Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

Summary: According to a new report, there are as many as 6,000 references to MinWin in an internal Windows 8 client build. This may provide more clues and validation of Microsoft's virtualization plans for the coming operating system release.


As the clock ticks down toward the Microsoft Build conference, discoveries about what's inside Windows 8 are continuing to trickle out. The latest -- from ITworld's Sandro Villinger -- has to do with MinWin.

Villinger found that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 references to MinWin in a Milestone 2 build of Windows 8 that he examined. He speculated in an August 3 article that MinWin may figure prominently in Microsoft's virtualization plans with Windows 8.

MinWin, for those needing a refresher, the "guts" of Windows (the kernel, hardware abstraction layer, TCP/IP, file systems, drivers and other core system services). Microsoft included an implementation of MinWin as part of Windows 7, officials acknowledged. But it sounds like MinWin will be more prominent in Windows 8.

MinWin will allow Microsoft to decouple many subsystems from the core of Windows,  including Internet Explorer. The underlying core that will be left will be the NT kernel. And that's where Hyper-V may come into play, Villinger explained. It looks as if Hyper-V 3.0 could be baked into at least some Windows 8 client SKUs. The client-side Hyper-V hypervisor potentially could end up replacing XP Mode in Windows 7 and provide users with a way to run legacy apps on a much smaller and more secure virtualized Windows instance (MinWin), Villinger wrote.

Back in 2009, a Microsoft France Technical and Security director outlined just this scenario for Windows 8. From a Q&A with Microsoft's Bernard Ourghanlian:

"The goal with MinWin, when it comes with Windows 8 if everything goes well, it is to completely disconnect these features that is to ensure that potentially they are not present at all. At this time, this will allow to have, for the desktop, the equivalent of a Windows Server Core… in the case of Hyper-V V3 on the workstation is the smallest possible, both in terms of potential attack surface in terms of memory footprint and rack space disk."

Just a reminder: Microsoft officials have still said nothing about plans for Hyper-V in the Windows 8 client, MinWin in Windows 8 or details about how legacy apps will run in Windows 8. All is supposed to be revealed at the upcoming Build conference. Build is now sold out, but Microsoft officials have said that the Build keynotes will be streamed in real-time, and sessions will be made available for viewing a day after they happen. Build is scheduled for September 13 to 16 in Anaheim, Calif.

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • MinWin Potentials

    Not just for Hyper-V, making Windows more layered and modular, with just a tiny OS base, opens up many other potentials: the more modular, the more each module can be updated internally for performance optimization; the easier it will be to add/remove new features; a greater range of appliances running Windows embedded (maybe a Windows version of DD-WRT for wireless access points?); the more likely security filtering can be performed in between the layers or modules; easier to troubleshoot; maybe easier to patch because fewer reboots required; possibly one OS for server, workstation, laptop, netbook, tablet, phone and XBox, each with different modules or layers installed; having different OS's on different flash media that can be popped in/out as needed, while maintaining data on different media or in the cloud; and so on.

    Hopefully, the core OS will come free, like Hyper-V Server, without many licensing restrictions in order to foster creative projects and uses, to take away some of the Linux enthusiast niche, but probably not once the MS laywers get their hands on it.
    • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)


      Could they open source the core?
      x I'm tc
      • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

        @jdakula - why would MS open-source the core of Windows?
      • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

        @jdakula could = yes, would = no
      • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

        @jdakula Microsoft already contributes more code to the Linux Kernel than Apple or Google.
        Your Non Advocate
      • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

        @jdakula Probably not. Microsoft licenses some intellectual property in such a way that Microsoft probably legally can't open the source.

        There are some "shared source" components in Windows already; bits and pieces you can look at the source code for. .NET is one such thing, and these days .NET is much of what most people think of as "Windows" (in that it along with Win32 are the subsystems you interact with.)

        But not the kernel.
      • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

        I understand that they probably *wouldn't*. But there might be advantages to doing so, if it didn't mean giving away the goose that lays the golden eggs. Assuming there is enough on top of the core (which sounds like much more than a kernel, but less than a full OS) so that "Windows" wouldn't actually be replicable, it really could pay dividends in terms of security innovations, etc.

        Furthermore, the reason I think it is more plausible then ever is that we are moving away from an OS-dominated world. MS' job needs to be to lock people into their technologies that *aren't* Windows (the big ones being Office and Visual Studio) and transition them to the cloud.

        Right now, despite being an aggressive, monopolistic spyware company, Google has a tremendous amount of "good will" because they give so much away in the form of open source. Of course, all the things that Google cares about (namely search and increasingly Apps) are Google's alone. For instance, Android really *isn't* open source, because Android really *is* the marketplace, maps, gmail, etc. It just happens to run on a system derived from Linux.

        MS, with their status as the bugbear of the last decade, could use a little goodwill of their own. Open sourcing as much as they think they can get away with might be a major step toward that goal.

