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. Proceed at your own risk.
Start Windows 95
(The button is a link to the Internet Archive. Until 2021 I hosted the emulator here, but it's a better experience for the both of us now that it's there.)
If you have a slow connection, the download might take a long time. The disk image is 47MB zipped (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. (Update: Wow, now that it's on the Internet Archive, changes you make do seem to be preserved in your browser's local storage. A secret feature! I wouldn't rely on it long-term though.) 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. (In 2021, when I moved this to the Internet Archive, I put that same image and AUTOEXEC.BAT into a zip file.) 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.
Who are you?
My name is Andrea! You can email me if you want to. I can't promise I'll respond, sorry.