here's why Windows no longer has its famous startup sound

Harris Startup
Harris Startup

What you need to know

  • A new video by Jensen Harris explains the history of startup sounds in computers.
  • Harris was the Director of Program Management for the Windows User Experience team and involved with Surface.
  • Microsoft removed the Windows 8 startup chime due to Windows on ARM and the increasingly mobile use of PCs.
  • The ill-fated Windows 8 startup chime will be revealed in a future video by Harris.

If you've been using Windows for the better part of your life, you'll probably remember a time when turning your computer resulting in a springy, upbeat sound. Starting with Windows 3.1 and going up through Windows 7, Microsoft was constantly tweaking the default startup music right up until it killed it with the launch of Windows 8.

As to why it was killed and why they attempted to bring it back? Jensen Harris, who had a long career at Microsoft being its Director of Program Management for the Windows User Experience team, explains in a new deep-dive video.

The video is a fascinating and entertaining history of computers going back to Xerox in the 70s up through Windows 8, detailing the history of the role sound played in modern PCs. There's so much info packed into the 15-minute history lesson, but every minute is captivating and fascinating (e.g., Surface development began in 2008).

The reasoning for ditching the startup sound also makes a lot of sense — i.e., the times are changing — but it still makes you yearn for those simpler days of booting up a desktop PC.

Harris also does a great job of teasing much more info to come on his YouTube channel. For instance, he still has that abandoned Windows 8 startup chime that never shipped and plans to reveal it in a future video. He'll also discuss the ill-fated Windows 8 tablet mode in more detail, making his channel a must-see for lessons in Windows history.

Back to the startup sound in Windows — should Microsoft bring it back for a 'Windows 11?' Like all things, it, of course, should be optional and respect Focus Assist and maybe even ambient light sensors. But there's something to be said about that how iconic those sounds have been for many. Even Apple brought it back in late 2020 (after ditching it in 2016), so, why not Microsoft?

Take our latest poll and sound off in comments!

