Windows 3.x

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Windows 3.x
developer Microsoft
License (s) Microsoft EULA ( Closed Source )
First publ. May 22, 1990
Current  version 3.0 to 3.2
Kernel PC-compatible DOS
Windows kernel
ancestry Windows 1.0 - 2.11
↳ Windows  3.x
timeline Windows 3.0 (1990)
Windows 3.00a (1990)
Windows 3.0 with Multimedia Extensions 1.0 (1991)
Windows for Pen Computing 1.0 (1992)
Windows 3.1 (1992)
Windows for Workgroups 3.1 (1992)
Windows for Workgroups 3.11 (1993)
Windows 3.11 ( 1994)
Windows 3.2 (1994)
Others Development stopped

Under the name Windows 3.x , the predecessor of the later are Windows - operating systems the software company Microsoft for x86 processors the versions together 3.x. Up to version 3.x Windows was a graphic attachment for a PC-compatible DOS operating system such as MS-DOS .


The most popular Windows 3.x versions are:

There were other versions, but they were not as widely used. Windows 3.x was still used on embedded systems such as cash register systems or ticket machines almost 20 years after its market launch; Microsoft sold licenses for it until the end of October 2008.


With the Windows 3.x series, the transition from pure 16-bit x86 systems (also retronymously referred to as IA-16, Intel Architecture 16-bit ) to the Intel 8086 ( real mode only ) and 80286 (additionally 16 -Bit Protected Mode ) to 32-bit x86 systems (also known as Intel Architecture 32-Bit , IA-32 for short ) from 80386 ( 32-Bit Protected Mode and Virtual 8086 Mode ).

Windows 3.0 (1990) had three different kernels: one for 8086 ( real mode ), one for the 80286 (additionally standard mode ) and one for the 80386 (additionally 386 enhanced mode ). Depending on which processor was present in the PC, Windows started automatically with the corresponding kernel. In Windows 3.1 (1992) the 8086 kernel was omitted and in Windows for Workgroups 3.11 (1993) there was only the 80386 kernel.

Windows 3.x required a running MS-DOS (or compatible, e.g. PC DOS or DR DOS ) on which it was running. In this regard it was no different from the older Windows versions up to Windows 2.0 . However, with the 80286 and 80386 kernels, Windows offered an advanced memory manager that DOS lacked. Windows was thus already more than a graphical attachment for the MS-DOS operating system when it ran on a modern processor. On an 80386 in enhanced mode , the kernel functioned as a DPMI client, which also made the DOS substructure multitasking, because several DOS programs could run in parallel. The first 32-bit Windows device drivers were also available , although Windows 3.x could still use the 16-bit drivers from DOS.


With Windows 3.0 and 3.1, Microsoft achieved the breakthrough in the market for graphic PC operating systems. The real meaning, however, lay in the stable programming interface ( English Application Programming Interface , API for short), which in its 16-bit form was also called Win16 . 16-bit Windows programs from Windows 2.0 continued to work, but only in real mode.

Windows 3.x paved the way for Windows 9x , which as an independent operating system integrated the MS-DOS substructure into the operating system and the 32-bit functions both in the 32-bit API Win32 and in core components such as the memory manager and multitasking advanced.

Both generations, i.e. Windows 3.x as well as Windows 9x (which was developed as Windows 4.x), were in retrospect fillers for the newly developed Windows NT , which was a complete 32-bit operating system - but on the hardware of that time too resource-hungry and too expensive. It was not until Windows XP that Microsoft succeeded in completely switching to the new technology introduced with Windows NT.

Windows 3.x / 9x and Windows NT have a similar and largely identical API. A stripped-down version of the Win32 API could be installed under Windows 3.x , Win32s , while Win16 applications could still run under Windows NT versions. The Win16 API is no longer available in 64-bit x86 versions of Windows, i.e. from Windows XP x64 Edition (2005) or Windows Vista x64 (2007) .

Web links

  • The Windows 3.x Showcase. This is a collection of curated Windows 3.x software, meant to show the range of software products available for the 3.x Operating System in the early 1990s. In: Internet Archive . Retrieved May 21, 2018 .

Individual evidence

  1. a b Manfred Bremmer: Windows 3.x - Microsoft stamps the best Windows release. In: Computerwoche . IDG , November 6, 2008, accessed May 22, 2018 .
  2. Raymond Chen: For the Nitpickers: Enhanced-mode Windows 3.0 didn't exactly run a copy of standard-mode Windows inside the virtual machine. In: The Old New Thing ( blog ). February 8, 2013, accessed May 21, 2018 .