Microsoft Windows 3.1

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Windows 3.1
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)
Screenshot Windows for Workgroups 3.11 (German) with file manager, in the background program manager with open and closed program groups, the WIN.INI file opened in the editor (with entries that were not part of the system registry at the time) and icon size at the bottom left minimized windows applications
developer Microsoft
License (s) Microsoft EULA ( Closed Source )
First publ. April 6, 1992
Current  version 3.11 (November 1993)
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 stopped on December 31, 2001

Microsoft Windows 3.1 (working name: Janus) is a graphical user interface from Microsoft that is based on PC-compatible DOS such as MS-DOS or PC DOS .


Windows 3.0 was very successful, but it was not spared from criticism. In practice, it was found that the operating system was prone to crashes. In addition, the operating system was still considered too slow for productive use. Bill Gates announced an improved version of Windows 3.0 for the middle of 1991. In addition, a porting library should appear to port Windows programs to IBM OS / 2 , which many users still preferred because of its stability. Although improved stability for Windows 3.1 was announced, the companies waited in vain for the new operating system, so many continued to stick with IBM OS / 2.

A software test was built into the beta version of Windows 3.1 to identify compatibility problems when using alternative DOS versions. Instead of MS-DOS, a number of customers used DR DOS . This test was also included in the retail version of Windows 3.1, but deactivated.


Windows 3.1

The "graphical operating system extension" Windows 3.1 was published on April 6, 1992 and was first available as an update for an earlier Windows.

The most important new features include support for TrueType fonts and the OLE interface, and drag and drop has also been introduced.

In addition, Windows 3.1 offered standard multimedia support that was previously only available as part of the less popular Windows 3.0 with Multimedia Extensions 1.0 . In terms of graphics, color depths of up to 32 bits and large screen resolutions were supported with this version. Despite the similarity of names, many programs for Windows 3.0 are incompatible with Windows 3.1x (and vice versa).

At the same time, a hierarchical system database was integrated for the first time, the so-called Windows registry database , which is often colloquially called the registry . In contrast to later Windows versions, their use under Windows 3.1 is still limited to file name extensions and some Windows settings. As before, program settings and more extensive configurations are implemented using ini files (initialization files ) that contain the parameters and values ​​in plain text. These files can be changed with a text editor and can be easily copied, which means that system and program configurations can be easily transferred to other computers.

Windows 3.1 was available in numerous languages, besides English, these were Arabic, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Danish, German, Finnish, French, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Catalan, Korean, Dutch, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese , Russian, Swedish, Spanish, Czech, Turkish and Hungarian. There were numerous OEM variants adapted by manufacturers , some even with DOS and driver adjustments as script installation on CDs instead of floppy disks.

Windows 3.11

Windows 3.11 was released in February 1994. It differs from the previous version practically only through updated drivers. Microsoft provided a free update to update an existing Windows 3.1 to this version. With this version a certificate of authenticity was introduced for the first time ; a hologram that is difficult to forge allows the layperson to distinguish a copy from an original.

Windows 3.2

Windows 3.2 was released in December 1994 only in the People's Republic of China . This is an updated version of Windows 3.1 that included new input methods (IME) and other improvements.

Windows for Workgroups 3.1

Windows for Workgroups Setup on nine HD floppy disks (1.44 MB)

Windows for Workgroups 3.1 was released on October 27, 1992. It contained additional opportunities for the rudimentary first Windows peer-to-peer - network between Windows computers over the MS-own NetBEUI - protocol . The TCP / IP protocol was not yet supported with this version. The programs Microsoft Mail , a network-based mail program, and Schedule + , a calendar program for shared use by several users were available. Windows for Workgroups 3.1 supported standard mode ( 80286 processor), but file and printer sharing was not possible in this mode.

Windows for Workgroups 3.1 was unsuccessful, however; around 30,000 copies of this operating system were sold per month, compared to more than a million copies of regular Windows 3.1 per month. The operating system was largely incompatible with third-party network software, and the network functions could not be switched off, which meant that companies avoided this operating system.

Windows for Workgroups 3.11

Windows for Workgroups 3.11

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 was released on November 8, 1993. It is an extended version of Windows for Workgroups 3.1 with improved 32-bit network software and TCP / IP protocol (to be installed later as an update), which allows several computers to communicate in a local network. With a package of smaller programs (" Winsocks "), Internet access is now also possible via a standard modem with AT command set (Hayes) and bit rates of 4.8 / 9.6 / 19.2 kBit / s. You can also access the Internet via ISDN or DSL . The last browsers for WfW 3.11 are: Internet Explorer 5.0 German, Internet Explorer 5.01 English, Opera 3.62 English and Netscape Navigator 4.08. Device manufacturers were able to license the Windows for Workgroups 3.11 operating system until the beginning of November 2008 .


There are numerous extensions for Windows 3.1, which above all complement the comparatively simple program and file managers or replace them with completely new interfaces, including PC Tools for Windows , Norton Desktop , Calmira or Plug-In for Windows .

