In 1985, the world of computing changed, when Microsoft launched their Windows operating system. Nothing was the same. The market was quickly shifted to their favor and the world didn’t look back. Every once in a while, somebody purchases a Mac or installs Linux or EVEN a BSD system, but most settle for Windows for their PCs.

How did Windows become so popular? Let us take a look back through history.

The First Windows

When Windows was released, users finally got what they wanted, a graphical user interface. Imagine having only a console and that is it. Linux users wouldn’t mind, nor early MS-DOS users, but every average user would lose their minds.

The first Windows, released in 1985, had a GUI which is what drew most users to the system. With a GUI, users were able to doubleclick on any program and open it. This is normal today, but in 1985, that was the first time people were able to purchase a computer that could do that.

There were UNIX and IBM and a Mac that could do all that, but the prices were just too high, compared to most today’s server machines.

MS-DOS Compatibility

While Macs and UNIX systems couldn’t run MS-DOS apps, the first Windows could through a compatibility box. It was a Microsoft product built on MS-DOS, so logically, it was able to run DOS programs. Most people kept their programs and wanted to run them in Windows and they were able to. 

In case the compatibility layer failed to do its job, the user could boot into DOS and run the applications natively, DOS being installed alongside Windows. Compatibility plays a huge part in popularity and Windows took another win.


When in doubt, lower the price and win the prize. Competition wasn’t really that tough, even though there were many companies releasing computers and their own operating systems. Windows had other manufacturers beat. It could run on any hardware, more or less, and users could save money by not purchasing a more expensive but harder to operate machine. Even then, people didn’t want to be programmers to simply open a text editor.

Branding and Aggressive Marketing

Microsoft isn’t known for playing fair, that much we know. Even in the early days, Windows had a good brand and great advertising. Microsoft pushed for their product aggressively, literally shoving competitors from the market. At the end of 1985, Windows was running on 90% of computers worldwide.

From cheap prices to great compatibility to ease of use, Windows came in with all the right things to dominate the market and Microsoft hasn’t let go since 1985. It is still the top used system for PCs, without a shadow of a doubt.