How many floppy disks did Windows 95 come on?


In case you were wondering.

And those were thirteen of those special Distribution Media Format floppies, which are specially formatted to hold more data than a normal 1.44MB floppy disc. The high-capacity floppies reduced the floppy count by two, which resulted in a tremendous savings in cost of manufacturing and shipping.

(I'm sure there are the conspiracy-minded folks who think that DMF was invented as an anti-piracy measure. It wasn't; it was a way to reduce the number of floppy disks. That the disks were difficult to copy was a side-effect, not a design goal.)

(For comparison, Windows 3.1 came on six floppies. Windows NT 3.1 came on twenty-two. And yesterday, one of my colleagues reminded me that Windows NT setup asked for the floppy disks out of order! I guess it never occurred to them that they could renumber the disks.)

Comments (36)
  1. Derek Noonan says:

    those were thirteen of those special Distribution Media Format floppies

    Except the first one, IIRC, as there were drivers needed to read the new format which were loaded off the first disk. From the second disk onwards were DMF – am I correct?

    What was the capacity of them again BTW? I have a figure of 1.88MB in my head but I could be wrong…

    Best regards,


  2. PatriotB says:

    Windows 95’s 10-year anniversary is just days away! (Aug 24, 1995)

    I wonder if there’s gonna be any kind of special goings-on or anything…

  3. T Man says:

    I personally loved those DMF formatted disks. I remember a utility became available that allowed you to format any disk in DMF format. Saved myself a lot of disk swapping with files, getting that little extra capacity out the disks. The DMF capacity was 1.68 MB.

    See here for a more complete history:

  4. Martin says:

    Come on, spill the beans. How many floppy disks will Windows Vista come on?

  5. David Ing says:

    So I make it 1721 HD floppies for Windows Vista Pro (Beta 1) or only 1319 if you use the special Distribution Media Format again – think of the savings this time :-)

    – David

  6. D. Philippe says:

    I remember that a version of Office or WordPerfect came on an ungodly 30+ floppies. I remember installing and by the 20-somethingth disk I knew that it was high time for a new media format.

    The CD will probably go down as one of the best inventions of all time. It was 440 times better than the media it replaced. Not many inventions EVER in history can claim that kind of improvement.

  7. GregM says:

    My wife got a Digital notebook at one time that came with Windows 95 pre-installed, but didn’t include distribution media. What it included was a set of 30 floppy disk labels, and a utility to create the distribution media on 30 floppies that you provided.

    We actually created them, just in case. (It was a work computer, so we didn’t have to buy the floppies.)

  8. Derek: DMF was 1.68MB, and I’m pretty sure DOS could handle them natively. I certainly remember keeping some of my backups on 1.68MB floppies under MS-DOS 6.2…

  9. Robert says:

    I vaguely remember a statistic about win95 requiring like 60% of the floppy production when it shipped…

  10. Eric says:

    The company I used to work for created Tax software. At one time, our complete Tax package was about 58 floppy disks. We were a bit late moving to the CD-Rom scene… :P

  11. vince says:

    I vaguely remember a statistic about win95 requiring like 60% of the

    > floppy production when it shipped…

    Really? It outnumbered even AOL floppy consumption? That’s hard to believe.

    Of course win95 on CD had some extra programs/themes/graphics/etc that the disk version didn’t have, which confused some of my friends who installed from floppy.

  12. gkdada says:

    Let me report the flip side:

    We put out a software that runs better with faster processor and more memory – consumes more memory than oracle or exchange. So the recommended configuration is the latest (dual core) processor and 2-4GB of memory.

    But the software installation package (including a driver package) still fits on ONE floppy.

  13. josh says:

    The format worked by stuffing more tracks/sectors per track on the disk. This information is stored in the BPB in the boot record of the disk, but IIRC some BIOSes could only handle specific "official" values. (80×18 = 1.44MB) It was possible to reliably get it up to 1.72MB (82×21), but Microsoft was a little conservative.

