Home > Articles > Operating Systems, Server > Microsoft Windows Desktop

Getting to Know Windows 10—If You've Used Windows Before

  • Print
  • + Share This
Whether you're upgrading from Windows 8, Windows 7, or Windows XP, Michael Miller will walk you through the differences (and improvements) in Windows 10, including its most important features, in this chapter from Computer Basics Absolute Beginner's Guide, Windows 10 Edition (includes Content Update Program), 8th Edition.
This chapter is from the book

Windows 10 is the latest version of Windows, the operating system from Microsoft that’s been driving personal computers since the late 1980s. It’s a considerable improvement over the previous version (Windows 8) and a worthwhile upgrade if you’re using any older version of Windows.

A Short History of Windows

If you’ve recently purchased a new PC, the version of Windows on your PC is probably Windows 10. Microsoft has released different versions of Windows over the years, and Windows 10 (released in July 2015) is just the latest in a 30-year run.

Early Windows

The history of Windows actually goes back further than 30 years. That’s because Windows wasn’t Microsoft’s first operating system. Windows evolved from Microsoft’s original DOS operating system, which was released in 1981. The DOS operating system was developed by Bill Gates and Paul Allen to run the then-new IBM Personal Computer, and utilized a stark text-based interface and simple one-word user commands. It wasn’t what you would call user-friendly.

Microsoft believed, however, that for personal computers to become mainstream, they had to be easier to use, which argued for a graphical user interface (GUI) instead of DOS’s command-line interface. With that in mind, development on the inaugural version of Windows started in 1983, with the final product released to market in November, 1985.

Windows was originally going to be called Interface Manager and was nothing more than a graphical shell that sat on top of the existing DOS operating system. While DOS was a keyboard-driven, text-based operating system, Windows supported the click-and-drag operation of a mouse. That said, individual windows could be tiled only onscreen and could not be stacked or overlaid on top of each other.

Windows 1.0 didn’t gain a lot of users, but Microsoft kept at it, releasing the next version (Windows 2.0) in 1987. Windows 2.0 added overlapping windows and allowed minimized windows to be moved around the desktop with a mouse. Its big claim to fame, however, was that it came bundled with Microsoft’s Word and Excel applications. It still wasn’t a big success.

Windows Goes Mainstream

The first commercially successful version of Windows was Windows 3.0, released in 1990. This version of Windows sold more than 10 million copies. Windows 3.0 was the first version of Windows to incorporate true multitasking, thus providing a real alternative to the dominant DOS operating system of the time. In addition, the Windows 3.0 interface was a lot nicer looking, with 3D buttons and such, and users could, for the first time, change the color of the underlying desktop.

Two years later, in 1992, Microsoft released Windows 3.1. This version, more than a simple point upgrade, not only included the requisite bug fixes, but also it was the first version of Windows to display TrueType scalable fonts—which turned Windows into a serious platform for desktop publishing. Also new to Windows 3.1 were screensavers and drag-and-drop operation.

Starting It Up with Windows 95

The next version of Windows would be the biggest so far—and to date, for that matter. Windows 95 was released in 1995, and it was a genuine media event, with live television coverage and customers lined up outside stores waiting for the midnight release of the product. (I know, because I was there.) This was Windows hitting the big time, to the soundtrack of the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.”

What was the big deal? Windows 95 looked better and worked better, both things for which users had been waiting for years. Windows 95 introduced the taskbar, which held buttons for all open windows. It was also the first version of Windows to use the Start button and Start menu (hence the tie-in to the Rolling Stones’ song); desktop shortcuts, right-clicking, and long filenames also debuted in this version.

Three years later, Microsoft introduced Windows 98, an evolutionary change to the previous version. It looked and felt pretty much like Windows 95, even though it did include some useful improvements under the hood. There was also a “Second Edition” of Windows 98 released in 1999, which was more of a bug fix release.

At the turn of the century, Microsoft released a “millennium edition” of Windows, dubbed Windows Me. This version was considered a failure that seemingly broke more things than it fixed. Although Windows Me upgraded the operating system’s multimedia and Internet features, added the Windows Movie Maker application, and introduced the System Restore utility—all good things—it was notably bug-ridden and prone to frequent freezes and crashes. This caused many users to skip the upgrade entirely.

