Windows 3.1 Turns 30

Windows 3.1 logo

Windows 3.0 is where it became obvious that Windows was going to be a big thing. Previous versions of Windows were novelties. Now Microsoft had something that looked as good as a Mac. MS-DOS had become the de-facto standard for computing, but its UI was a command prompt, great for power users but impenetrable for the average PC owner. Windows 3.0 began to change that, and Windows 3.1 was a substantial improvement upon that.

April 6th is the 30th anniversary of Windows 3.1, released in 1992. While many of its elements may seem unfamiliar to younger users-there is no Start Button, desktop directory, taskbar, Windows Explorer or web browser-millions of people got their first exposure to Windows here. It used a “Program Manager” to allow users to launch their software.

File icons don’t appear on the Desktop. Minimized programs appear there instead, at the bottom of the screen. And under the hood is MS-DOS, which would remain around in some form until Windows XP finally annihilated it completely in 2001.

Benj Edwards of HowToGeek spoke with former Microsoft VP Brad Silverberg on the version of Windows that many cut their teeth on.

Benj’s Twitter feed has some more discussion.

You can run Windows 3.1 in your web browser at

The file manager of Windows 3.1, called File Manager natch, has been officially remade for Windows 10 and later, and is available on the Microsoft App Store.