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Windows 95 is an operating system released in 1995 by Microsoft Corporation. It was the first 32-bit consumer-orientated operating system released by that company; its success would later spur on video game development due to a string of new features and advancements in programming.
Features at launch
Perhaps the most iconic change from Windows 3.11 was the Start menu, which provided a one-click location to programs and system resources.
Explorer replaced the previous File Manager, and offered a much more accessible naivgator for the system's storage locations.
While now seen as a security risk, this feature at the time allowed application and video game developers to instantly load their installation media or main application unprompted directly from the CD-ROM, rather than rely on the user manually navigating to the main executable using Explorer.
Windows 95 retained access to a limited version of MS-DOS, specifically, MS-DOS 7.0, which allowed the vast majority of existing MS-DOS-developed video games to run, although Windows 95 could shut down to a "pure" MS-DOS environment if specifically needed by a game or application.
Windows 3.1x Backward compatibility
Windows 95 was capable of both installing and launching Windows 3.1 and 3.11 applications, with entries in Program Manager automatically translated to the new Start Menu.
Windows 95 included a much larger library of drivers than Windows 3.11, and offered support for advanced multimedia and communications hardware that Windows 3.11 was not capable of supporting.
Features after launch
After its initial launch, Windows 95 would later gain access to several new technologies and features.
Perhaps one of the most important software developments in video gaming history, DirectX would by itself unleash a new wave of video game developments, by allowing video game developers to have to code only one, common interface for their game to run with, rather than have to waste development resources on having to create custom drivers for each major chipset of the day (which, at the time, included the manufacturers ATI Technologies, S3, 3dfx Interactive, and NVIDIA).
DirectX 1.0 was finalized and launched in September 1995.
While not shipped with the first release of Windows 95, Windows 95 OSR2 and later included a version of Internet Explorer. It would be a major competitor against Netscape Navigatior during the early 1990s, and wouldn't be challenged in dominance until Mozilla Firefox was developed in 2004, using source code forked from Netscape Navigator.