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First post, by captain_koloth

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For those who used it back in the day, what was it like to use Windows NT 3.1 (or 3.5/3.51 or 4)? What did you view its pros and cons to be vs., say, the consumer version of Windows 3.1, or heck, against OS/2 for multitasking/stability?

I have a pretty good understanding of the technical differences between them so I'm not asking that, but rather this is more of an impressions-based question since I wasn't actually using NT back then- what was the experience like? Was there a "general sense" that it was, e.g., really good at x, bad at y, better or worse at multitasking than OS/2, really good for application Z, etc.? For example, I was reading something discussing OS/2 usage and someone was saying he really loved it because he could have long filenames, host his BBS in one window while downloading a file in another and playing X-Wing in a third- that's the sort of thing I'm asking about.

Reply 1 of 11, by Caluser2000

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Most folk just gave up on OS/2 and stuck with Dos/win3.1. Why have that extra layer which took a loy longer to boot. There was never really many dedicated commercial OS/2 programs/games. NT never caught on in consumer space until XP arrived.

There's a glitch in the matrix.

Reply 2 of 11, by chinny22

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I got my first PC i 1995, originally came with 3.11 but within 12 months it had been upgraded. School was still using 3.11 when I graduated end of 98

Win95 WAS so much easier to use. Took me a bit to get used to not treating it just like a shell. I basically told myself Start Menu is windows and My Computer is Dos.
Pro's
-Windows software was much more reliable, Gone were the program out of memory errors.
-Multi tasking was 10 times better (still very limited on a 486 stating out with 8MB Ram)
-Start Menu is easier to use the program manager.
-Built in dial up Internet support, 3.x could be bit of a hack job needing software like trumpet winsock
Con's
-System resources, I still had to drop back to dos for all my gaming.
-"Cleaner" Dos is a very east OS to keep tidy, even back in 3x days you had plenty of bloatware around but it wouldn't effect the actual OS. Win95 your loading that crap ever time you boot.
And that's about it, after the learning curve I cant think of anything else. did help if needed you could drop back to dos though.

In 98 I went from that 486 to a P2 400 duel booting NT4 few years later that same 486 became a glorified typewriter running NT4 Office 97
NT4 Pro's
-More stable, burning CD's produced less coasters in NT4 then 98, software crashed even less now. browses especially
-Faster, Even the 486 which had 64MB ram by this point actually seemed to run office better then with 95. It did take ages to boot though.
-NTFS Folder security was useful back in my teens (nuff said) as was been able to compress single files.
NT4 Con's
-Installing hardware/lack of device manger. Not a bit issue but wasn't as user friendly as 95
-Lack of software comparability. This software does not support NT wasn't uncommon. although probably also the reason it crashed less.
-Lack of DOS, Yeh I know seems like a stupid thing to say about a NT based OS, but DOS was still very useful in the late 90's

You have to keep in mind though hardware played a big part in this as well. Both flavors of 3.x are upto Pentium era and running more then 2 programs was always going to kill your system no matter what OS your running. 95/NT4 just happened to be common say say socket 7 era where you really start been able to multitask . and things only got better form that point on.

as for the business side of the world...
By the time I started working for a outsourcing company 2000 was already the most common server OS with upgrades to 2003 before end of the year.
Only 2 customers had NT4 server. 1 very small customer who didn't like spending money and a massive multinational company with everything locked down so much so that our branch office (Which was Sydney with around 100 users!) we only had admin rights on the PC's.
From the sounds of it NT4 based domain was fragile prone to corrupting itself. Netware was also still common at this time. Most people seemed very happy to move to a pure Windows 2000 based network.
The workstations were typically XP which was by far the nicest OS for us to support on a corporate network but Win95/98 was just as common.
Both 9x versions behaves quite well in a domain (client side security wasn't big issue in early 2000's) Typically PC's had IE, Office, and 1 customer specific program. Both 95 and 98 were fine at this so even the difference between the 2 OS's was negligible.
NT4 Workstation was only used for that 1 large company no one else seemed to think it was worth the extra cost (Even 2k Pro was fairly rare)

so in brief.
Win95 was far easier to use then 3.11 (although still not as powerful as dos)
NT4 was more stable then 9x but far to limiting and didn't really make sense for most people till 2000 came out

Oh and never seen a OS/2 system until few years ago running an industrial printer!

Reply 3 of 11, by Intel486dx33

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captain_koloth wrote on 2020-04-26, 18:08:

For those who used it back in the day, what was it like to use Windows NT 3.1 (or 3.5/3.51 or 4)? What did you view its pros and cons to be vs., say, the consumer version of Windows 3.1, or heck, against OS/2 for multitasking/stability?

