Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Windows 3.11 on a floppy

Windows XP may be Microsoft’s current latest and greatest, but rewind 10 years ago and you may well have been using Windows for Workgroups 3.11. That came on 8 floppy disks (although often you only needed the first 6), and when installed would only take a small chunk of hard disk space – perhaps less than 10MB if you tried. Nowadays, you need to set aside about a gigabyte and a half for XP, since for some reason it installs the entire driver library to disk (instead of asking you for the CD and conserving space).

But if we step back into 1993 again, you may be interested to know that it’s possible to get a bootable copy of Windows 3.11 onto a single floppy disk. Yep – a working version of Windows in 1.38MB.

It is somewhat ‘cut back’ – in fact the only programs it has are File Manager (the ancestor of Windows Explorer), Notepad and, of course, Minesweeper. Program Manager, which is still included in XP, isn’t even included. But as a concept it’s impressive.

The article also includes information about the author’s failed attempts to fit Windows 95 on a floppy – it almost fits if you restrict it to Safe Mode, but sadly it needs a 4MB swap file to boot.

While I was tempted to try it, I realised that Windows 3.11 does not have support for FAT32, which is what my main partition is formatted as (the others use Linux file systems, which it is even less likely to support). But, considering you could buy the disks for £1 on eBay, if you had an older computer and really did not have anything better to do, I suppose it could be interesting to try it out.

5 Comments

  1. Step back to 1993 – Put Windows 3.11 on a single floppy

    Granted, the only things installed are File Manager, Notepad, and Minesweeper, but still a pretty neat trick nonetheless. Thanks to Neil T. for the link.

  2. I have been messing about with old window 3.1 and found somthing on the web called w3xstart, it modifies the system files of dos 7.10 (the DOS windows 98 sits on) so you can run windows 3.1 on fat32! Why not add NTFS support with NTFS DOS and Ext2 support with ltools. If you want to mess with windows 3.1 but don’t have disks, look on a windows 98 CD for mini.cab. Mini.cab contains mini-windows 16 that runs as a GUI in the 98 setup (notice the 3.1 looking buttons during the setup!), it contains all the files needed to make a floppy with 3.1 GUI.

  3. Hi Neil et al,
    Thank you for your interest. Just a quick note to let you know that things have now moved on a bit:
    http://www.wimborne.org/richard/shrinkingwindows/
    and
    http://www.msbetas.com/V6/default.asp?postid=52
    Kind regards,
    Richard L. James

  4. umm well i sort of have a question…
    my computer is broken and windows 95 will NOT load at all and DOS will not read my d: (cd-rom drive) i was wondering where i cauld get a version of windows on floppy disk?

  5. Lukey, have you tried booting to a windows 98 boot disk? It will load the cdrom drivers so you can use the cdrom to reinstall windows 95. If you need the boot disk… e-mail me. it’s gw2kbug1@comcast.net
    good luck!
    Rob