    There was a great tool called "fdformat" that would let you play with this, as well as sector skew and such for performance. Another one manager to fit 2 MB on a floppy, but it varied the number of sectors per track depending on the region of the disk. No BIOS could handle that, so it always required a TSR to read the disks.

  14. Richard says:

    You can find some of the details of the Distribution Media Format (DMF) here:

  15. David Candy says:

    Win 3.1 came on 7 disks. Disk 7 was international printer drivers. I realise you guys probably only got the lite version.

  16. James Risto says:

    Another nice thing was that Win9x came on CAB files, which was easier to manage when copied to CD, or network. A small thing, but nice, compared to hundreds or thousands of files. I see that Vista has moved the NT code base to what appears to be 1 file … nice.

  17. John says:

    The greatest thing about moving from floppies to CDs was the improved reliability. There was nothing worse that getting to disk 13 and having it be unreadable, or worse just getting bad data…

    I don’t miss misaligned head heads, dusty disks, etc.

    I remember hearing somewhere that the failure rate for floppies were something like 1 in a 100.

    At the same time, some of them seems to last forever. I know of an Atari 800 XL that has been booting, every morning off, the same floppy disk for the last 20 years.

  18. Peter Smith says:

    WhenI worked at Teradyne we got one of the early shiny new VaxStatations — an actual "real" computer with a "real" operating system that you could carry around!

    To bad it didn’t come preloaded with the software — IIRC, 45 disks for VMS, plus roughly the same number for the C compiler and linker. And it wasn’t smart enough to check the disk numbers: if you put them into the machine in the wrong order you had to start all the way from the beginning again :-(

    Trivia: the later Vaxstation 2000 had the option of swapping locally or over ethernet. In my case, with a "fast" connection and a slow disk, they were each about as fast.


  19. Ross Bemrose says:

    "Win 3.1 came on 7 disks. Disk 7 was international printer drivers. I realise you guys probably only got the lite version."

    I know the version that I had only had 6 disks. I do live in the United States, though. Windows for Workgroups, on the other hand, came on 7.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I remember the inventor of those floppies. He still works at Microsoft. See patent 5,745,313.

  21. ieblog says:

    My first full-time job at Microsoft was as a Windows builder (specifically, for the Win9x platforms). One of my very first tasks as a full-timer was to verify that master floppies for Win95 so that they could send them off to be mass-produced, boxed, and shipped (I was hired as a full timer just as Win95 was getting ready to ship).

    Talk about knowing that you have to do your job right – the last thing I wanted was to miss something stupid and screw up Win95 distribution.

    Thankfully, all was well. And, I still work here. Go figure. Happy 10th birthday Win95 on 8.24.05!

    -Christopher [MSFT]

  22. Andrew says:

    For comparison, Windows 3.1 came on six

    > floppies. Windows NT 3.1 came on twenty-two.

    > And yesterday, one of my colleagues reminded

    > me that Windows NT setup asked for the floppy

    > disks out of order! I guess it never occurred

    > to them that they could renumber the disks.

    This begs for a "what if you did that" thought experiment. I imagine that reading the floppies out of order wasn’t an original design goal but happened as a result of a change either near or after the first release of the product had shipped. Regardless of the exact timing I’ll bet that there was no way that made economical sense to prevent sets of floppies with the original numbering making it out into the wild. If the floppies were subsequently renumbered you would now have the problem that sets with the original numbering and the new numbering would be incompatible. Thus if a floppy got swapped (maybe inadvertently) between sets then both sets would now result in a failed install.

  23. (Actually one reason it asked for the disks out of order was that it asked for one of the disks twice.)

  24. Inge says:

    Windows NT 3.1 came on twenty-two.

    What’s a Domain Controller?

    Hard lesson learned, after installing two NT 3.1 boxes as Member servers, then realizing that they need to be re-installed as Domain Controllers.. that’s 22 disks 4 times…

  25. John Elliott says:

    Was Windows 98 ever distributed on floppies, or planned to be? Because all the CAB files are 1760k, which is a little bigger than the Win95 ones, but would correspond to 80 tracks and 22 sectors/track.