I have a pretty good understanding of the technical differences between them so I'm not asking that, but rather this is more of an impressions-based question since I wasn't actually using NT back then- what was the experience like? Was there a "general sense" that it was, e.g., really good at x, bad at y, better or worse at multitasking than OS/2, really good for application Z, etc.? For example, I was reading something discussing OS/2 usage and someone was saying he really loved it because he could have long filenames, host his BBS in one window while downloading a file in another and playing X-Wing in a third- that's the sort of thing I'm asking about.

I never used OS/2. But I read it was pretty good.
I experience is with MS-DOS 5 thru 6 and Win3x and NT3x and NT4x and Win95 and Win98.

They all work well, It really depends on what type of computer hardware you have.

The First Multimedia computers where sold with a 486dx-33 CPU, 4mb ram, and a 2x CDRZOM drive.
And that ran DOS/Win3x
But they where actually under powered for good Multimedia playback.
A 486ddx2-66mhz with 8mb or 16mb of ram and a 4x CDROM drive would have been better and should have been the minimum specs
For good Multimedia play back.
But for Modern DOS game play performance a Pentium 75 thru 233mhz would be best and Win95.

WinNT 3.5.1 was good for businesses providing password security, networking and a more powerful operating system.
It could support more ram and larger hard drive.
It was mainly marketed towards businesses that ran business application.

MS-DOS and Win3x was mainly sold with home computers that did not use networking.
Dial up modems was how people go online at home back then. So you needed a modem.

Win-NT-4.0 was also for business applications and corporations.
Win95 was sold with home computers and provides networking, password security and build in dial-up modem service.
Dial up modem service was how home computers got online up until about year 2000.
After that people used DSL and Cable modems in USA.

So Basically, Windows NT ( New Technology ) was for Business computers being more robust and providing allot of business and networking features.

Home computers did not need all of these additional features so DOS, Win3x, and Win95, Win98, WinME did not provide these additional features.

It’s like a car. You have your basic model and you have your full equipped model.

So if you just want to play DOS games a Pentium 75mhz or 233mhz. Is good enough to for good play back performance of modern DOS games. With Win95 or DOS.

If you have an old 486 computer then you are best running DOS/Win3x.

Win NT 3.5.1 is best run on a Pentium with at least 16mb of ram. 32 to 64 is better.
Same goes for WinNT 4.0

But old DOS games are best played on a Pentium 75 thru 233.
With a good sound card like Sound Blaster with Yamaha OPL.
2mb video card
Compact Flash card reader for hard-drive
16mb of memory for DOS/Win3x and 32mb for Win95
And for Networking the 3com 3c509 was highly supported in Windows.

Reply 4 of 11, by Dominus

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I worked in a bank around 1998 and their machines were on OS/2...

Windows 3.1x guide for DOSBox
60 seconds guide to DOSBox
DOSBox SVN snapshot for macOS (10.4-11.x ppc/intel 32/64bit) notarized for gatekeeper

Reply 5 of 11, by snorg

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Here are my impressions of the different OSs mentioned.

Win 95: Very consumer friendly OS, good internet and DUN support out of the box, if I recall correctly. Especially for the time.

Win 98: More of the same, but it seemed a bit flakier/less stable than 95 for some reason. Windows ME was just dogshit, it never seemed to run well.

NT 4.0 workstation: this was the first reliable workstation grade OS from MS . I recall being able to even run Windows games in it, although this was not a gaming OS. But no problems running Diablo or Fallout 1 or 2. But it was a resource pig compared to 95, and not cheap either to purchase.

OS/2 Warp and Warp 4: Before I switched over to NT 4 and then 2000, I had some older DOS apps that I needed to use along with Win 3.11 apps. This was during my early to mid college years. But you really needed to have at least 16 and preferably 32 MB of RAM for OS/2 to be happy, in a time when many were lucky to have 8MB of RAM. This was a hard sell. But I didn't experience the same level of multi-tasking bliss until the Win 2k/XP era. And I could never get 2k or XP to work with those legacy DOS apps the way I could OS/2. I was running early DOS based 3d graphics and animation software on OS/2 along with win 3.11 image editing and video tools like Premiere and Photoshop. There was nothing else at this time that could do that.

So of the OSs listed I am probably most fond of Win 95 and OS/2 Warp, 95 for the simplicity and ease of dropping to DOS for gaming outside windows, and OS/2 for the sheer power but also for the ability to still do some DOS gaming.

Reply 6 of 11, by gdjacobs

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Intel486dx33 wrote on 2020-04-26, 21:51:

Win NT 3.5.1 is best run on a Pentium with at least 16mb of ram. 32 to 64 is better.
Same goes for WinNT 4.0

I tried them both on a dual P3-500 machine with 1GB of RAM. Performance was pretty extreme.

