Software Review Of The Moment

Windows ’95

16th Of August, 2020

System Requirements:
• An Intel 386DX CPU / better / compatible CPU
(• For an upgrade copy, you’re required to have MS-DOS 3.31 or later, with Windows 3 or later. Or OS/2 2 or later.)
• 4 MB of RAM. 8 MB or more is recommended. (Some people have reported issues when using more than 512 MB.)
• 45 MB of hard drive space.
• A 9 cm (3½ inch) high density floppy disk drive / CD drive, depending which version you bought.
• VGA or higher resolution video card. (Plus a monitor capable of the same, one would assume.)
• A mouse / compatible pointing device.
Optional Stuff:
• A modem
• Sound card
• If you choose to use Internet Explorer, Messaging client / MSN, you will need to have 8 MB of RAM, between 3 and 25 MB of additional hard drive space and a 14.4 kbps modem.

(Shove ya mouse / track ball / other pointing device cursor over the pics to see which ones can be seen bigger. )
Our 1st computer was from 1995, but before the release of Microsoft’s new operating system. (Although strictly speaking, Windows 1 through to Windows ME, all ran “on top of” DOS.) Yep — no Internet access, no USB, no CD burner, no such thing as flash memory units, no 3D accelerator, no watching DVDs… How did I survive?! We had Windows 3.11 (For Work Groups) up until 1998, when we finally decided to go to Windows ’95. This was probably the most enthusiastic I’d been about getting a new MS operating system, and it really was an exciting upgrade! The improvements were actually so much better, unlike some of the questionable stuff from the company these days.
I’d seen friends & other users with it, and really wanted to use it myself. New software was requiring Windows ’95, and Windows 3.11 was also getting restrictive for what I wanted to do. I think I’d pushed the program groups to the limit.

The familiar loading screen. The strip at the bottom slides along until it loads. The full resolution is a strange 320 × 400 pixels, but it’s stretched horizontally.
Explorer was a lot more basic than the likes of Windows XP. This is completely free of Internet Explorer too.
The Z drive is a virtual network location created by Virtual PC.

Windows ’95 offered a complete overhaul of the interface. No longer was your background image hidden behind Program Manager — it was there all the time, with your icons right on it! (In Windows 3.11, only minimised icons appeared on the desktop area.) One of the really big new features, was the excellent Start Menu. By clicking on the new button at the bottom left of the screen, you could suddenly access a neat, organised menu of settings and shortcuts! Shortcuts didn’t even exist in this fashion before. As well as pointing to files and programs, they could also now point to web addresses. Program group files from earlier versions of Windows were automatically converted to new Start menu entries, and there wasn’t a limit on how many you could have any more.
Another change, or addition, that I really liked, was the ability to cut, copy and paste files, like you would do with a picture. In Windows 3.11, you’d have to go to File Manager, and drag the files where you wanted them to go. And if you chose the likes of Copy or Move from the File menu, you had to type in where you wanted files to go!

This particular method of moving files in Windows 3.11 felt more like something from a command prompt.
The new context menu for files. Send To, is a brilliant way to quickly send your files to your favourite locations & programs.

Windows ’95’s new context menu, when you pressed your right mouse button, was something that didn’t do anything in Windows 3.11, when it came to files. With this mini menu, you could do other file related things immediately. This also applied to open and save dialogue boxes. There was no way Windows 3.11 would let you right click on a file that appeared in the Save As box, and get its properties. Not only that, but with Windows ’95, you could copy and paste files directly from these open & save windows. (At least the very new ones. Some were still like the type you saw in the previous Windows.) As far as I know, you can’t even do this in Mac OS X. (You can get information though, by pressing + I.)

The new Open / Save boxes. As you can see, you can right click and get the same context menu as in other Explorer windows. Excellent! Although some programs may still have the Windows 3-ish style ones. One that springs to mind, is Corel CHART, and it’s like this in Windows XP as well.

