Microsoft has developed at least 30 major versions of the Windows operating system during the last 35 years. But not all of them are made equal, so we thought it would be exciting to rate the best ten desktop versions of this vital operating system.
Here is the list of the top 10 greatest versions of all time.
10. Windows 3.0 (1990)
Windows 3.0 merged the perplexingly titled Windows 2.x family of products (Windows 2.03, Windows/286, Windows/386, and so on) into a single environment that operated on computers ranging from low-speed 8088s to 386 CPUs. It also contained a striking new 3D-shaded graphical interface and a library of beautiful icons developed by graphic design great Susan Kare. It also brought back Solitaire, which is always a plus.
9. Windows 8 (2012)
Change is difficult, and Windows 8 was a drastic break from precedent that enraged many users. Despite receiving mixed reviews, Windows 8 was the most inventive version of Windows since Windows 95, daring to confront the emerging world of touch-based mobile devices like the iPad. The end product was a hybrid operating system that could run on both tablets and desktop computers.
8. Windows NT 4.0 (1996)
Take the reliability of the 32-bit Windows NT kernel and layer it on top of the highly user-friendly interface of Windows 95, and you get Windows NT 4.0. Its rock-solid reliability kept it Microsoft’s most preferred commercial and academic operating system for years, and devoted NT4 users were hesitant to switch even as late as 2003.
7. Windows 98 SE (1999)
Windows 98 expanded on the advances established in Windows 95 by adding an enhanced interface with greater flexibility, all while remaining compatible with the 16-bit old MS-DOS environment. Windows 98 was the best PC gaming operating system for a long time since it supported both DOS and DirectX-based games.
The “Second Edition” update in 1999 included a number of upgrades (including improved USB compatibility) that kept many people using 98 until Windows XP was launched in 2000—skipping right past Windows Me. Unfortunately, Windows 98 proved to be extremely unreliable, but this did not prevent it from being a popular update for customers.
6. Windows for Workgroups 3.11 (1993)
Windows for Workgroups took everything fantastic about the popular Windows 3.11 from 1992 and made it much better. TrueType font integration, multimedia support, OLE document integration, and Minesweeper, making it the most powerful retail and micro-enterprise version of Windows until Windows 95.
5. Windows 10 (2015)
Windows 10 got off to a bad start, drawing complaints from the press for strange data calling home to Microsoft, built-in marketing, and compulsory updates that disrupted people’s work. To Microsoft’s credit, the company has tackled those issues over time and has continued to upgrade Windows 10 at a consistent rate in recent years. Windows 10 is now a mature, reliable, competent, and widely used operating system with over a billion active users.
4. Windows XP SP2 (2004)
However, if you didn’t like the green-and-blue color scheme of Windows XP’s standard UI, there was something quite remarkable about Windows XP that many users admired: reliability. For the first time, many PC users upgraded from Windows 98 and Me are problematic MS-DOS roots to XP.
Along the way, they got a taste of rock-solid Windows NT technology, which was just recently strong enough to run it properly on common PCs. And run it they did, despite the fact that many XP users have been hesitant to switch away from XP for a long time.
3. Windows 95 (1995)
For several PC users, Windows 95 marked the transition from “Windows the Microsoft software product” to “Windows the must-have desktop operating system.” It was elegant and simple to use, with the unique Start menu and taskbar, and it possibly outperformed Macintosh OS in usability for the first time.
Many Windows features that we now take for granted were introduced with Windows 95, including File Explorer, Windows keyboard shortcuts, the Recycle Bin, file shortcuts, the contemporary desktop, and others.
2. Windows 2000 (2000)
Windows 2000 is an underappreciated work of genius, the taste of a more solid and mature Windows that, for early users, seemed ahead of its time. As a “professional” version of Windows, it did not receive the same amount of attention as its consumer counterpart Windows Me.
However, unlike previous versions of Windows NT, 2000 was a fully functional home version of Windows NT for the first time. It provided all you needed without even being overly flashy, and it gave rock-solid reliability that generated intense devotion in customers, some of whom didn’t upgrade again until Windows 7 was released in 2009.
1. Windows 7 (2009)
Windows 7 was Microsoft’s great return from the debacle that was Windows Vista, which had been panned for its revolutionary security strategy (UAC), flaws, resource-hogging nature, and glitzy “I want to be more like OS X” Aero UI that didn’t feel like it brought anything to the OS.
In comparison, Windows 7 was more reliable than Vista, ran quicker on the same hardware, reduced UAC difficulties, and polished the Aero UI to be less showy and more elegant (and you could turn it off, if necessary). Simultaneously, Windows 7 retained some of Vista’s enhancements (such as search in the Start menu) while introducing others (like pinning an icon to the taskbar).