All hail the Great Capacitor Brand Finder

Reply 7 of 11, by Intel486dx33

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captain_koloth wrote on 2020-04-26, 18:08:

For those who used it back in the day, what was it like to use Windows NT 3.1 (or 3.5/3.51 or 4)? What did you view its pros and cons to be vs., say, the consumer version of Windows 3.1, or heck, against OS/2 for multitasking/stability?

I have a pretty good understanding of the technical differences between them so I'm not asking that, but rather this is more of an impressions-based question since I wasn't actually using NT back then- what was the experience like? Was there a "general sense" that it was, e.g., really good at x, bad at y, better or worse at multitasking than OS/2, really good for application Z, etc.? For example, I was reading something discussing OS/2 usage and someone was saying he really loved it because he could have long filenames, host his BBS in one window while downloading a file in another and playing X-Wing in a third- that's the sort of thing I'm asking about.

It was pretty cool.

Back in 1993 thru 1994 using a 486 computer with 8mb ram and a 20mb harddrive, 14.4 modem you could create a world wide network using Novell Netware.

I worked for a large computer company back in 1997 and they where able to create a global corporate network
Using there Pentium class computers and WinNT 3.5.1

Win NT was great for business that relied on networking computers to exchange files, data, and email.
But it was mainly for Microsoft Windows computers.

If you wanted to network different types of computer like Macs and IBM, Windows and UNIX then you where better off with Novell Netware.

I know kids to day find it difficult but if you had everything setup correctly it was actually pretty easy.

Once I was working at a computer education center and we had classrooms full of workstations and servers.
MS-Windows and UNIX.

Expensive hardware back in the 1990’s

We setup installation servers to push out hard drive images of every type of class they where teaching.
These images had all the programs and apps preinstalled so everyone would get the same image
And would have a good working computer.

With 3 clicks of the mouse I could install an entire classroom ( 30 computers ). In about 5 minutes.
With a simple script I could load classrooms full of UNIX computers too.

This method of thinking worked it’s way into corporate computers and this is how allot of companies push out new services to there
Corporate computers. It’s just a simple script to load hundreds if not thousands of computers.

This is how Microsoft and Apple do it OS updates too.

Reply 8 of 11, by Bruninho

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I can only speak for what I used in that era: Windows 3.1, 3.11, 95 and 98.

That said, my best personal experience was with Windows 3.11. I’m sure we’ve never used the Workgroups version (which I use on my virtual machines actually) at home, my dad always got copies of non-workgroups versions only, and he still hasn’t opened his CD box of OS/2 Warp 4 to this date. Also, we didn’t have Internet until we had Windows 95 running, but I can’t say that for sure because I have memory glimpses of me using mIRC under Win 3x.

I found out that I prefer the Program Manager experience instead of the Start Menu experience (which became worse after Windows 7) . I never used the NT versions; With the move from 3.x to 9x, DOS slowly disappearing, I thought it was a good thing but looking back now, it wasn’t, because like someone said on this thread, DOS was still a needed thing in 90’s.

All in All, apart of the (terrible) Start Menu, the Windows experience did really improve with things like Device Manager. Ah, the joy of the plug-and-play era - something I would have welcomed in Windows 3.x. Did the NT versions of 3.5x had it too? I don’t know.

At school, the first computers we used were Windows 95, and the first school with computers I attended was around 1996. If I am not wrong, I was in fifth grade. Between the classes, we used to go there and play DOOM II between us.

Meanwhile at home, we went through the straight upgrade process: 95 - 98 - 2000 - Me - XP - Vista - 7. We jumped the 8 and 10, because at this time we had already moved to Apple ecosystem. Windows Me we didn’t even use really - it lasted a few good weeks until we reverted to Windows 2000, where we stayed until (arghhhh) XP.

I never really used the NT versions 3.x and 4.x, I’m sure my dad used them at some point in his work. I remember thinking that these versions were a bit more complicated to use for some reason, because (let’s remember that I was a kid back then) of the naming conventions: “NT”, “Server”, “Workstation”. For example, when 2000 came in, I never really knew that there were various flavors of Windows 2000 (Datacenter, Server...).

One curious thing is that I had never thought that the NT versions would become what Windows is now. Although 3.x and 95 were ridiculously unstable and would throw GPF and BSOD at me numerous times, they were the best OSes I ever used until I was presented to OS X Snow Leopard.

Actually, when I was at university, the computer room had macs running Tiger or Cheetah (?). I remember because the UI was Aqua. No Windows computers there for some unknown reason. I can’t remember now which iMac was there.

