5/22: Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Page move-protected
Windows 3.0
Part of the Microsoft Windows family
Windows 3.0 logo.svg
Windows 3.0 workspace.png Screenshot of Windows 3.0
Release to
May 22, 1990; 23 years ago [info]
Latest stable
Multimedia Extensions (October 20, 1991; 22 years ago) [info]
Source model Closed source
License Commercial software
Preceded by Windows 2.1x (1988)
Succeeded by Windows 3.1x (1992)
Support status
Unsupported as of December 31, 2001

Windows 3.0, a graphical environment, is the third major release of Microsoft Windows, and was released on May 22, 1990. It became the first widely successful version of Windows and a rival to Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga on the GUI front. It was followed byWindows 3.1.[1]

Windows 3.0 originated in 1989 when a group of Microsoft programmers independently decided to develop a protected mode Windows as an experiment. They cobbled together a rough prototype and presented it to company executives, who were impressed enough to approve it as an official project.




Windows 3.0 succeeded Windows 2.1x and included a significantly revamped user interface as well as technical improvements to make better use of the memory management capabilities of Intel's 80286 and 80386 processors. Text-mode programs written for MS-DOS could be run within a window (a feature previously available in a more limited form with Windows/386 2.1), making the system usable as a crudemultitasking base for legacy programs. However, this was of limited use for the home market, where most games and entertainment programs continued to require raw DOS access.[2]

The MS-DOS Executive file manager/program launcher was replaced with the icon-based Program Manager and the list-based File Manager, splitting files and programs. The Control Panel, previously available as a standard-looking applet, was re-modeled after the one in Mac OS. It centralized system settings, including limited control over the color scheme of the interface.[3]

A number of simple applications were included, such as the text editor Notepad and the word processor Write (both inherited from earlier versions of Windows), a macro recorder (new; later dropped), the paint program Paintbrush (inherited but substantially improved), and a calculator (also inherited). Also, the earlier Reversi game was complemented with the card game Solitaire.[4]

The Windows icons and graphics support a full 16 colors in EGA and VGA mode while Windows 2.x only had colored menus and window boxes with in-application graphics being monochrome. 256 color VGA mode was supported for the first time.

Windows 3.0 includes a Protected/Enhanced mode which allows Windows applications to use more memory in a more painless manner than their DOS counterparts could. It can run in any of Real, Standard, or 386 Enhanced modes, and is compatible with any Intel processor from the 8086/8088 up to 80286 and 80386.[5] Windows 3.0 tries to auto detect which mode to run in, although it can be forced to run in a specific mode using the switches: /r (real mode), /s ("standard" 286 protected mode) and /3 (386 enhanced protected mode) respectively.[6] Since Windows 3.0 (and later Windows 3.1) runs in 16-bit 286 protected mode and not 32-bit 386 protected mode, applications must still work with 64k memory segments [7] like in DOS although 32-bit instructions may be contained in the code [8] (Ami Pro was the first Windows application to require a 386). Because of this, Windows 3.0 can only access 16MB total of RAM even on 386 CPUs which have the theoretical capability of utilizing 4GB.[9]

This was the first version to run Windows programs in protected mode, although the 386 enhanced mode kernel was an enhanced version of the protected mode kernel for Windows/286.

Windows 3.0 was the last version of Windows to advertise 100% compatibility with older Windows applications.[10] This only applies to real mode.


This version of Windows was the first to be pre-installed on hard drives by PC-compatible manufacturers. Zenith Data Systems had previously shipped all of its computers with Windows 1.0 or later 2.x on diskettes but committed early in the development of Windows 3.0 to shipping it pre-installed. Indeed, the Zenith division had pushed Microsoft hard to develop the graphical user interface because of Zenith's direct competition with Apple in the educational market. However, Zenith PCs had to run a proprietary OEM version of Windows because they used hard disks with 1024 byte sectors (instead of the normal 512 bytes) and could not use the standard SWAPFILE.EXE

In December 1990, Microsoft released an updated Windows 3.0 with bug fixes and improved ability to move pieces of data greater than 64k (the original release could only manipulate one segment of RAM at a time).

Windows 3.0 was not available as a run-time version, as was the case with its predecessors. A limited-use version of Windows 2.x was often bundled with other applications (i.e. Ami Pro) due to the low market penetration of Windows itself. It again was unsupported after December 31, 2001.

Standard retail and OEM distributions of Windows 3.0 were on high density 1.2MB and 1.44MB floppy disks. A 720k version was also offered, and a 360k edition could be ordered from Microsoft. Fully installed, Windows 3.0 used 5MB of hard disk space.

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