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • That's Jensen Harris. I got to see this.
  • Raiders Of The Lost Arc. Arc? Arc? LOL. I'm loving this though. A "Pirates Of Silicon Valley" clip too.
  • It's an amazingly entertaining video.
  • It is nice to see him talk about these things.
  • "It was now a year later. And the tablet UI we were building was now alongside the classic windows desktop. Meaning that our tablet OS was slotted to be used for traditional PCs as well. I'm not going to go into that today. But lets just say I have a lot to say about that in the coming months..." Yes, Jensen Harris. I would like to hear that story. That would be a Yes.
  • This was a really good video, some serious nostalgic vibes from Win 95 all the way to Win 7! And I want the startup sound back! Anyways, people don't shut down their computers as frequently anymore, so it should not be a problem today.
  • Thanks for the heads-up 👍
  • Hey WC keep us informed of when he makes a video of the story about windows 8 UI. I want to her his story about it. This vide about why the start up sound was removed was interesting.
  • Do MacBooks still make that awful noise when they boot up?
  • Yup, they still make a sound. Though I think it's optional like Windows.
  • Pretty sure the M1 Macs do not make a sound.
  • They do, if you enable it. I have an M1 Mac Mini. It’s a checkbox in System Settings >Sound.
  • He's trying really hard to 'sound' intelligent. My AV Receiver allows me to configure volume startup level so it doesn't blast my hears everytime I start my TV.
  • Now we know the real reason that Win8 failed to defeat Win7. (As someone who worked on an original IBM PC back in the early '80s and all Windows versions--except Vista, that was a nostalgic trip down memory lane [sorta pun intended].)
  • Sound? Amiga.
    (I add this line because the comment should have at least three words)
  • So both Aero Glass and the audio theme sounds were jettisoned to make the failed Windows RT release possible. And the idea for the startup audio removal in Windows 8 came about because the guy's MACBOOK would possibly wake someone up. You can't make this stuff up. What a complete and total failure of vision post-Windows 7 Microsoft is.
  • I found the argument of mobility-first (vs desktop PCs) quite persuasive as to why you wouldn't want sound playing every time you powered on your laptop e.g. if you're in class, a meeting, a library, or, yes, late at night not to wake someone. Apple thought the same, too, which is why it ditched in 2016 (but brought it back as an option in 2020). Why do you think that's a "complete and total failure of vision post-Windows 7," exactly?
  • First, I agree with you. That was a genuine problem but the concept seems like it would be obviously better handled by simply referencing the state in which the login session has opened with regard to use cases in mobile devices: On a new session start from cold boot or fresh login where someone specifically logged out, play the sound. On a rejoined session where it's coming out of sleep or hibernation, don't. To answer your question, it may seem illogical or even silly to extrapolate simply the example of this startup sound removal, but it's a good easy-to-understand example to introduce their pattern of failures which should immediately be followed up with questions like "how much money is Microsoft pouring into Windows with Sun Valley to support rounded corners and a consistent UI?". They had that in 2009 and they got rid of it for the same type of reasons as the startup sound. Next, "What changes is Microsoft making to their user experience now that can point out their inadequate deficiencies in Metro and UWP design?". And finally to the question of "do you believe anyone at Microsoft actually preferred using the platform after Windows 7?". I don't get the impression anyone at Microsoft actually used Windows 8 or else they'd be driven mad by all the bad designs and inconsistencies. This guy was using a Mac at home and he was on the Microsoft user experience team. And that didn't really change too much with the Windows 10 era which felt more like a mulligan to try to give the Metro idea another go. Like they tried to give 8 its Vista->7 moment but it backfired and only served to highlight their design flaws and poor tastes. Currently though, it's like they're Quantum Leaping the Windows product undoing obvious wrongs throughout its timeline. This impression (which I don't believe is unique) only seems to have come about recently with Panay. Every change that's been released from Panay's era so far has been refreshing, different and improved. The icon design project has been stellar, marking probably the first real UI improvement in Windows since 7 (even going so far as to solidify a design motif across Microsoft OS, cloud, service, and office products). The screenshot leaks looks as though they're finally going to stop trying to blind everyone with a #FFF window canvases or give people migraines with #000 backgrounds and bright white text. The rigid adherence to CGA color schemes in both applications and their icons has thankfully been abandoned. The rounded corners are just more visually appealing to a lot of people. With the pretty swift addressing of these issues under Panay, I get the impression he was perhaps also unhappy with the state of Windows before his reign with similar resentments. If they can manage to unify the win32/UWP/WinUI look into a single design language I think they'll have a real win on their hands. If it's another disjointed mess and project reunion just introduces yet another look and feel for one type of application, it's going to be another frustrating failure. I know not everyone cares about UI polish or icons, but I stare at Windows the majority of my days for work and pleasure. Bad design is frustrating. I always laughed when I heard Mac people talk up how Jobs demanded pixel perfect UI. But Microsoft for a long time went way too hard in the other direction.
  • failure to think.
    If you fire a mobile device on in bed, it was probably suspended and not shutdown. There was always a different sound for cold start and sleep/hibernation. Hardware tells OS what device you're installing Windows on... Desktop, Mobile, Touch etc. He shouldn't be guessing if i'm going to haul a gaming rig to class.
  • It does feel like they went to far in stripping back UI (and sound) for Windows 8. I would have made it so that at installation time the type of device is either set by the OEM or prompted onscreen with a best-guess default. This could have allowed desktop PC's to keep a Windows 7 level of UI and cut it back for lower powered devices. It could even have been two separate shells - but I'm sure Microsoft considered that and decided against it. Being more device-aware would have helped to clear up the muddled language too. Sometimes the computer gets called a PC, sometimes it's a "device". They could have set a registry key with "tablet" or "pc" or "computer" or whatever, and then used that wherever it was needed.
  • Windows 8 is the reason I made the jump from Mac to PC.
    Not Windows 7.
    Not XP.
    Not 95.
  • "Windows 8 is the reason I made the jump from Mac to PC." I mean, sure, Windows 8 is definitively better than OS X, but that's more of a commentary on how bad OS X is. Did you use Metro apps? Like, on purpose and stuff?
  • I get criticizing Microsoft and Windows and all, but ... $1.86T market cap. I mean, come on. That's not anyone's idea of a failure.
  • From Azure and Office, sure. But every single objective that Microsoft set out to do with Windows 8 and later Windows 10 failed spectacularly with virtually no consumer interest or enterprise adoption. No child wants a Windows tablet, there was never a large demand for the faux wonders of convergence, there was never a mass migration from win32 to Metro/UWP, there never was a killer Metro/UWP app, the only Metro/UWP apps not built by Microsoft were from seedy scammers blessed by Microsoft to artificially inflate the number of apps in the app store while those modern apps built by Microsoft were short lived gimmicks at best, and every single attempt to provide a Metro/UWP-only future as an OS product option received no adoption whatsoever. Ballmer once said Windows 8 was them betting the company on the future. What a total failure it turned out to be. The people who have run it over the last decade will forever be remembered as the people that very nearly ruined Windows and the company's chief historical product due to their stubbornness coupled with an extreme lack of talent. That's the failure. There's a reason most software used today is still based on technology from the Windows 7 days and before: Windows 8+ software targets and poor design ethos result in needlessly less useful software with distribution not as flexible as it was before. Microsoft was warned before the launch of Windows 8, they were warned when Windows 8 was obviously tanking, and they were warned when the cheap soft relaunch of Windows 8 in the form of Windows 10 received no love. Windows from 2012 and on sucked and failed so unbelievably hard in ways that are hard to reconcile what with Microsoft being a publicly traded company and possessing decades of user experience research, so it's important that in hindsight the mighty success of Azure and Office should never obscure or hide the total failure that is Windows 8 through 10.
  • Eeeh. C64 and later Amiga had wonderful sound capabilities years before PC/Mac copied them.
  • It's pretty bad programming that C64 (with 64kilobytes of memory) was able to have sounds in 1980s...but adding a startup sound to Windows would need "tens of megabytes of memory".
  • What's that second option? Who's gonna choose "No, because it's not the 1990s anymore" against having an OPTION to turn it off?
    "No, because it's not the 1990s anymore, and we didn't back options back then and we liked it, their way or the highway, I quit Windows 98 because of the startup sound and went all for OS/2"
  • Muting all the sounds is one of the first thing I do on ALL my devices, since forever.
    Sound is just anoying.
  • Woah! That level of recording and post-editing is absolutely stunning!
    I have never (or so rarely, that I do not recall it) seen such a high quality video!
    After watching the one linked to from the article I watched his channel's other videos.
    It was an absolute joy! Most of Windows Central's videos are rather good, but this is next level O__Ô
    I *pray* that the podcast videos will be this good - when Zac gets a proper computer in the year 2034😅
  • Windows 10 20H2, the option to play a Windows Startup sound is available in the Sounds tab of the Sound Control Panel. I haven't tested it myself, but the option exists.
  • I've got 21H1. Under Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Sound, and under the Sound tab, you can check the combo box next to "Play Windows Startup sound." I think it works (will try it out later). Personally I think the Windows 10 sounds are excellent. I once replaced them with some Star Trek themed sound pack and besides being frankly too nerdy it really made me appreciate the stock sounds.
  • This was fascinating, but the most interesting thing was hearing about how impressively innovative Xerox was. Incredible. I knew about the mouse and GUI, but I didn't know there was so much more to it.