20 years of Windows 95!August 24, 1995
–August 24, 2015
Windows 95 in your browser
This is strictly for educational purposes. Windows 95 is a copyrighted piece of software, and Microsoft (and others) have not had their rights expire yet, in fact they probably never will. While Microsoft no longer sell Windows 95 as a retail product, nor do they still sell licenses or support for it (which ended on December 31, 2001), it is still very much protected by copyright law, and you may be infringing it. I would argue that this might (and that is quite tenuous) be protected under United States fair use and United Kingdom fair dealing provisions, given that this is a non-commercial use for the purposes of research and education, which should have no effect on the potential market value of Windows 95. However, I am not a lawyer, and even if I was one, there's no guarantee Microsoft's (or the other copyright holders') would agree with me here. If I am sent a Cease and Desist letter, I shall take this down as soon as possible.
Also, I do not own any of the trademarks used herein, and this website has no official connection to or endorsement from Microsoft, or any other trademark holder.
With all that being said: yes, you are proceeding at your own risk by using this, and I am proceeding at my own risk by choosing to host this. If you're willing to do that, then click below:
If you have a slow connection, the download might take a long time. The disk image is 47MB gzipped (131MB uncompressed), so you'll need to be patient.
You can fiddle around and have a bit of nostalgia (or, if you are one of the newer generations, a learning experience), but anything you do won't be saved, it's entirely ephemeral. This is because the disk image resides in a temporary filesystem (i.e. your device's RAM) and will be lost once you leave the page.
Why is it so slow?
A factor of a few things:
- Windows 95 isn't being run directly, rather it is running on an emulated CPU
- DOSBox isn't really optimised for Windows 95, it's really for DOS games and, at a stretch, possibly Windows 3.x
- Because DOSBox isn't optimised for Windows 95, it doesn't have native disk drivers, and instead Windows 95 has to go via DOS ("real-mode disk access") to read the hard disk
- Em-DOSBox uses Emscripten's "emterpreter" rather than compiling directly to asm.js, because it needs to be able to pause and resume execution, and the emterpreter interpreting bytecode has worse performance than normal asm.js output - unfortunately, turning off emterpreter breaks everything
- Moore's Law is ending
Why do I keep getting "Emulation aborted due to nested emulation timeout."?
In some cases, Em-DOSBox will abort when the emulator is taking too long, to avoid freezing the browser. There's not much that can be done about this, unfortunately. Even with a higher timeout, you still see this message and have it abort on you when trying to do certain things (open Internet Explorer, for instance). That being said, I am looking into this.
If you're never able to get through startup, the one piece of advice I can give here is to use Firefox. It seems to work better here, presumably because of its asm.js support.
Can I load or save my own files or software?
The only thing the emulator has access to is the disk image of Windows 95 temporarily stored in memory. Changes to that image aren't saved anywhere, so anything you do in Windows 95 – changing settings, writing poetry in Notepad, defragmenting the hard drive, deleting everything – will be lost once the emulator is stopped. As configured right now, there's no way to attach other drives to the emulator yourself, and there's no networking, so you have no way to get files in or out.
If you need to run old software that only works under Windows 95, this site can't help you. I suggest installing Windows 95 under DOSBox, or another piece of emulation or virtualisation software (such as VMWare or VirtualBox), on your computer. Alternatively, obtain an old computer which runs Windows 95.
How was this done?
I installed Windows 95 in DOSBox using this guide from a virtualised CD, then packaged up the disk image, along with an AUTOEXEC.BAT file and a custom dosbox.conf using Em-DOSBox. Really, all the hard work was done by the Emscripten, DOSBox and Em-DOSBox people. And, of course, the browser vendors and other people who have worked tirelessly to make the modern web platform what it is today. In the process of making this, I never once had to touch the DOSBox source code!
What version of Windows 95 is it?
Aha, someone's aware that Windows 95 didn't just have a single version! In this case, it's Windows 95 OSR2. That version had FAT32 and Internet Explorer 3.0, but didn't support the Pentium properly and lacked USB support. It's a CD-ROM install. Well... I think it's OSR2: the install disc has a 1996 timestamp and it has IE3 (like OSR2), yet it reports itself as "4.00.950 C" in System Properties, and the CD-ROM label was WIN_95C... like OSR 2.5. Hmm. Something's weird about that install disc. Or Wikipedia is lying to me.
Why did you make this?
Nostalgia! I was watching Politics Unboringed. In it, Mr. Foreman shows us the Internet websites of the big three political parties in Britain... in 1996. On Windows 3.1. - and CANYON.MID played in the background. That tune... it's magical to me, so I started listening to it on YouTube. And that gave me even more nostalgia, and I really wanted to recreate the experience of using Windows 95 from my childhood.
In May 2015, I wrote this:
Now, an astute observer might notice that I'm only 19 at the time of writing. When I was 10, it would have been 2006, eleven years after Windows 95's release, and that is true. But I grew up with ancient computers. My Dad stubbornly refused to upgrade to Windows XP for quite a long time, so the family computer kept running Windows 98SE. As for myself, my first computer was a thrown-out business machine by Dan (a British computer make that went bust before I got that machine, unbeknownst to me). It had 16MB of RAM, a 486DX2 66MHz processor, and had Windows 3.1 and MS-DOS 5 loaded on it. It had no soundcard, but a SoundBlaster 16 was bought off eBay. I loved that thing. After a while messing about on Windows 3.1, I upgraded it to Windows 95 with a disc a friend gave me... I'm fairly certain it wasn't obtained legitimately (no, this isn't the disc this site used), and I think it had OSR2 on it. Starting 95 up for the first time (after almost crying after it failed to correctly write the boot record, which I didn't initially realise how to fix), was pretty magical. And CANYON.MID, rendered both by 3.1 and 95, is pretty magical to me.
That's still true, except it's now July 2018 and I'm 22. It amuses me that not everyone who wrote new articles about this site after 2015 checked when “at the time of writing” was and kept my age the same — going by internet news, I apparently don't age! One heroic site put my age as 20 in 2017… so close. But I digress.
As for why Windows 95 over 3.1? Well, if you want to relive 3.1, there's already michaelv.org. Also, honestly, Windows 95 is more fun. It feels, in a way Windows 3.1 never did and never will, like a "real" operating system. I can't really explain it.
Oh, and the other reason I did it: because it's fun, duh.
Who are you?
My name is Andrea, and I have a website here, if you want to know more about me. If you want to contact me, why not email me?