Microsoft Windows 3.0

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Windows 3.0
The old Windows logo as a stylized window with window cross and very thick lines, the slug panes in red, green, blue and yellow designed flat, the left edge dissolving like a mosaic and the whole graphic designed in waving, curved cross lines;  beneath one another the words "Microsoft (R)" and "Windows (TM)" in serif font (small caps style)
Windows 3.0
developer Microsoft
License (s) Microsoft EULA ( Closed Source )
First publ. May 22, 1990
Current  version Windows with Multimedia Extensions 1.0 (October 1991)
Kernel PC compatible DOS
↳ Windows kernel
ancestry Windows 1.0 - 2.11
↳ Windows 3.x
timeline Windows 1.0
Windows 2.0
Windows 3.0
Windows 3.1
Windows 95
Windows 98
Windows Me
Others Development discontinued
Support discontinued on December 31, 2001

Microsoft Windows 3.0 is the third version of the operating system add-on for PC-compatible DOS developed by Microsoft . It founded the Windows 3.x series of DOS-based Windows systems. It was released on May 22, 1990.


In the summer of 1988, the programmer Murray Sargent was given the task by Microsoft to write a DOS extender compatible with the 80286 . This should serve to be able to use Microsoft's debugging program CodeView outside of the conventional memory and thus free from the influence of other DOS applications. Sargent first wrote the routines required for this in a debugger he had developed himself, so that when it was completed, they could be transferred to a separate program.

At the end of June, Murray met with Windows developer David Weise. On the remark that the then newly released Windows / 286 with the high memory area could only use 64 kB more than normal DOS applications, both decided to run Windows in protection mode in order to no longer use the conventional memory to be limited. Since Microsoft was focusing on OS / 2 at the time , the two developers kept the project secret for a period of one month. When the first faults arose between Microsoft and IBM regarding OS / 2, Weise took the opportunity and showed Steve Ballmer his progress with the Windows project. Ballmer was convinced and thereupon officially commissioned the development of this Windows version.

The first information about Windows 3.0 became known in early 1989. The memory management, which was considered inefficient in earlier versions of Windows, should be greatly improved in the new version. The user interface should be changed and adapted to the Presentation Manager in OS / 2 1.x. In May 1989 a first test version was delivered to over 900 hardware dealers.


The graphical user interface has been completely revised in Windows 3.0 and adapted to the Presentation Manager. The MS-DOS window that appeared after startup in earlier versions of Windows has been replaced by two programs. The program manager appears immediately after the start and contains links to programs that are installed on the computer in the form of icons . These programs are grouped into so-called program groups. The File Manager is used to manage files and folders on the drives of the computer. To do this, it shows the directory tree of the drive in a window . A double click on a single directory opens a new window in which all files within this directory are listed. By file associations can file extensions are associated with a program, these files directly from the file manager to open out. The interface itself uses 3D buttons, and icons are no longer limited to black and white, but can now contain colors.

The installation of the operating system takes place under the graphical user interface after the first restart. The setup program can also be called after the installation to change settings such as the graphics mode, which in previous versions required a complete reinstallation of the operating system. During the installation, already installed applications are searched for and icons are automatically created in the program manager so that these programs can be used immediately after the installation.

If a network was installed under DOS , this was recognized by Windows 3.0 during the installation. Functions such as creating network drives can be performed from the graphical user interface without having to switch back to the DOS prompt . Windows 3.0 includes support for Novell NetWare , Banyan Vines , LAN Manager and 3Com 3 + Share, among others .

Windows 3.0 changed the control panel completely. It is now a window similar to the Program Manager, in which icons appear. These icons call up certain windows that allow you to adjust the Windows settings. The configuration options have been significantly expanded, so the operating system now offers the option of displaying a background image on the desktop .

The accessories were expanded in Windows 3.0. The paint program Paint used in earlier versions of Windows has been replaced by Paintbrush , which is the first to offer color support. The new program Recorder enables the recording of macros , which consist of keyboard and mouse commands. These can be saved and played back as required. With Windows 3.0, a new, hypertext- based help system was introduced, in which various help topics are linked to one another. Bookmarks can be set so that help pages can be found more quickly later, and the built-in search function can be used to search for specific terms in the help document. The calculator has been expanded to include a scientific mode that enables more complex calculations and the conversion between different number systems.


In contrast to its predecessor Windows 2.x, Windows 3.0 was not sold in different versions depending on the processor type, but only in a single version for all processor types. The operating system can run in three different modes depending on the type of processor. At start-up, the optimal mode for the respective computer configuration is selected automatically, but it is possible to force a specific mode on the command line using parameters.

The real mode is mainly used for compatibility with older Windows applications. It also supports old 8086 processors and computers with less than one megabyte of RAM. The standard mode uses the protected mode of the 80286 processor to address RAM over 1 MB. The extended mode for 386 PCs requires an 80386 processor with at least 2 MB of RAM. Similar to Windows 2.x, the virtual 8086 mode can be used to run MS-DOS programs independently of one another. Windows 3.0 supports the use of a swap file on a 386 PC in order to increase the usable memory by using the hard disk as a buffer. In addition, settings for distributing the processor time can be made in an extended menu item 386 of the system control.

