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Windows 95 turns 25 years old today!

Windows
Windows (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Windows 95 launched 25 years ago.
  • Windows 95 introduced several features that went on to become staples of all Windows operating systems.
  • Windows 95 was the first user-friendly version of Windows.

Windows 95 turns 25 years old today, capping off a quarter of a century of user-friendly versions of Windows. While Windows 95 was not the first version of Windows, it was, in many ways, the first consumer-friendly Windows operating system. Its navigation mechanics were innovative, and some of them live on to this day.

Windows 95 introduced or greatly improved several elements that went on to become staples of all Windows operating systems, including the Start Menu, Windows Explorer, and the Taskbar. While Windows has evolved greatly since the launch of Windows 95, it looks similar in many ways to modern operating systems. It's somewhat similar to comparing the original iPhone to modern iPhone models; the bones are surprisingly similar.

Windows 95 also introduced the Recycle Bin and the buttons to close, minimize, and maximize windows. It was also the first operating system to run Internet Explorer, though it didn't launch with the browser initially. Internet Explorer dominated the browser space for years and is still only being fully phased out today.

The operating system also made managing files much easier, as it allowed you to use long file names. Previous versions of Windows limited file names to eight or fewer characters.

"Krazy Ken" from the YouTube channel Computer Clan has a great breakdown of the history of Windows 95 and some of the things that made it so innovative.

Arguably the biggest change that came with Windows 95 was its relatively simple interface. You didn't have to know DOS to run a program, though you could if you preferred to. The simple point and click interface of Windows 95 greatly opened up the computing space to the average person.

If you're looking for some more Windows 95 fun, Microsoft has a blog post, along with a short video celebrating its 25th birthday.

Did you have a computer that ran Windows 95? If not, what was your first operating system? Let us know 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).

15 Comments
  • My first PC had Windows 95, I still have the install CD somewhere
  • Install CD? Well you were spoiled. Mine came with a box of floppy disks which I think died years ago.
  • I remember playing Battle Beast on our first PC, which ran Win95. This is how I discovered computers and why I'm a developer today.
  • At the time Windows 95 came out, I was anti-MS for their business practices (now I think they're one of the best tech companies from an ethics perspective), so I was on OS/2. OS/2 succeeded at its marketing claim of being a "Better DOS than DOS and a better windows than Windows," but only for 16-bit Win 3.11 applications. Windows 95 completely leapfrogged OS/2 from a UI perspective. Windows 95 wasn't preemptively multitasking like OS/2 (only Windows NT/2000+ had that), but the internals were good enough. Eventually, I moved to Windows 95 and have been back with Windows ever since.
  • Win95 was true multitasking with multithreading, pre-emption, and full memory protection for 32-bit apps, just not older 16-bit ones. Of course, when it first came out, very few applications were 32-bit, so there were still lots of crashes. And MacOS didn't get any kind of true multitasking until OSX.
  • Windows 3.0/3.1 were bigger advances.
    Windows 95 only made it popular. Windows 98 was actually
    much better. And only when windows XP came out, that was
    the new standard. I have moved to windows 7 now, although
    its not as good as XP. But i will never upgrade to 10. Ever. later
    -1
  • Boy, you really are stuck in the 90's. BTW you watch last night's Quantum Leap?
  • Well the 90s are pretty nostalgic
  • Minimize/maximize was part of Windows 3.1. Here's a screenshot of Program Manager for example. https://guidebookgallery.org/screenshots/win31
  • Emulate it in your browser.
    https://www.pcjs.org/software/pcx86/sys/windows/3.10/
  • I've still got the San Jose Mercury News Windows 95 supplement stashed away in a box.
  • I remember installing the Windows 95 beta and playing the demo for LucasArt's The Dig. Those were good times. I sure miss those classic point-and-click graphic adventure games. Monkey Island and Day of The Tentacle were some of my favorite games. My first PC was the Commodore Amiga 500 but my first IBM-compatible PC was a Compaq desktop rocking an Intel 386sx, which ran Windows 3.1/DOS. Anyone remember editing your autoexec.bat and config.sys files?
  • My first computer was Amstrad cpc 6128k with a built-in disk drive!!
    My very first Windows pc was a now defunct Time pc running Win 95 I think, although over time upgraded to 98, ME, Xp, etc.... Remember using 3.1 at uni and being taught to use the old BBC computers at primary school in the late 80`s / early 90's.....
  • Loved Outlook Express!! 😍😍😍
  • The first Windows version that was as easy to use as a Mac, and well beyond MacOS in features. MacOS has been behind ever since. I have to use a Mac almost every day for work, and it bewilders me how anyone can think that MacOS is the right interface for today's computing tasks.