When working with your files, the new Explorer windows would lay them all out how you liked. You weren’t just stuck to the tree view of File Manager. In fact, the icons were now of a larger size (32 × 32 pixels), and actually had images that were more meaningful. With Corel DRAW 8, you even got icon previews that actually match what each picture looks like! One thing you had to be careful of though, was making sure you didn’t associate icons with a painting program, or all ICO files would take on the icon of that program, instead of their internal image. Speaking of icons, Microsoft were sneaky with Windows ’95. Even though it wasn’t as common, Windows 3.11 did support icons with more than 16 colours. But if you wanted this with Windows ’95, you were expected to fork out for the Plus pack. Fortunately, 3rd party programs enabled higher colour icons for free.
To do this manually, go to the registry, to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\desktop\WindowMetrics\ & make a text key, if it doesn’t already exist, called “Shell Icon BPP” (with the spaces) & set the value to 16. If your video card supports 24 bit colour, you can use “24” instead. I tried it in the virtual machine environment, and it worked anyhow. After changing the value from 16 to 24, one of my own icons was less patchy looking. It will work on “32” as well, but since Windows ’95 won’t display icon alpha channels, there isn’t much point.

After running the Internet setup wizard thingie, and entering my DNS information, the OS then had Internet access. So, even though these were the years before I even had a “dial-up” Internet connection at home, Windows ’95 still works fine with newer broadband connections. So long as you have a network card installed.
Hmm… my site has become quite a resolution hog over the years. It works perfectly with Netscape 7 here.
Shortcuts are a special file with a LNK extension. Here you can see that you can have one which points to a web address. No sign of that blue Internet Explorer icon here.
The TCP / IP protocol isn’t installed by default. You need to add it manually. This then required floppy disks 12 & 13, and a restart. Once done, my regular home network locations showed up, and I’d say you’d need this for Internet access as well.
2 other PCs on my network were then visible. Some of my shared locations didn’t show up, because I think the names are too long, or something, and Windows ’95 has issues with that.
With Windows 3.11, you had to use DOS based defragmentation & error checking software. Windows ’95 has its own dealie built in. This was notorious for restarting over & over during the defragmentation process. Every time something accessed the hard drive, it’d need to work out what changed & go back to the beginning.
Look! Program Manager! It’s still in there, like Windows 3.11. Actually, it’s still in Windows XP as well, but it doesn’t do anything if you run it.

As well as the new Start Menu, there was another adjustable strip along the bottom of your screen in Windows ’95. The Taskbar! This contained buttons, with an icon, of your running programs. You just clicked on a button when you wanted that program to gain focus. Much quicker and easier than Windows 3.11, and a little more obvious too. Not only that, but right clicking on the buttons could often do other things as well. Then, on the right side, was the System Tray, which contained a clock and other mini icons of utilities like the volume control.
You’ll also find the Run feature of the Start menu, which lets you put in a command for the OS to execute. This has no automatic suggestions like later versions of Windows. There’s also no Quick Launch feature, which later came in Windows ’98. (These are a strip of icons on the right of the Start button that are all shortcuts.) From what I could find, there doesn’t seem to be any visual effect adjustments either. Font anti-aliasting is non-existent, although as I personally know, Corel DRAW 8 does its own, which over comes this issue. (But, only for itself of course.)

Winamp’s Taskbar context menu has a special menu of extra goodies.
The famous Start Menu. Unlike later versions of Windows, you can only edit it by right clicking on the Start button, choosing Open, and then adjusting the shortcuts. Or you can go directly to the appropriate directory if you know where it is. In Windows XP (for instance), you can right click items in the Start Menu’s Programs section and edit the shortcuts directly.

