Operating Systems and their File Systems
As discussed earlier in this segment, the initial versions of Windows®, Windows 3.x etcetera, represented a significant improvement over the text-based and single-tasking environment that DOS represented. While it is true that Microsoft hadn’t invented the graphical operating system to begin with, there’s no question that they intended to make Windows® the standard desktop. These early versions of Windows® were very rudimentary in a number of respects. They were essentially nothing more than DOS, hampered by a 16-bit environment and no multitasking capability.
Microsoft needed a step forward, a consumer oriented operating system, and in 1995 introduced Windows® 95. This new operating system represented Microsoft’s next step towards a comprehensive graphical operating system for the personal computer. By this time, Windows® NT had been developed and released, but it was primarily dedicated towards business work stations and servers. Although most mainline Microsoft developers will deny it, Windows® 95 was a compromise operating system. In a limited fashion it has own routines for the handling of access to the hard disk, but in many ways it resembles, and even relies to a certain extent, on standard MS-DOS®. This is was how Microsoft intended to continue to strive for performance while retaining compatibility with older software. Windows® 95 includes a version of MS-DOS® that was redesigned to work with it and its file structures.
Redesigned MS-DOS? Well maybe not an entire redesign. When Windows® 95 was released, it came with a new and updated version of the traditional FAT file system, VFAT. At the same time, Windows® 95 remained compatible with older FAT 12 and FAT 16 partitions and disks The initial version of Windows® 95 is often referred to, even by Microsoft, as Windows® 95A or the Retail Version of Windows® 95 to distinguish it from later editions. This no doubt is in recognition of the fact that it was the only revision of Windows 95 officially sold to the public. It’s important to remember that this version of Windows® 95 did not support the now ubiquitous FAT32 file system. Since modern hard disks basically require FAT 32 (or NTFS) for reasonably convenient management, those still running the first version of Windows® 95 may need to consider an upgrade to Windows® 98 or Windows® ME as the successors to Windows® 95. Obviously these are not the only choices, but rather a progression from a Microsoft marketing standpoint.
It’s no secret, Windows® 95 was a success from the day it was released. While the file system hadn’t changed all that much, it was still a huge improvement over everything that had preceded it, except maybe for Windows® NT. It would take long though, for the file system problems to surface as hard drive sizes began climbing above 2GB and problems with FAT 16 to arise. Windows® 95B, the natural progression.
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Notice: Windows® 95, Windows® 98, Windows® NT, Windows® 2000, Windows® XP and Microsoft® Office are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Microsoft Corporation.
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