Win32s API

The most important extension for newer programs is the Win32s interface for Windows 3.1x. This enabled the execution of 32-bit programs under the otherwise 16-bit Windows. However, the function libraries from Windows NT were not completely adopted, only a selection from them, for example MS Office 97 can run under Windows NT 3.51, but not under Windows 3.1x / WfW 3.x. In combination with graphic interfaces such as OpenGL or Video for Windows , however, this should set a sufficient standard for home users by the time Windows 95 appears.

Windows for Pen Computing 1.0

Windows for Pen Computing is an extension of Windows 3.1x, which was designed for input using a light pen and was executed on tablet PCs . The operation was mainly characterized by the fact that it introduced functions such as trainable handwriting recognition and gestures . After Compaq had discontinued its plans to bring out a PDA based on this operating system in 1994, before the appearance of Windows 95, Microsoft decided to develop the next version for Windows 95 without the involvement of cooperation partners.

System requirements

Windows 3.1 required at least an 80286 processor. The real mode, which was still included in the previous version and supported 8086/8088 processors, was no longer available in this version. An 80386 processor was required to run Windows for Workgroups 3.11

Windows 3.1 supported, at least theoretically, up to 512 MB of RAM in standard mode, but applications had to be compiled explicitly for this memory size. Most application programs, and Windows 3.1 in 386 enhanced mode, support up to 256 MB of memory.


With the introduction of Windows 95, support for Windows 3.1 from Microsoft and third-party manufacturers decreased. MS Office up to version 4.3, StarOffice up to 4.0, CorelDraw up to 5.0, MicroGrafx Designer / Picture Publisher 5, PaintShopPro 3.12 were supported. Due to the browser war , Internet Explorer 5.0 was released as a 16-bit version in 1999. Overall, the hardware support for SCSI is better than for IDE / Atapi .

In the world of Embedded PCs , for example in cash registers, the system was able to survive into the second half of the 2000s due to the low hardware requirements and simultaneous support of the TCP / IP protocol. Microsoft licensed Windows for Workgroups 3.11 to January 1 for device manufacturers November 2008.

Web links

Commons : Microsoft Windows 3.1  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Pierre Dandumont: LNDCDJ: Janus / Windows 3.1. In: Tom's Hardware . October 7, 2009, accessed July 13, 2014 (French).
  2. Microsoft Windows 3.1. In: Old Computer Museum. Retrieved July 13, 2014 .
  3. ^ Ingo T. Storm: Bill Gates' Joker: Microsoft Windows 3.1 . In: c't . No. 5 , 1992, pp. 102 ff .
  4. Michael Fitzgerald: Current needs, future promises: Windows users' wish list of improvements includes faster speed and font technology . In: Computerworld . tape 25 , no. 9 , March 4, 1991, pp. SR5 ( ).
  5. James Daly: Current needs, future promises: With a quantum leap years away, Microsoft schedules incremental changes for Windows . In: Computerworld . tape 25 , no. 9 , March 4, 1991, pp. SR5 ( ).
  6. Kristi Coale: Windows, OS / 2: Tale of unequal partners: Windows may be the current development darling, but OS / 2 still carries all the weight . In: InfoWorld . tape 14 , no. 4 , January 27, 1992, p. 45-46 ( ).
  7. Dan Goodin: Microsoft emails focus on DR-DOS threat. CNET News, April 28, 1999, accessed August 31, 2008 .
  8. Andrew Schulman: Investigation of the Windows AARD Detection Code (English) from September 1, 1993 (accessed August 31, 2008)
  9. Windows 3.1 manual
  10. a b MSDN Library - Developing International Software - Appendix P Localized Editions of Microsoft Windows. Retrieved March 23, 2013 .
  11. Willem Knibbe: Microsoft releases Windows 3.11 . In: InfoWorld . tape 16 , no. 8 , February 21, 1994, pp. 3 ( ).
  12. Reference page on the Microsoft homepage
  13. Microsoft Windows for Workgroups 3.1 Makes Information Sharing Easier. (No longer available online.) October 27, 1992, formerly in the original ; Retrieved August 13, 2013 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  14. Frederic Paul: Reworking Windows for Workgroups . In: Network World . tape 10 , no. 29 , July 19, 1993, pp. 4-5 ( ).
  15. Microsoft Ships Windows for Workgroups 3.11 with Broad Industry Support: OEMs to Preinstall Windows for Workgroups 3.11 on Millions of Personal Computers. (No longer available online.) November 8, 1993, formerly in the original ; Retrieved August 13, 2013 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  16. a b
  17. How to download and install Win32s using Windows 3.1 File Manager (English) - MIT , with " Win32s is an extension for the Windows 3.1 and Windows 3.11 operating systems, which allows them to run some 32-bit applications. "; last change on February 18, 1999
  18. ^ Anna-Martina Kröll: Interorganizational Networks: Use of Social Capital for Market Entry Strategies. Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-322-81117-2 ( excerpt online )
  19. If Windows 3.11 required a 32-bit processor, why was it called a 16-bit operating system? , accessed July 11, 2012.
  20. Microsoft Knowledge Base - Windows 3.1 Memory Limits. Retrieved July 9, 2012 .