One thing Mac users could gloat about, was file and directory length, up until Windows ’95 came along. DOS & Windows were previously limited to files with a maximum length of 8 characters & a 3 letter extension. Although that was a maximum too. You could of course have a 1 or 2 character extension if you wished. Somehow when I was fiddling with QBASIC in the early years, & was completely clueless, I somehow managed to make 2 files with a space in them, which was supposedly forbidden. File Manager listed them, but it always failed to delete them. It wasn’t until we got Windows ’95 that I could sod them off.
Unlike Windows these days, as well as not having to have Internet Explorer, Windows ’95 doesn’t have DirectX installed from the get-go either. This is an optional extra when programs need it. It’s probably awkward to clear off again though if you change your mind.
Another new feature of Windows ’95, was the Recycle Bin. This is obviously a knock-off of Apple’s Trash can, except the Windows rendition doesn’t eject discs. (In case you’re out of the loop, dragging a floppy disk / CD / DVD onto the Trash on Macs, ejects it. Plus it makes it safe to remove flash memory units & hard drive caddies too.)

My L.E.D. Resistor Calculator program works, but only if it can find the MFC42.DLL file. I pinched this one from Nero 5.
My Blurry Shapes Generator worked fine without any other requirements. The icon didn’t show up like in Windows XP of course. (Windows ’95 won’t show icons with their alpha channels.)

Winamp 2.8 works, but the Monkey’s Audio plug-in doesn’t. At 1st I thought the official FLAC plug-in didn’t work either, but it does. It seems a bit buggy though. If you skip ahead in the song, Winamp kind of goes brain dead and wonders what to do, but it’s still responsive. I also tried XMPlay, which supposedly supports Windows ’95, but yeah, it doesn’t. It just came up with a message about a file missing. WININET.DLL, or something. Maybe it’s something to do with Internet Explorer.

Shutting down Windows ’95 gives you a list of options, including going to DOS.

Back in these days, not all PCs turned themselves off, and Windows would give you a message saying it was now safe to turn off your computer. With my ~3.5 GHz Intel Core i7 CPU based computer, Windows ’95 runs very snappily in a virtual machine. In fact there’s a bug which causes this NDIS error on starting the OS. I had to download this 3rd party ISO file to patch it, and that fixed the issue. Otherwise it would only load in Safe Mode. The thing is, I don’t recall this happening on my Core i5 CPU based PC.
Compared with Windows 3.11, Windows ’95 seems like a great step forward. The new features and compatibility with what you already had made it an easy upgrade choice. 25 years on though, we’ve seen even more features of Windows, which doesn’t make me want to go back to this on a full time basis. The original line of Windows operating systems didn’t feature any protected memory support either. This is something that the Windows NT line really only made use of. For nostalgic use in a virtual machine, Windows ’95 is fine, but under heavy use, it could get quite unstable and programs could bring down other programs & the whole operating system if you were unlucky. Some people preferred Windows ’98, but I hated using that OS back in the day. To me, it was worse than Windows ’95 & Windows ME. Even doing something as simple as pressing the End key to get to the last file in an open dialogue box would cause programs to crash under Windows ’98.
If Microsoft went back to the GUI of Windows ’95, I’d probably be surprised, but it was probably the best one they came up with. After all, it kept going fairly close to the same style right through to Windows 7, after which it got the chop. (Although it was Windows XP that 1st offered it as a “classic” style choice.) For computers these days, I really want to see something a LOT better than anything that’s currently available. Personally, in terms of commercial operating systems, around that Mac OS X Panther to Snow Leopard period, was the peak of graphical interfaces. There was nothing as good before them or since.
If you like trying out older operating systems, or just have fond memories of Windows ’95, I’d say that running it in a virtual machine is the way to go these days. You don’t have to worry about finding compatible hardware, and the likes of VirtualBox can run it on other non-Windows operating systems, with 2D & 3D acceleration as well.

Other Reviews In This Monthly Dealie:
• Corel CHART! 3
• Windows 10
• JES De-Interlacer + Microsoft Works 3
• Power DVD 6
• Corel DRAW 8
• XMPlay + Cog + MacAmp Lite X
• iMovie 6 + iDVD 7
• Open Office 3.3
• Winamp 2.8
• Art Of Illusion 2.5
• My own titler programs
• Mac OS X Tiger