Windows 3.x

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Microsoft Windows 3.x
Preliminary name
Janus (3.1),
Sparta (WfW 3.1),
Snowball (WfW 3.11)
Kernel version 3.0,
CPU architecture x86
Release date May 1990
Support end 31st December 2001
Preceded by Windows 2.x
Succeeded by Windows 95

Microsoft Windows 3.x was the first truly popular release of Microsoft Windows and is a massive improvement over previous versions. The 3.0 release was bundled on a wide range of computers, unlike it's competitor OS/2, which was found mainly on IBM hardware. The Multimedia Extensions 1.0 were released for Windows 3.00a on October 1991 (along with the COMDEX 1991 beta of NT) and was an OEM only release (mainly CD-ROM and sound card manufacturers), comprising of a sound card (Sound Blaster for instance), a CD-ROM drive (initially SCSI only) and basic multimedia support for audio input and output and a CD player. Windows 3.1 (and later 3.11) incorporated many of the multimedia features of 3.00a.

Modes of operation

Although Windows 3.0 wasn't the first version that could run in Protected mode (which was split into two modes, see below), it was the first "universal release" that could run in all three modes. Windows 2.x versions could only run in the mode they were released for, i.e. regular 2.x in Real mode, 2.x 286 in Real and Standard modes, and 2.x 386 in Real and 386 Enhanced modes.

The Protected mode was split into two separate modes: "Standard mode" (the 16-bit 286 Protected mode available on the Intel 286 and clones) and "386 Enhanced mode" (32-bit 386 Protected mode available with Intel 386 and clones). The Multimedia Extensions were not available in Real Mode. Windows 3.0 has a problem starting in 386 Enhanced mode in Microsoft Virtual PC 2004/2007 due to conflicts between Windows 3.0's 386 memory management and Virtual PC's video BIOS. A fix for this issue is described in this guide. The only leaked beta build (3.00.55) doesn't have this problem.

Windows 3.1 dropped support for Real mode with build 34f, the official Beta 1. Previous builds (such as the leaked 26 and 34e) can still run in Real mode. Support for Standard mode was dropped in Windows for Workgroups 3.11, thus Windows can only run in 386 32-bit Protected mode ever since.

  • Real Mode: This mode should be used for compatibility with applications designed for earlier versions of Windows that cannot run well in protected mode (Standard and 386 Enhanced Mode).
  • Standard Mode: This mode is designed for use with personal computers with 80286 processors and 16-bit-only 80386 processors with 1 MB of RAM or more.
  • 386 Enhanced Mode: This mode is designed for use with personal computers with 80386 processors (excluding 16-bit-only models) with 1 MB of RAM or more. While Windows/386 2.x provided the capability to run each MS-DOS application in separate V86 boxes, protected mode features were still not available to Windows-based applications, whereas Microsoft Windows 3.0 now runs completely in protected mode while in either Standard or 386 Enhanced Mode. This mode also supports the use of 386 device drivers (with the file extension .386).


  • No information available
  • Existence doubtful
  • Information or pictures available
  • Leaked or released

NOTE: In case where builds such as 61d exist, it is safe to assume that previous compiles (e.g. a, b and c) also exist. However, they're not listed here unless they were proven to exist.

Windows 3.0


Release to Manufacturing

Localization versions

Multimedia Extensions

Windows 3.1x

Windows 3.1

Beta 1
Beta 2
Final Beta
Release Candidate
Release to Manufacturing
Far-east beta

Windows 3.11

Windows For Workgroups 3.1

Release to Manufacturing

Windows For Workgroups 3.11

Release Candidate
Release to Manufacturing

Windows 3.2

NOTE: Windows 3.2 was released in Simplified Chinese only. It brought improved Chinese character support and other related enhancements. Only one build is known to exist.

See also