When DOS was removed from Windows

Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Dave Farquhar

When DOS was removed from Windows depends on your perspective. For early adopters of Windows NT, it happened as early as July 1993. But for mainstream Windows use, the final removal of DOS from Windows came with the release of Windows XP.

When was DOS removed from Windows?

when DOS was removed from Windows
Windows XP featured a modernized user interface but its differences from Windows 95, 98 or ME were much more than skin deep. Unlike Windows ME, Windows XP jettisoned DOS for good. DOS was removed from Windows in 2001.

If you want a date, October 25th 2001, with the release of Windows XP, marks the end of Windows running on top of DOS. Windows XP was the first consumer version of Windows that used to the NT kernel instead of DOS. Windows 95, 98 and ME hid DOS, but they still had DOS running under the hood. Arguably, Windows 95/98/ME bundled DOS and Windows together more to stop competitors like DR DOS than for technical reasons.

Of course, Windows NT existed nearly 8 years prior to the release of Windows XP. Windows NT and DOS based versions of Windows coexisted during that time. Initially, Windows NT gained acceptance as a server operating system, giving reliability and power approaching that of Unix with a friendly GUI. Windows NT 4.0, which adopted the same interface as Windows 95, saw a widespread use both as a server and a workstation. Windows NT 3.51 was moderately successful. But Windows NT 4.0 was extremely successful, and became the preferred Windows for business use.

The main holdout was laptops. That’s because Windows 95 and 98 had better power management, USB support, and a much better plug and play. USB support and plug and play were crucial because at the time, laptops frequently didn’t have built-in networking, and sometimes it was necessary to hot plug storage devices.

Windows 2000

Windows 2000 had those capabilities and was an outstanding business operating system for laptop and desktop PCs alike. It displaced 95 and 98 in business.

Windows 2000 did gain some acceptance among enthusiasts and high-end home computer users. For that matter so did Windows NT4, but they did not have full compatibility with Windows 95 and 98 games, let alone DOS games. And many consumer devices like scanners didn’t work with NT4 or 2000.

Windows XP

While Windows XP did not have 100% backward compatibility either, its backward compatibility was much better. It was the first non-DOS based version of Windows to have enough backward compatibility to do well as a consumer operating system. DOS based versions of Windows did have had some holdouts for a rather long time. But Windows XP was immensely popular, even past its intended shelf life. As consumer operating systems go, XP marks the time when DOS was removed from Windows.

Is Windows 10 DOS based?

Windows 10 is not DOS based. Like Windows XP, it uses the Windows NT kernel. Microsoft continues to evolve the user interface and internals. But each change takes it further away from DOS, rather than moving it closer.

Microsoft EOLed DOS 6.22 in 2001, at the same time it end of life Windows 95. While developments on several third party clones has continued, The clones were all developed outside of Microsoft and independently, with the exception of IBM PC DOS. However, even PC DOS did not last long into the 21st century, and the final release of PC DOS was really intended as a bootstrap to help install other operating systems, not as a standalone operating system for daily use.

Who still uses DOS?

While DOS is an obsolete operating system and arguably was obsolete long before Microsoft declared it as such, it has not completely gone away. So who still uses DOS?

Retro enthusiasts

Oddly, I probably use DOS more today than I did in 1994. Well it was never my favorite OS, I do have retro computers the from the DOS era, so naturally, if I want to run that software, that’s what I run on those machines.

I was in the minority opinion of not liking DOS in the ’90s. There are a lot of Gen xers who are nostalgic for DOS, and they run it on old machines as a hobby now.

I’m sure there are even more who are using DOS on modern hardware through emulation. This gives them access to the old software, without having to acquire an era appropriate machine, make any necessary repairs, and keep it running.

Business use of DOS

Some businesses still use DOS, likely free DOS, as a bootstrap to deploy other operating systems. DOS boots quickly and provides enough operating system to start up a network card and connect to a network to pull down an image and write it to the systems hard drive or SSD.

This is much faster than installing the operating system by hand, let alone installing the operating system and all necessary applications. It also ensures the same configuration across all systems. This makes managing large numbers of PCs much easier, because all of them are running a known good configuration, with no accidental human error in any installation. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but as one who saw the transition from building every system by hand to using imaging, it was revolutionary.

Specialty use of DOS

No one really talks about this, but there are some specialized systems that run DOS, because the software has never been ported to a newer operating system. Y2K wiped out a lot of these so these systems are rare, and getting rarer, because they aren’t terribly convenient. It is impossible to know how many of them are still out there, but the number isn’t zero.

Embedded systems

Although there are plenty of alternatives to running DOS on x86 in embedded systems, including other operating systems that run on x86, such as Linux, DOS did live on as an embedded operating system even after its days as a consumer operating system were over. In these use cases, you don’t really interact with the DOS directly, The system provides an interface and the software is running on top of DOS, which is handling input and output. Frequently these are older designs, but if the hardware that they need is still available, there is little reason to change something that is functioning.

If you found this post informative or helpful, please share it!
%d bloggers like this: