Microsoft Windows

Microsoft Windows, now usually referred to as just Windows is a set of graphical operating systems developed by Microsoft. As of 2015 there are three families, which cater for different sectors of the computing industry, Windows NT, Windows Embedded and Windows Phone, each with its own subfamily. Most data recovery scenarios from Windows computers are for NTFS data volumes, with some RAID recovery being required from Windows Server systems.

The first version of Windows, released in 1985, was an operating environment acting as a graphical operating system shell for MS-DOS, as a response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Windows has come to dominate the personal computer market, despite Apple’s Mac OS being released a year earlier.

Evolution from MS-DOS

Windows required a DOS operating system to be loaded before running the GUI. This model for the home consumer continued right through to Windows ME released for the millennium. This limited the size of disks which could be used, as well as only being able to use the FAT file system.

Windows up to 3.1 allowed multiple programs to run through cooperative multitasking, where utilities not requiring CPU time must be programmed to yield their resources, which sometimes caused deadlock. The introduction of Windows 9x saw this shift to pre-emptive multitasking which overcomes the previous issues which could cause loss of data from unsaved documents.

New Technology (NT) and Server Systems

New Technology (NT) began development as early as 1988, as a revamped version of OS/2, intended as a secure, multi-user operating system. The success of Win 3.0 however lead to a change of direction, with the project reworked to use an extended 32-bit port of the Windows API Win32, rather than OS/2. The first release was Windows NT 3.1 in 1993, with versions for desktop workstations and servers. This saw the introduction of NTFS as the file system of choice. NT 3.51 was released in 1995, including Novell NetWare networking, with 4.0NT released in 1996, which saw the interface changed to match Windows 95.

The successor to this was Windows 2000 released in 2000. As with the predecessors this was very much a server and business based system. Server versions usually for running server applications such as SQL and Exchange have followed this sequence since, with Server 2003, 2008 and 2012.

XP 64 bit and Beyond

Windows XP released in 2001 saw the end of the Windows 9x series, and unification of the projects, with home versions of the server based operating systems. Home and Pro versions were made available, and since Windows 7, the versions available are Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate, with 64 bit versions of each available.

Professional, Ultimate and the Server OS’s allow software RAIDs to be created, along with attaching to SAN servers via iSCSI to provide large scale storage solutions. Windows 8 saw further platform unification, with Windows Phone using the same interface as desktops and servers. Windows 10 is scheduled for release mid-2015.

NTFS looks set to remain the default Windows file system for the foreseeable future, which is good news for anyone who will require Windows data recovery in the future.

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