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During the development of Windows 95 Microsoft touted the Microsoft
Exchange client as a universal inbox heavily integrated with the desktop.
It was even supposed to display its messages from within the Windows Explorer.
In the final Windows 95 release, it was not quite that. It typically
was not even installed by default.
The Microsoft Exchange Client is a flexible multipurpose mail client
capable of interfacing with any e-mail system with only the addition of
a small piece of "connector" software.
Windows 95 includes connectors for:
No Internet POP, IMAP or even Microsoft Exchange Server connector is included.
Microsoft Network Mail
and Microsoft Fax.
As internet e-mail usage began to grow, people obtained and used other
e-mail programs such as Netscape Mail, Eudora, or Microsoft Outlook Express.
The Microsoft Exchange Client was removed in Windows 98. (And they heavily
"integrated" another particular application instead)
Multimedia was the big buzzword of the day.
Windows 95 includes a video player, sound player, and numerous drivers
for hardware of the time.
The optional Windows dial up networking was originally designed for
the purpose of connecting to other PCs or corporate Windows NT servers.
The Windows 95 manual only
mentions the Internet briefly, promoting their MSN client instead.
Windows 95 does not install TCP/IP by default when adding dial-up or
a network card.
TCP/IP required a significant amount of manual configuration (IP, DNS,
gateway address, etc) or the use of a DHCP server, a significantly sized
server back then. The default NetBeui and IPX protocols, on the other hand,
were completely "plug and play".
During the life of Windows 95, dial up networking became an important
component as everyone and their grandmother began to get Internet access.
The new dial up system was even backported to Windows 3.1.
An important addition in Windows 95 was support for "Plug and Play"
hardware. With Plug and Play Windows can automatically tell when a new
device is added, automatically install drivers, and automatically configures
If Windows already had a driver often you could plug in a device and
it would "just work".
For when things don't quite work, Windows provides the device manager.
You can use the device manager to add or remove drivers or manually set
Because Windows uses drivers instead of building support for specific
devices in to the core OS, it is possible for third parties to add the
ability to use new hardware long after Microsoft stopped providing updates.
For example, I recently added a SATA card to a Windows 95 machine even
though those weren't around back then.
The Windows Registry was originally designed to store OLE component
registration. Windows 95 also uses it for program configuration and preferences.
The new Windows 95 RegEdit enables you to search for keywords, export
or import sections to text files, and displays everything in a single hierarchy.
There are advantages, such as a consistent location for configuration
options, and some disadvantages, such as only being able to manually edit
the registry through regedit.
Like Windows 3.x, 95 is backwards compatible with DOS applications.
The stability is much improved, and in 1995 arguably still had better
DOS compatibility than Windows NT or OS/2. (Yes, it can run Doom with sound)
In the worst case scenario, it is still possible to exit to a pure real-mode
Windows 95 still includes the Program Manager and File Manager applications
for anyone who enjoys wading through endless windows to find the application
they want. These are both still 16-bit applications, and as such only support
short file names.
It is also technically possible to run Windows 95 without the Explorer
desktop, although this would be very uncommon. It is interesting to see
that without the Task Bar, minimized programs appear as small windows instead
Like the early Chicago builds, you can also still browse the Programs
menu through the desktop.
To see this, Right-Click on the Start Menu and select "Open".
Chicago abandoned this as the default way to see program because it
had the same problem of wading through many windows as the Program Manager.
Most new applications have finally ceased compatibility with Windows
95, however many maintained compatibility for a long time.
For more modern-ish applications running under Windows 95 see my Sick
Windows tricks page.
Windows 95 "A" / OEM Service Release 1 was just some small bugfixes
and included Internet Explorer 2.
Windows 95 "B" / OEM Service Release 2 included MS-DOS 7.10 with FAT32,
minor UI bugfixes, Personal Webserver, Internet Explorer 3, OpenGL screen
savers, "Imaging" applications, and renames the Exchange Client to "Windows
Messaging". This and later versions were typically only available to OEMs.
Windows 95 "B with USB" / OEM Service Release 2.1 is identical to OSR
2 but includes an installer that adds USB support.
Windows 95 "C" / OEM Service Release 2.5 OSR2.5 "C" is also the same
as OSR 2 except after installation it attempts to install IE 4 and the
IE 4 webby desktop.
Shutting down Windows 95. On computers that can do it, it will power
The option to "Restart in DOS" actually exits to DOS just like Windows
3.1, where it will still have any DOS drivers or applications loaded during
In conclusion the Windows 95 desktop comes across as a fairly solid
desktop interface. Being brand new it did have a few minor shortcomings
most of which were fixed in later versions of Windows - unfortunately the
later versions also introduce many new problems. To see what those problems
were, see my Windows 98 page!
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