And two years ago when I was increasingly angry with Windows 10 changes and automatic updates, a wave of nostalgia struck me, I started doing VMs of old Windows versions and hey presto, here am I now. I’m feeling an old grumpy man now.

"Design isn't just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."
JOBS, Steve.

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Reply 9 of 11, by jesolo

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The first time I was exposed to Windows NT, was one day at my mother's work (a travel agency) in the mid-90's where one of the workstations were running Windows NT 3.51 and I had to sort out some connectivity issue (think it was with a mouse). However, since it looked just like Windows 3.1 (in terms of the Program Manager), that was it.
I never worked on Windows NT again (in a Corporate environment) until mid 2001, when I went to work for a company where most of their workstations were still running Windows NT4.0. However, they soon upgraded their hardware & operating systems to Windows 2000. From a Corporate experience, I really liked Windows 2000.

Probably around 1993 or 1994, my father bought Windows 3.1 and we installed it on his computer (was an AMD 386DX-40 with 4 MB of RAM). However, since most of the software we had (and games we played) were DOS based, it just became a "gateway" for my father & mother to play Solitaire and Minesweeper on.

My first computer was a Cyrix 486DLC-40 which I bought in December 1993 and I initially just installed DOS 6.22 on it. Although I also later on installed Windows 3.1 on it. I hardly ever used it, since I had no Windows based software to run on it. I mostly played games on that computer and used it for Word processing during my study years (I used MS Word 5.0 for DOS). Even after Windows 95 came out in August 1995, I stuck with MS-DOS/Windows 3.1 for some time, due to the fact that you couldn't really run any Windows 95 games properly with my hardware.
It was only in late 1997, after I upgraded to a Pentium 166 MMX, that I installed Windows 95. Initially, I had some instability issues, but eventually managed to sort those out as newer drivers & OEM Service Packs came out.

About a year earlier (in April 1996) I "won" a copy of OS/2 Warp 3 Connect (with the Red Spine) at a computer shop that was running a promotion that particular day. I was there that day to buy a game (I can recall the date, because I still have the game with the invoice).
I then played around with OS/2 a bit and found it very interesting, but ultimately, due to the same reasons as with my Windows 3.1 installation, never installed it on my computer (my 486DLC was also very slow running OS/2).
However, one thing that I did use, after when I installed Windows 95 on my Pentium 166 MMX, was OS/2's Boot Manager - this enabled me to have both an MS-DOS 6.22 partition and a Windows 95 partition and be able to dual boot boot between the two. This was until I later on realised that you could just boot straight into DOS 7.x with Windows 95 and there wasn't really any need for me have a dual boot configuration.
Windows 95's interface was also so user friendly, that I decided not to play around with OS/2 anymore. However, it is a real shame OS/2 never took off to become a competitor to Windows.

I upgraded my hardware again around 1999 to a Celeron 366 MHz and then installed Windows 98 on it - this OS I used for a long time until I upgraded again to an Athlon XP 1800+ in 2002, after which I started to use Windows XP.
Although, around September 2000, when I upgraded my hardware again to a Celeron 566 MHz, I considered using Windows ME. Installed it, had it probably for an hour on my computer and promptly reverted back to Windows 98SE. I never used Windows ME again - the sole reason was the lack of being able to boot into MS-DOS mode.

To sum up, Windows 98SE is probably my OS of choice when it comes to late 90's and early 2000 hardware. After that, it's Windows XP.
However, if you have anything slower than a fast Pentium 1, then I would recommend Windows 95.
As soon as you go down to a mid range 486, then MS-DOS 6.22/Windows 3.1x is probably the best option - however, I never really liked the Windows Program Manager and normally install Calmira with my Windows 3.1x installations.

Reply 10 of 11, by Intel486dx33

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I really liked NT 4.0 too
We did allot with it. But it was getting beat up with updates and patches.
It soon became a chore to work with.
So Win2000 was a blessing.
But I remember looking at NT 5.0 which never made it to market but it was based on services they called “Snap-in”
And it’s network services app looked allot like the Novell administrators tool.
We where using HP Kayaks workstations with dual Pentiums running WinNT 4.0.
And I had some at home too as my main computers.
They where very stable computers but the fans where a little loud as are most computers from back in the 1990’s.

Reply 11 of 11, by Intel486dx33

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I think it has allot to do with supported hardware when it comes down to stability and reliability.
Check each operating system version and supported hardware.

Make a list of the hardware you like for each OS.

Then maybe you can find some common hardware and put together a computer based on that.
But I suspect the bottle necks will be the hard drive access speeds and amount of ram.

Don’t over do it. Just use what the OS and apps and games can utilize.