Windows XP, Vista, and 7

All those bugs got fixed with the 2001 release of what Microsoft called Windows XP. This was the first version of Windows to bring corporate reliability to the consumer market—and consumer friendliness to the corporate market. From the end user’s standpoint, XP was a faster and better-looking version of Windows, and a lot more reliable than the failed Windows Me. It also supported a more modern animated interface, dubbed Luna.

Microsoft stuck with Windows XP for 6 years, not upgrading it until the 2007 release of Windows Vista. Vista added increased security and reliability, improved digital media functionality, and the dazzling Aero 3D user interface. Unfortunately, Vista proved every bit as buggy as the older Windows Me and had a lot of compatibility issues with older computer hardware. It was a bomb, pure and simple—which led Microsoft to replace it with the new and improved Windows 7, released in 2009, just 2 short years after the release of Windows Vista.

What changed in Windows 7? First, it fixed a lot of what people didn’t like about Windows Vista. Older hardware and software were more compatible, and there was even a Windows XP Mode that let you run XP-era apps in their native environment—actually a virtual PC running the real honest-to-goodness Windows XP operating system. There were also some subtle interface changes, including a revamping of how the taskbar looked and worked.

Then Came Windows 8

Users loved Windows 7. Even large companies, seemingly wedded to Windows XP, eventually migrated to the better user interface and increased performance of the newer operating system. Everybody was happy.

That wasn’t good enough for Microsoft, however. Microsoft was looking at the burgeoning sales of Apple’s iPad and feared that traditional notebook and desktop computers would soon be replaced by tablets—a form factor that Microsoft had virtually no presence with. So the brain trust in Seattle put their heads together and came up with a striking reimagining of their core operating system, designed for smaller touchscreen devices.

Windows 8 was released in 2012, and was met with immediate derision. Users took issue with having the new “touch first” interface forced on them, as the vast majority of users were running traditional nontouch notebook and desktop computers, and avoided upgrading to Windows 8.

What exactly was different about Windows 8? First, it didn’t boot to the traditional desktop; instead, users saw a new Start screen with clickable tiles for all their installed applications. This Start screen replaced the tried-and-true Start menu, which simply vanished from Windows. Users could no longer click the Start button to see a Start menu full of their installed apps. This was not only confusing to long-term users, but it was also less productive than using the old Start menu.

Many common operations previously done with the mouse or keyboard were translated into touch gestures, which were meaningless for the majority of users who didn’t have touchscreen computers. A new class of applications (variously called Metro or Modern or Windows Store apps) was also introduced, displayed solely in full-screen mode and designed to operate best on touchscreen devices.

In short, Microsoft abandoned its huge user base and forced them to learn a new way of doing things that they neither wanted nor needed. It’s not surprising that Windows 8 was so derisively received, nor that this move almost singlehandedly destroyed the entire personal computer industry. Users not only refused to upgrade their old PCs to Windows 8, but also refused to buy new PCs that were running the despised operating system. Microsoft couldn’t have done worse if it tried to.

The company tried to reverse some of the damage with the release of Windows 8.1 in 2013. Windows 8.1 returned the Start button to the taskbar (but tied it to the Start screen; still no Start menu), and let users boot directly to the desktop instead of the Start screen, but the changes were too few to make much of a difference. Microsoft had turned Windows into a joke—and an extremely disliked user experience.

Introducing Windows 10

Lets’ face it; Windows 8 was a disaster. Users avoided it like the plague, unless they were forced to buy a new PC with Windows 8 preloaded. Microsoft tried to force a new GUI and operational paradigm on its billions of users, even though users weren’t asking for or wanting to change the way they did things on their computers. The result? One of the biggest failures in technology history—a mistake that ranks right up with New Coke and the Edsel.

Fortunately for all those despondent Windows 8 users, that bomb of an operating system has been replaced by Windows 10. Windows 10 undoes pretty much everything that Windows 8 got wrong and is finally a worthy successor to the much-beloved Windows 7.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020