Retro Friday: Windows 95 (Re)Build Information
It’s becoming more common that both kids and adults are (re)building PCs to specifically run Windows 95 as fun side projects. Why Win95 and not Win98? Probably because there’s just more retro flavor to running a real Win95 environment, and the fact that it’s more of a challenge. Sure, you can put together a Win98 PC easily as it has USB 2.0 support, support for large hard disks and so on. But Win95? That operating environment probably counts as The Last Of The Truly Old School Windows For PCs. Some say that "honor", if you will, belongs to Windows 98. I say nay to that because truly old school means pre-USB 2.0 days.
Below is a video in 3 parts listing off a general overview of what to do to get your Win95 environment running, however I’m going to mention a few things more in detail that the videos didn’t cover.
The 4 versions of MS Office that run on Windows 95 are Office 4.3, Office 95, Office 97 and Office 2000. The best you can run is 2000, followed by 97, then followed by 4.3. Office 95 is a complete waste of time to use because it’s unstable and crash-happy.
If you don’t have Office but do have an old copy of Microsoft Works for Windows 95, that works very well – but its file format is basically compatible with absolutely nothing other than itself.
"Windows 95" and "security" shouldn’t even be in the same sentence, because there basically is no security in the Win95 environment.
It is absolutely mandatory that you do not share files or folders in the Win95 environment, because anything shared is public to the world when connected to the internet. Don’t even trust Win95 file sharing behind a router. Just don’t do it.
Win95 compatible IM programs from major providers
You may be tempted to run a Win95 compatible version of AOL Instant Messenger, the very old Windows Messenger (that was even before it was called MSN, much less Windows Live) or Y! Messenger. Don’t. All of them are very insecure. You can easily get your account compromised by doing that. Use Miranda as shown in the videos below.
Microsoft Outlook Express 5
OE5 does have the ability to connect with SSL, and that’s a huge plus because it means you can access email accounts such as Gmail. However there is no ability to block any images, no spam protection and no way to instruct OE5 to read all messages in plain text, because that didn’t appear until OE6 – and no, OE6 will not run on Win95.
I recommend Seamonkey over Firefox 2 because Seamonkey is more stable in the Win95 environment, and has more useful built-in features.
WinAMP v2.81 is what you should get. Very small, very fast and doesn’t dig its claws into Windows Media (video) at all; that’s a good thing.
If you have any other questions about Win95 apps, ask me by posting a comment.
One final note before the videos:
Why would anyone bother with this?
That’s like asking someone why they would build an Altair 8800. If you have to ask, you just don’t understand – but I’ll attempt to answer the question anyway.
Using Windows 95 brings many of us back to a time when computers were a whole lot simpler, and the simple look of Win95, the way it works, the way you navigate through the environment and so on just feels much more "human".
What a PC with Win95 can do that computers like the Altair, Apple II, Commodore 64 and PCs before Win95 couldn’t (or at least not very well) is access the internet. There is just something amazingly cool about taking an operating environment that’s 17 years old and actually getting stuff done with it, online, on its own. With older computers, they need "help" via custom built network cards, special software, etc. Not Windows 95. On its own with the right equipment that was available back then, you can get it on the internet with no "external influences", so to speak.
When specifically outfitted with Office 4.3, 97 or 2000, and a compatible printer (like an old HP LaserJet III, 4 or 5), you can actually do real work on a Win95 computer even today. Send and receive email? Sure. Type up documents, print envelopes and so on? Not a problem. Browse web sites? For the most part, yes (except for YouTube or Flash-heavy stuff for obvious reasons).
No, I’m not saying to trash your newer PC(s) and go back to Win95. What I am saying is that when you outfit one of those old boxes the right way, you’ve got yourself a usable computer – and that’s awesome.