    If so, I shudder to think of the size of the packaging, because the filenames go up to WIN98_74.CAB. You’d probably end up with nearer to 80 floppies all told.

  26. I still got the original set of 13 disks… boy was it a pain to install!

    And we complain now when we have to switch CDs to install something :)

  27. Cheong says:

    But how come I remembered I had 10 or 11 disks for Win 3.1? It’s mystrious for me. :)

    And somehow I remembered not all floppy drives at that time supports 2.88MB floppies.

  28. foxyshadis says:

    This reminds me of one of my favorite SA contest entries (apologies for the filename, but worksafe):

  29. julian_t says:

    Reminds me of an OS distribution for the Apollo Unix workstation. The boss was too mean to buy a tape drive, so we got the alternative distro which came on ninety-something floppies.

    My install attempt came to an end when a disk somewhere in the high 80’s was bad…

  30. Eric TF Bat says:

    I came late to compact disks. I was one of the first people in Australia to buy Borland Delphi 1.0 (hi, Anders!) through official channels — I had to convince the local salesdrones that they had such a product — and I didn’t have a CD drive at the time. Fortunately, although I didn’t think so at the time, Borland simply didn’t supply it on floppies this far out from California, so I went over to a friend’s place with my computer, my new Delphi CD and a screwdriver, and did a bit of hardware installation before I did the software. Then I UN-installed the hardware and took my box home. Thank the gods I didn’t need to reinstall for any reason before I upgraded my computer.

  31. Norman Diamond says:


    Only in one country. Windows 95 was marketed in lots of countries.

    Meanwhile, no matter how many floppies there were, they omitted a crucial integral component of the Windows 95 operating system. And there was no allowable way to get them. Microsoft put a downloadable version of Internet Explorer on its web site, but how could anyone download it? Microsoft strongarmed OEMs into omitting other browsers from preinstalled products, the floppies themselves didn’t include anything capable of doing the download, and any underhanded hacks like using a Unix system to do the download were caught and deliberately disabled on Microsoft’s web servers by the time language packs came out for IE 3.0.

  32. Anonymous Coward says:

    I used one of the early versions os OS/2 version 2. That also came on a huge number of floppies. What was *REALLY* annoying is that setup and install code would look for one file at a time that it needed. You would constantly have to be shuffling floppies, including ones you had previously put in!

    I still have all 24 floppies for Office 4.3. When I bought it, Microsoft admitted that it would be coming out on CD as well but wouldn’t give me any timeframe. I am still bitter :-)

  33. I got Win95 on CD, because, a couple years before, I bought VC++ 1.0. I think it was 21 floppies. The next day I bought a CD-ROM.

    Something is broken in My current computer and the floppy drive doesn’t work. I didn’t even notice for a year.

  34. James Curran says:

    From my ancient floppy collections…

    (all counts based on 5.25" floppies)

    Windows 1.0 – 5 disks

    Windows 2.0 – 8 disks (WinWrite on Disk 9)

    Windows 2.1 – 4 disks

    (Win 1.0 used 40 track "DSDD" disks, while Win 2.1 used 80 track "High Capacity" (1.2mb) disks. I assume win 2.0 were also the low capacity disks, but they aren’t labeled)

  35. JenK says:

    Re: IE 1.0, code-named O’Hare (remember, Win95 was Chicago).

    IE was supposed to be in Windows 95. However, IE’s schedule slipped, it couldn’t freeze along with the rest of the product, and it was booted out of the retail version. The new-machine version didn’t need as big a manufacturing lead time (not that many OEMs as end users, for some reason) so IE got into it.

    Win95 Plus! also locked down after retail Win95. So IE got into Plus!.

  36. Mister L. says:

    About reordering disks, in Spain I have been to an office building where numbers just outside elevators where projected on the wall, instead of a small bronze or plastic number. So, if they had to insert another floor or reorder them, the numbers in the walls were a non-issue.

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