Before Microsoft announces Windows 11, let's rank the previous versions of Windows

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Microsoft will announce Windows 11 today. The company has teased parts of the operating system leading up to its livestream at 11 AM ET. It's not every year that we see a new version of Windows. In fact, for years we thought that Windows 10 would be the last version of the OS.

With such major news happening today, we wanted to mark the occasion with a ranking of the previous versions of Windows. The operating system has come a long way since its initial launch. Each version has its strengths and weaknesses, so picking an overall favorite might vary quite a bit from person to person.

For example, while many people view Windows 8 as one of the worst versions of Windows, some loved it for its focus on touch and tablets. Windows Vista was generally panned, but in hindsight might not have been as bad as people remember it.

Nostalgia may also play a part in how people rank the versions of Windows. The first version of the operating system I used was Windows 95. I'll always have a soft spot for that OS, even though it's worse than Windows 10 in terms of functionality.

I also started covering Windows professionally around the time Windows 10 launched, so I'm partial to it. I imagine that other people have equally subjective reasons for liking different versions of Windows.

If you're on a mobile device, you can use this link to answer the survey.

Once enough people have participated, we'll share the results. In addition to ranking the previous versions of Windows, please share the first version of Windows you remember using in the comments below.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

21 Comments
  • I bet 7 wins this
  • I would have voted highly for Windows 2000, which was missing from the list. Maybe that was considered more of an enterprise version? However, unlike the former Windows NT, 2000 had basically all the consumer features. That was the first mainstream Windows as an OS for all users and awesome for what it did. Windows 1-3.1 were not operating systems. They were advanced applications that ran on top of DOS. Windows and 95, 98, and ME were hybrids, still effectively running on DOS, just a special version of DOS that came with Windows, failing to control the system, and lacking features we would today say define an OS, like memory control and preemptive multitasking (apps had to be designed to behave well and play nice with others, which is really quite terrible -- we rightly expect the OS to be the traffic cop that controls this stuff). Windows NT was the first true Windows-based OS, where Windows NT4 was effectively Windows 3.11 as a real OS. Windows 2000 was the NT Version using on the 9x UI, which was just awesome. XP then refined this and provided the next major UI iteration, but tiny compared to the difference between 3.11 and 95.
  • I've added Windows 2000. Windows ME was meant for home use while 2000 was for business. They now both appear on the list.
  • If you include Win2000, then you are missing Windows NT.
  • My first contact with Windows OS was Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 at school classes about technology. I think we were only able to play some game, which I do not remember, on Windows 3.1, but we were doing some other things on Windows 95. It was in the late 90s and I remember the teacher telling us that in the future computers will have intelligent assistants, so when you talk to it and ask it to write something down it would transcribe your words. Shame Cortana ended up this way.
    I think I like Windows 10 the most, but I have a strong feeling Windows 11 will be my fav of all time within a few months.
  • My first was Windows XP, held on to that bad boy for years even after Windows 7.
  • I was going to vote for Windows 2000, but it wasn't on the list?
  • Windows 95 was the most important. It changed everything for home users. The IBM PCs runing Windows 3 were viewed as business machines for office use. Artists and musicians had been using Mac's and Atari machines through the 1980's, but Windows 95 introduced the PC for home/family use. The Rolling Stones 'Start Me Up' song was the perfect song for this new generation of machines.
  • The question is very vague. It isn't asking "important". It could mean "best". It could mean "most successful". Or "favorite" Or "most widely used". It could mean anything really. Also note most of us would rank them top to bottom but you could rank them worst to best. lol.
  • Windows 3.11 has been my first Windows experience, followed by NT4/98, XP, 7 and the following ones
  • My first version of Windows ever used was Windows XP, if I recall correctly.
  • Windows 8 on the top.
    Windows 7 and XP on the bottom.
  • lol. The survey could mean you put the worst on top.
  • i still have the discs for windows 1.0, lots of swapping 5 1/4 inch ones.
    i noticed later versions of 2, were called windows /286 and /386 for
    those processors also. 1st tier
    -------------------------------------------------
    windows 7 is the best, tied with XP. [with service packs] 2nd tier
    --------------------------------------------------------
    then windows 2000, 98, 95, 3.1, and 3.0
    windows nt 4.0, 3.1, 3.0, 2.0, 1.0 bottom tier
    -------------------------------------------------------
    then at the bottom - windows 8, 8.1, windows 10, vista and me i've used windows 10 a few times, but gave up after all the updates kept breaking things constantly.
    and no i won't switch to 11 either. (But i will install on one machine for testing, in case certain
    programs only work on it). was windows for workgroups mentioned also? /oldtimer later
    -1
  • The earliest version of Windows I've used was '98.
  • My journey with Microsoft operating systems started with DOS and then with the various Windows 1-3.1 thingys. Tried of all the interesting things that came from Windows 1-3.1 I made the leap to Windows NT which allowed me to skip staying up late in line outside of a CompUSA (or was it Circuit City?) so I could get my mitts on the Start Me Up OS (Windows 95) and its spawn. Windows 2000 was the first mature OS to come out of Redmond. Much has changed over the years but that Window's version nailed down what a Windows OS should be. Windows XP, once Microsoft essentially rewrote it (that be SP3 if I recall) became a thing. Windows Vista suffered greatly because of the early Windows XP security chaos with the later versions of Vista being quite excellent; still once jilted us mortals sniffed at it endlessly. Windows 7 was terrific from day 1 and I used that until Windows 10 was released. Windows 8.X was like having a schizophrenic parrot that never shut up though if I am being reasonable, which is something I never do with those versions, laid the foundation for Windows 10. Finally is Windows 10 itself. In spite of all the complaining about Windows 10 I have found it to be just excellent (well, if you overlook the loopy update stuff though I never got bit by its loopy behavior). To borrow a phrase, "it just works", for me and formed the foundation for my version of living the dream. Windows 11 looks interesting and if it builds on the excellence of Windows 10 and skips being Windows 8.x we have much to look forward too.
  • this is not working with touch... I had to attach the mouse...
  • btw, Windows 95 is my first one, I'll always keep a special regard for it, but I had to rank it below the 2000s series for obvious functionality/stability/security reasons...
    Chances are high that Windows 11 will rank first in the coming future, since I already ranked Windows 10 first :)
  • First ran Windows 98 on an Intel Celeron with some 64MB ram. Kept that thing through out primary school.
  • Windows 8 hands down.
    Windows 3.X
    Windows 95
  • I used Windows 1. For what it's worth, I also used DOS 2.0. I don't recall for sure about DOS 1.0. I ranked Windows 1 first on this list simply because it deserves credit for kicking all of this off, but I need to give a little nod of recognition to DOS Shell for being the first step towards a GUI.