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Location: GUIs > Windows > Windows 95

Microsoft Exchange Client
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:

  • MS-Mail
  • Microsoft Network Mail
  • and Microsoft Fax.
No Internet POP, IMAP or even Microsoft Exchange Server connector is included.

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)

Windows 95 Multimedia
Multimedia was the big buzzword of the day.

Windows 95 includes a video player, sound player, and numerous drivers for hardware of the time.

Windows 95 Dial Up
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.

Windows 95 Device Manager
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 it.

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 hardware configurations.

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.

Windows 95 Regedit
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.

Windows 95 MS-DOS
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 DOS environment.

Windows 95 Program Manager
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 of icons.

Windows 95 Open Program Folder
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.

Windows 95 Slashdot
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.

Later versions:

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.

Windows 95 Shutting Down

Shutting down Windows 95. On computers that can do it, it will power off automatically.

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 Windows startup.

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!