PC Hardware

Lesson 1: A New Operating System

Just as the microprocessor has evolved over time, so have software and operating systems. As covered in the previous tutorial, MS-DOS, as an operating system, and Microsoft Windows, as an operating environment, have become cornerstones of the computer market. Although MS-DOS was limited by restrictions affecting memory and ease of configuration, Windows-residing on top of MS-DOS-was able to overcome many problems. However, it still retained some restrictions.

To solve this problem, Microsoft developed Windows 95, creating a new operating system from the ground up. Then, to keep abreast of the ever-changing needs of technology and the phenomenal growth of the Internet, Microsoft responded with an upgrade: Windows 98. This tutorial provides the basics of managing the Windows 95 environment. To gain the high level of proficiency required of today's computer professional, it is recommended that you go on to obtain advanced training and build a library of references after completing this tutorial.

While this tutorial focuses on the Windows 95 operating system, enhancements brought about by Windows 98 are also mentioned. Windows 98 shares many features with Windows 95; however, because Windows 98 is not a subject on the A+ Certification test, we do not examine it deeply. The same is true for Windows NT and 2000. Because they are not part of the current exam, we do not cover them in detail.

In this lesson, we take a look at the Windows 95 operating system and examine what makes it so different from the Windows 3.x operating system.

After this lesson, you will be able to:
  • Identify the basic differences between Windows 95 and 98 and earlier versions of the Windows operating system.
Estimated lesson time: 15 minutes

As covered in Tutorial 15, "Software: MS-DOS and Windows 3.x," Windows 3.x is an operating environment created on top of MS-DOS to provide a graphical user interface (GUI) and other features that make it easier to run programs and manage files. Windows 95 is a complete operating system that includes an improved GUI as well as other useful features. It has a unique desktop appearance and features multimedia and Internet access.

Windows 95 is dramatically different from Windows 3.x. Installing devices, managing memory, optimizing the system, and troubleshooting are handled in a completely different way than in Windows 3.x.

Although Windows 95 will run most MS-DOS and Windows 3.x software, and even bears some superficial resemblance to those operating systems, it is constructed very differently. Windows 95 is comprised of two products: a DPMI (DOS Protected Mode Interface-an improved MS-DOS) and the protected mode GUI. The MS-DOS part of Windows 95 looks and acts pretty much like the old MS-DOS; however, because it is DPMI-compliant, it can support use of extended memory even though it does not support multitasking.

When you first boot up Windows 95, you see the message "Starting Windows 95." At this point, Windows is starting the DPMI. After the DPMI is loaded, Windows 95 loads the GUI. Notice that it is not necessary to use the GUI to boot up to Windows 95; this is important because many computer repair functions, particularly for the hard disk drive, are handled at a MS-DOS prompt.

Before You Begin

This tutorial assumes you are familiar with the operation and configuration of MS-DOS and Windows 3.x. At the very least, you should read and master Tutorial 15, "Software: MS-DOS and Windows 3.x."