/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Windows is 30, so here's how it took over the world

Windows made its debut on 20 November 1985 -- come with us on a trip through time as we see how Bill Gates' baby took over the world.

richard-trenholm-square.jpg
Richard Trenholm
win101logo.jpg
1 of 36 Microsoft

Microsoft's new operating system hits shelves on 20 November 1985 -- but how did Windows take over the offices, schools and homes of almost every computer user in the world and make Bill Gates the richest man in the world along the way?

Editor's note: This article was previously published under a different title and was updated for the 30th anniversary.

win101paint.jpg
2 of 36 Microsoft

Microsoft announced Windows on 10 November 1983. Almost exactly two years later, Version 1.0 went on sale and included the legendary art software Paint, as well as Windows Writer and Notepad.

win101calc.jpg
3 of 36 Microsoft

A calculator, calendar, card file and clock helped you manage your 1980s Filofax.

win101tile2.jpg
4 of 36 Microsoft

You could even play a game, the strategy board game Reversi, seen here at the top left.

windows-1-0-crash.jpg
5 of 36 Microsoft

Uh-oh! The precursor to the stop error screen, which became known as the "Blue Screen of Death".

win2.jpg
6 of 36 Microsoft

In 1987, Windows 2.0 came with the same applications, but you could now resize and overlap windows. Control panel and keyboard shortcuts were also new.

win30games.jpg
7 of 36 Microsoft

With improved icons, a whopping 16 colours, and classic time wasters Solitaire, Hearts and Minesweeper all included in version 3.0, modern Windows started to take shape.

win30paint.jpg
8 of 36 Microsoft

In Windows 3.0 you could change the background to display a pattern or bitmap image. The new Windows Paintbrush supported BMP and PCX files.

win31ttf.jpg
9 of 36 Microsoft

Version 3.1 added Apple's TrueType fonts, based on a scaleable outline, or glyph, rather than blocky pixels.

win311mail.jpg
10 of 36 Microsoft

Windows For Workgroups included Microsoft Mail, which could send email via PostOffice to other users on a network.

win31.jpg
11 of 36 Microsoft

The background and themes could be personalised if you had decent graphics kit.

win3mmemulti.jpg
12 of 36 Microsoft

A version of Windows 3.0 included Multimedia Extensions, including the Music Box CD player and a Sound Recorder.

win32ctrl.jpg
13 of 36 Microsoft

Windows 3.2 was only released in China.

nt31cpanelcut.jpg
14 of 36 Microsoft

The control panel.

win95logo2.jpg
15 of 36 Microsoft

Windows 95 arrived in, you guessed it, 1995.

win95startmenu.jpg
16 of 36 Microsoft

The new Start menu was heralded by famous -- and enormously expensive -- adverts featuring the Rolling Stones song "Start Me Up".

win95statup.jpg
17 of 36 Microsoft

Subtle 3D effects and gradients were added to the look in 1995.

clippy.jpg
18 of 36 Microsoft

Clippy appeared in Microsoft Office between 1997 and 2003. His real name is Clippit. Kill it! Kill it with fire!

win98notepad.jpg
19 of 36 Microsoft

Ouch. This is how things went bad in the old days.

win98bg.jpg
20 of 36 Microsoft

You could embed a website in your Windows 98 desktop, complete with clickable links.

wxpdefaultdesk.jpg
21 of 36 Microsoft

Look -- it's the verdant rolling hills and comforting blue skies of Windows XP.

wxpactivate2.jpg
22 of 36 Microsoft

XP required users to activate their copy with a 50-number code over the Web. Couldn't be simpler!

wxpsearch.jpg
23 of 36 Microsoft

When you searched for something, Microsoft sent in Rover Retriever, the star of Microsoft Bob -- an unsuccessful program that represented your desktop as the inside of a house.

wxpsilver.jpg
24 of 36 Microsoft

On XP, you can change themes. Pretty.

wxpcrash.jpg
25 of 36 Microsoft

Uh-oh! We've all been there.

vistadesktop1-web.jpg
26 of 36 Microsoft

In 2006, Vista introduced all manner of fancy 3D effects including the Aero interface and Flip 3D.

snap-web.jpg
27 of 36 Microsoft

In 2009, Windows 7 arrived in a blaze of confusion.

collage-zoom-web.jpg
28 of 36 Microsoft

Windows 7 supported multitouch on the screen of your PC, letting you zoom, rotate and navigate with your greasy fingers.

windows-8-home-screen-nik.jpg
29 of 36 Microsoft

Windows 8 saw a dramatic new look for the software: colourful boxes on the home screen for each app, called Live Tiles.

windows-8-home-screen-dn.jpg
30 of 36 Microsoft

You can customise your home screen with your favourite apps and widgets. The new look was designed to work on touchscreen devices and remains the basis for Windows since then, although many users found the new design too jarring.

windows-8-home-screen-surface.jpg
31 of 36 Microsoft

The touch-friendly Live Tiles are great for tablets, so Microsoft launched its own slate, the Surface, alongside Windows 8.

windows-8-1-screenshot.jpg
32 of 36 Microsoft

After Windows 8 proved to be a leap too far for some users, version 8.1 reinstated some of the more traditional elements of Windows, including the much-missed Start button.

windows-10-sistema-operativo.jpg
33 of 36 Microsoft

Microsoft unveiled the follow-up to its Windows 8 operating system on 30 September 2014. Its name? Windows 10, skipping the number nine for reasons known only to Microsoft. One of the big advantages of Windows 10 is that apps will run across Windows phones, tablets, PCs and the Xbox One games console.

new-start-menu.jpg
34 of 36 Nick Statt/CNET

Windows 10 went on sale on 29 July 2015. Old is new again with the Windows 10 Start menu, which combines elements of the touch-centric Windows 8 with the familiar design of older versions.

win101exit.jpg
35 of 36 Microsoft

That's quite enough Windows for one day. This will end your Windows session.

windows-9x-bsod.jpg
36 of 36 Microsoft

This will REALLY end your Windows session.

More Galleries

The best Nintendo Switch games to play in 2021

More Galleries

The best Nintendo Switch games to play in 2021

39 Photos
iPhone 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max camera testing: Photos from Apple's highest end 2021 phones

More Galleries

iPhone 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max camera testing: Photos from Apple's highest end 2021 phones

66 Photos
Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more

More Galleries

Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more

65 Photos
The 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL Roadster is a fundamental shift

More Galleries

The 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL Roadster is a fundamental shift

25 Photos
2022 Ford Expedition: More than meets the eye

More Galleries

2022 Ford Expedition: More than meets the eye

54 Photos
Best dating apps of 2021

More Galleries

Best dating apps of 2021

13 Photos
2021 Polaris Slingshot is its own animal

More Galleries

2021 Polaris Slingshot is its own animal

66 Photos