Windows 3.0 can only handle preemptive multitasking to a very limited extent. It is only supported for MS-DOS programs, and only if it is run on systems compatible with the 80386 processor. Windows programs are executed in cooperative multitasking , in which programs must explicitly relinquish control to the others.


Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0 was released on May 22, 1990 and was sold until 1992. In the first four months one million copies at a price of 150 USD discontinued. It is the first Windows that supports VGA, but continues to deliver drivers for very old XT computers and their graphics standards.

Windows 3.00a

Windows 3.00a was released on October 31, 1990. This version was only used to fix numerous program errors, otherwise there are no changes to Windows 3.0.

Windows 3.0 with Multimedia Extensions 1.0 (Windows 3.00a, October 1991)

Released at the end of 1991, it is the first Windows ever that is able to address sound cards . Basically, however, it is just a revised Windows 3.0. Real mode and support for 8086 processors were no longer available. Added are:

  • Media playback ; for playing WAVE and MIDI files.
  • Sound recorder; for recording sound tracks in WAVE format
  • A CD player
  • An extended clock that can play signals at programmed times.
  • Screensaver ; One of the most famous is “Starfield”, which simulates the stars flitting past during a flight through space.

This Windows version was only sold on CD-ROM (as the first Windows ever) and was not widely used, since multimedia PCs (computers with CD-ROM drives and sound cards with midi interfaces) were very expensive devices at the time. The other hardware requirements with at least 10 MHz 286 processor, 2 MB RAM and 30 MB hard disk correspond to the state of the art at the time; MS-DOS V3.1 or higher (or a compatible operating system, such as DR-DOS , which was widespread at the time ) is required for this .

System requirements

The system requirements of the system depend on the respective mode. The absolute minimum requirement to start the operating system in real mode was an Intel 8088/8086 and 384 kB of free RAM. The standard mode required an 80286 processor with 192 kB of free extended memory . To start Windows in extended mode for 386 PCs, an 80386 with 1 MB of free extended memory was required. It should be noted that the information on the main memory is rounded; the actual memory requirements of the operating system depend on the respective configuration and are not firmly defined.

Windows 3.0 was shipped on both 5.25 "and 3.5" floppy disks . In the first case there were five 1.2 MB floppy disks in the delivery, in the second case seven 720 kB floppy disks.


Windows 3.0 brought the breakthrough for Microsoft. After the publication, 72 percent of all companies announced that they wanted to use Windows 3.0. Since numerous developers have meanwhile provided application programs for Windows, there were sufficient incentives at the time of publication to switch to the graphical user interface. Three million copies of the operating system were sold in the first six months.

But there was also criticism. The installation process was already criticized for being poorly thought out and most floppy disks had to be inserted several times during the installation. Although Windows 3.0 can also run on an IBM XT , it is only possible to use it properly with a 286 computer.

Web links

Commons : Microsoft Windows 3.0  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Murray Sargent, Richard L. Shoemaker: The Personal Computer from the Inside Out: The Programmer's Guide to Low-Level PC Hardware and Software , 3rd Edition. Edition, Addison-Wesley, Reading 1995, ISBN 0-201-62646-2 , p. 262.
  2. ^ Murray & Shoemaker, p. 263
  3. ^ Ed Scannell: Windows 3.0 to Manager Memory Better . In: InfoWorld . 11, No. 1, January 2, 1989, pp. 1, 105.
  4. ^ Stuart J. Johnston: Vendors Get Early Version of Windows 3.0 . In: InfoWorld . 11, No. 19, May 8, 1989, p. 8.
  5. a b c d e Michael J. Miller: Windows 3.0: Worth the Wait . In: InfoWorld . 12, No. 22, May 28, 1990, pp. S1-S17.
  6. Jodi Mardesich: Has 3.0 Made The Connection? . In: InfoWorld . 12, No. 22, May 28, 1990, pp. S23-S31.
  7. a b Windows 3.0 Modes and Memory Requirements . In: Microsoft Knowledge Base . Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  8. Source: James Wallace and Jim Erickson: Mr. Microsoft . Ullstein 1993; P. 346
  9. Windows Version History . In: Microsoft Knowledge Base . Retrieved July 3, 2012.
  10. Dieter Brors: OS / 2 competitor: A first impression of Windows 3.0 . In: c't . No. 7, 1990, pp. 28ff.
  11. Windows 3.0 Disk Directories (5.25 inches, 1.2 MB) . In: Microsoft Knowledge Base . Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  12. Windows 3.0 Disk Directories (3.5 Inch, 720K) . In: Microsoft Knowledge Base . Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  13. Alice LaPlante: Corporate Users Flock to Windows for Their GUI: PC Managers Hold Out Some Hope for OS / 2 . In: InfoWorld . 12, No. 44, October 29, 1990, pp. S1-S5.
  14. Peggy Watt: Windows Apps: Finally Here! . In: InfoWorld . 12, No. 22, May 28, 1990, pp. S42-S46.
  15. Kristi Coale: Windows 3.0 still woos PC users, managers: But Windows' promised, and much anticipated, payoff in user productivity is still in the inconclusive column . In: InfoWorld . 13, No. 42, October 21, 1991, p. S113.
  16. ^ Ingo T. Storm: One-eyed among the blind: Microsoft Windows 3.0 . In: c't . No. 5, 1991, p. 92 ff.