Operating Systems and their File Systems
Windows® 95B and 95C (OEM SR2.x)
There’s no question that when Microsoft unveiled Windows® 95 it was a huge success. It was a significant improvement over Windows® 3.x in nearly every way. In spite of this success, however, it was still tied to a file system that, by then, was growing gray hair, DOS! By still being tied to DOS, Windows® 95 still had many of DOS’s inherent problems. One such problem happened to be hard drive technology. As hard disks grew in size, they began to approach the maximum sizes allowed by a FAT 16 partition. This was an unfortunate downside for computer manufacturers (we included) as they were being forced to divide these huge new drives into multiple partitions. This not only created allot more work during the manufacturing process, increasing costs, but many customers didn’t like it as it caused confusion. To compound the problem, the general public was purchasing these new and bigger drives only to find out they had to divide them into several partitions in order to use them. Obviously, hard disks were advancing in technology and only going to grow larger, and Microsoft needed to do something about it.
Microsoft decided that “something” would be in the form of full development of the FAT 32 file system. This would allow for the much needed larger single partitions than were offered in the older 16-bit version of FAT. Nearly a year after the first release of Windows® 95, Microsoft issued a second version of Windows® 95, which included an updated version of its FAT 32 file system, along with a few other new features. Unfortunately this new version was not to be available to the general public, as Microsoft, in a somewhat controversial decision at the time, decided to make this new operating system available only to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers, which included full computer manufacturers as well as component manufacturers). No retail version was to be released. If you haven’t guessed, this new version of Windows® 95 was referred to as Windows® 95 OEM Service Release 2, which is sometimes referred to as Windows® 95 OEM SR2 or Windows® 95 OSR2. Not too long ago, this second version took on a new moniker, Windows® 95B.
Since Windows® 95B was never available to the retail market, if you wanted to use the newer version with enhanced FAT 32 support, you either had to purchase a new computer, or at least a new motherboard, hard disk or other component, in order to obtain a copy. Of course, as in many things, there were distributors willing to break Microsoft’s rules, which was quite popular in 1996 and 1997, and make the new version available to whoever was willing to purchase it. Unfortunately Microsoft never really explained the why behind their refusal to make FAT 32 available to the retail market. There was much speculation as to the reasons they withheld it, but we’re not interested in unsupported rumor.
Aside from the initial release, the Windows® 95A version, between 1996 and 1997, Microsoft actually released three slightly different variants of Windows® 95 OSR2:
- OEM SR2.0: This is the first OSR2 version, also now referred to as Windows® 95B.
- OEM SR2.1: This is the same version as OSR2.0, but with the addition of a patch to allow basic 1.0 and 1.1 USB support within Windows® 95. This version is often misidentified as Windows® 95B.
- OEM SR2.5: Although Microsoft touted major revisions had been included in this version release of Windows® 95, in truth it appears that the release was prompted by Microsoft’s obsession incorporating a browser into the operating system. There’s been allot of controversy about this subject, but when you examine everything without being predisposed to a decision, it is possible that by including a browser you offset the support necessary that making one available separately would cause, You also eliminate the inherent support problems that accompany third party software incompatibilities. This was the moment Microsoft decided to include everything from previous updates and add Internet Explorer 4. This final version of Windows® 95 was known as Windows® 95C.
Note that all of these second generation versions are identical, except as noted, and they all support the FAT12, FAT16, VFAT and FAT32 file systems.
This part of our discussion was somewhat longer than had been anticipated, but we felt that it was important to have at least a basic understanding of the various issues surrounding creation of FAT 32 support under Windows 95. When Microsoft introduced Windows 98, the transition was swift in most cases, all but removing Windows 95 OSR 2.x from the market. There’s no doubt that there are hundreds of thousand, if not millions, of small computers still running Windows® 95. If you have the older Windows 95 (Windows 95A) and want FAT 32 support, you should upgrade to Windows 98 or Windows ME. If you’re going to do that though, then please consider Windows® XP Professional or the Windows® XP Home Edition.
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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.
All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.