Install & Configure Windows NT 3.1 Using Oracle VirtualBox

Once the partnership with IBM faltered with the development of OS/2, Microsoft went alone and Windows NT was born back in 1993. Microsoft’s first true 32-bit operating system, it generally was to be seen only on high-end desktop workstations and servers. The first version was 3.1, to match the versioning of the more consumer orientated Windows 3.1 that was released a year prior. There was two editions – one named simply Windows NT 3.1 for workstation use, and the other named Windows NT 3.1 Advanced Server which obviously suggests for servers on a network. A relative lack of 32-bit software and higher system requirements meant success was limited and most of the attention was towards MS-DOS and Windows 3.1.

Installing Windows NT 3.1 is certainly not the easiest Windows to install into VirtualBox due to a few limitations. It’s very easy for the VM to crash or for NT 3.1 to complain about the hardware due to what was available at the time. Back then, Intel had been beta testing their new Pentium processors to supersede the 486, and introduced the CPUID instruction set which allows software to identify the CPU’s features.


By default, it’s a no go when installing unless Setup detects specific 386, 486, or Pentium processors.

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eBay Purchase #4 – Microsoft Office Value Pack for Windows 95

eBay Purchase Price: $80 AUD

Country of Origin: Australia

Condition: Used

I won the auction for this one some time ago and while the box is rather tatty, it’s been the only one on eBay I’ve seen. I guess most people dumped the large box and kept it all separate.


For a couple of hundred extra then buying Office Professional on its own, the Office Value Pack was a collection of software specifically orientated towards Windows 95. It was clearly targeting the SOHO and small business segment. Nevertheless as a 10 year old at the time of release, it was a “I’d like to get that but no chance in hell I could afford that” package.

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The One Hit Wonder in Version Control (Microsoft Delta)

Just like Microsoft Test, Delta was another obscure software product from Microsoft back in the early 1990s that I hadn’t known about over the years. Also like Test, Delta doesn’t get much coverage on Google and you’ll just see Delta Airlines.

Developed internally, the focus was with software development projects and provided version control on source code, otherwise had been known as VCS or version control system.

Delta would be typically deployed in a corporate network where each developer would have Delta installed on their workstations, but no components would be installed on the server. A project would be shared amongst the company’s peers where files could be shared either directly on their workstation or hosted on a server, and allow synchronisation of the project’s progress amongst the workstations. Although files such as Word or Excel documents could be included in a project, normally the files in a project would be source code, icons, forms, etc. that would collectively be used to complete a software application.

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Testing 1, 2, 3.0 (Microsoft Test)

A rather niche product named Microsoft Test was released back in the early 1990s, with Version 3.0a being the last of it in 1994.

Finding information about this piece of software is not easy these days, and you are more likely to find Microsoft Certification tests instead searching on Google. Basically it’s a development tool using TestBasic, a scripting language with similarities to Visual Basic. Offered mainly to software publishers, I actually hadn’t been aware of this product until the last year or so.

The point of the software was to automate keystrokes and mouse clicks to validate the results as part of regression testing. Regression testing was a method so that when additional development was made, existing software functionality was working as it should without causing potentially new unexpected bugs. This becomes more important when developing more complex software to ensure a certain level of quality control.

A developer would have this installed along side Visual Basic, Visual C++, or whatever their desired language had been.

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Using Windows 95 Kernel PowerToys

“The Windows 95 kernel team got kind of jealous of all the attention the shell team has been getting from its PowerToys, so they decided to polish off their own personal toys and make their own web page.

Mind you, the kernel folks aren’t experts at intuitive user interfaces, so don’t expect to see jumping icons and friendly things to click on. (These are the people who do their taxes in hexadecimal.)”

That’s from the README.TXT file that comes with Kernel PowerToys, with a good dose of humour.

Similar to PowerToys, the Kernel PowerToys was the smaller sibling adding a few other enhancements to your Windows 95 system. This pack however was aimed at power users.

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Using Windows 95 PowerToys


Windows 95 was the first to receive PowerToys, a collection of free tools created by some of the developers at Microsoft though was officially unsupported and testing wasn’t as thorough. In its day many users had the opinion that what PowerToys had brought should have been in Windows 95 to begin with.

At just 205 KB in size to download, over a dozen enhancements were included with various levels of usefulness. To install it’s just a matter of extracting all the files into an empty directory (folder), and running install.inf by right-clicking the file and choosing Install so it doesn’t use the default option to open in Notepad.

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eBay Purchase #3 – Mastering Microsoft Visual Basic 4.0

masteringvb40-1eBay Purchase Price: $10 AUD

Country of Origin: Australia

Condition: Like New

Today I picked up in the mail a shrink-wrapped copy of Mastering Microsoft Visual Basic 4.0 made by Microsoft Press. Being a Microsoft Press title and not seen one closely I was expecting more printed material, though instead the contents was no different from picking up an early multimedia software title (i.e. very little in the box).

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eBay Purchase #2 – Windows Resource Kit for Windows 3.1

wrkwin31-1eBay Purchase Price: Approx. $10 AUD

Country of Origin: Australia

Condition: Very Good

A book I bought on eBay cheaply, this was Microsoft’s official technical guide for IT professionals concerning Windows 3.1. Unfortunately the original disk was not included, but nevertheless is in really good condition for a soft cover.

For those who haven’t browsed a copy, at over 500 pages this book contains plenty of reference material that is not documented with your traditional user guides or help files. It gets into the nitty gritty of how the operating system works, and how it can be manipulated. An example would be how to create a customised setup installer with your own device drivers and remove non-critical files to create a lean Windows installation.

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eBay Purchase #1 – Windows NT Advanced Server 3.1

nt31as-1eBay Purchase Price: Approx. $300 AUD

Country of Origin: United States

Condition: Very Good

An eBay find from about two years ago, finding copies of Windows NT 3.1 is generally difficult, so I was pleased to grab a copy admittedly paying more than I would have hoped.

Unfortunately falling over in a cupboard the box hasn’t fared as well, though for the most part is in good condition.

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Visual Basic: Early Beginnings

Before Visual Basic There Was BASIC

When Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Micro-Soft (later becoming Microsoft) back in 1975, their initial software product had been Altair BASIC. BASIC was the acronym for Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code aimed at expanding the reach of computer programming. Monte Davidoff was also involved with development, in particular with floating point arithmetic. It was designed for the Altair 8800 using an Intel 8080 processor made by MITS (Micro Instrumentation & Telemetry Systems) based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.



MITS Altair 8800.

The original Altair BASIC was released on a punched tape and an agreement was made with MITS to distribute the interpreter after a successful demonstration. By the end of the 1970s, additional releases had been created and distributed by cassette tape for other platforms such as those that used the MOS 6502 microprocessor.

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