Microsoft’s 3.x branch, consisting of Windows 3.0, 3.1, and 3.11, represented the first widely successful operating system developed and released by Microsoft Corporation. The Windows 3.x predecessors, released under the versions 1.0 and 2.0, were not widely adopted due to functionality limitations and stability problems. Microsoft Windows 3.1 was released on April 6, 1992 and included feature enhancements such as 32-bit disk access and the ability to “drag and drop” icons. Windows 3.1 also introduced 16bit color to the Windows GUI for the first time. Windows 3.1 required a minimum of MS-DOS 3.3 or later, an 80286 processor, and 3MB of RAM to successfully install and operate.
Even though it remained a 16-bit operating system at the application execution level, Windows 3.1 brought the capability for 32-bit disk access using the 386 Enhanced Mode system drivers. This enhanced mode operation delivered improved application memory paging capabilities and limited multitasking capability, but was prone to causing stability issues with legacy applications. Windows 3.1 was also the first version of windows to include support for multimedia playback and recording. Support for Microsoft Windows 3.1 was officially ended on January 1, 2003, eleven years after its release and subsequent replacement by Windows 9x (1995-1998), Windows ME (2000), and Windows XP (2001).