        (And yes, I recognize that in terms of lines of code contributed, MS is a major supporter of open source, but that is clearly not their reputation.)
        x I'm tc
      • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

        @jdakula - show me the link to the source of Google's search engine, GMail service etc.

        Google has done a great job convincing those the don't want to think for themselves that they're friends of OSS. Nothing could be further from the truth.

        Microsoft, it's shareholders, partners and customers would get no benefit, from open-sourcing the core of their OS platform. The last thing the world needs is 100 varieties of Windows each with subtle incompatibilities, security issues, feature-sets etc.

        If you want the source to Windows, you can actually get it - Microsoft offers a range of product source code licensing programs for a variety of needs:

        While OSS is great for some things, it has not yet successfully demonstrated itself as a viable business plan - there are very, VERY, <b>VERY</b> few OSS companies making any decent money.
      • Open source only of use to armchair developers

        Programmers of real applications will be more interested in the APIs. Using anything deeper than that will only be a distraction and likely produce non-enduring (crash with next version) code.
    • It's not good to day dream so much...

      @YukioCowboy : although this would be an ideal scenario, I think that in order to work, Microsoft should have started it in 2002 (one year after XP) and rather it was started after Vista (2006).<br><br>Ironically, this has been the case with Linux since it's inception. You can find Linux distros that fit on a 1.44 Mb floppy disk. NT,on the other hand, needed a DOS bootstrap to successfully load a kernel which was cut into separate *.cab files and latter executed once the full archive was in memory.<br><br>Hyper-V, on the other side, still has too much BIOS and hardware emulation, since the HAL had been too optimized for x86, due to a 15 plus years hibernation of the cross platformness of the original NT (which any insider can tell you was born on a RISC platform).<br><br>Long story short, Microsoft's honeymoon with Intel crippled their cross platform initiative and current Windows 7 contains tons and tons of x86 only code. MinWin (which is just another name for the Windows Server Core) can still not run 90% of the native Windows apps. MFC could run, but ADO, OLE DB, DCOM, MSMQS, VB6 and a long list of etc. won't work without the additional dlls. That's the reason x64 Vista and 7 systems have WOW (Windows over Windows) and the reason XP mode is just Virtual PC in disguise.
      • Of course...

        Any Managed code will work, but since Microsoft abandoned a managed code only OS with Longhorn, this is still a pipedream.

        The purported SLR (System Language Runtime) might be a step in the correct direction, but might be coming too little too late...
      • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

        @cosuna Longhorn was anything but a managed-code-only OS.

        While Longhorn was aiming to ship a number of features implemented in managed-code, it was still just normal Windows under the hood.
      • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

        @cosuna - oh, and for the record, the beginnings of MinWin began prior to Vista's release.

        Also, Microsoft's "honeymoon with Intel" was strenghened primarily by tepid market demand for any machines running the more "exotic" MIPS/Alpha/PowerPC processors. You think your Pentium ran hot? A DEC Alpha chip ran emitted more heat per sq. cm. than the element bars of an electric fire!

        If MinWin is just another name for server core, then it'd be able to run ADO/OLEDB, DCOM, MSMQ, etc. MinWin is NOT a product. MinWin is the minimum common core infrastructure of Windows to which any necessary components of Windows can be added, initialized and run. MinWin contains the bootloader, HAL (processor & chipset initialization, memory manager, etc), scheduler, most of the kernel infrastructure (sans most drivers, filesystems, etc) and some of the core Win32 subsystem upon which essential apps can be run.

        To MinWin you can then configure an OS build by choosing which OS components you want to include from a catalog of items - NTFS, (ex)FAT, etc., TCP/IP & NETBIOS, SCSI/RAID, video, audio, printers, .NET, etc.
  • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

    Hackers will love the ability to run little hidden VM's.
  • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

    this should resolve some of the concern whether Win 8 can run on tablets form factor efficiently, it will ! its does not have the big window footprint anymore
  • Pretty Interesting

    While the implications regarding efficiency and installed OS size are enough to excite the power user in me (heck, I just love modular systems), the day-to-day "average joe" in me is intrigued by the possibility of /fully/ amputating IE (and maybe even WMP) from my computer. =P
  • Single unified core OS device focused modules = WHOOOOO

    I don't know much about coding and all that but if what's being suggested is that you could make a Windows core - MinWin - and have all of the subsystems as modular components, doesn't this all make for a great Windows Everywhere setup?

    Let me explain, from what we can tell, Microsoft are unifying at least the 'look and feel'/UIs of Windows 8, Windows Phone, and the Xbox right? And that they intend to then have a single OS that will run on all these devices and more and one mega ecosystem? Well then, IMO, it looks like that by making MinWin more prominent/developed/etc, they would already have a single core OS that could run on all these devices. They could then add and switch around the necessary component modules on top depending on the type of device the core OS is running on. For example, you could have a Windows Phone optimized UI (Metro but for small screen) which could be switched out for the full Windows UI (Metro for bigger screens). Apps could take advantage of that by having one app that would just have to switch UI modules to be cross device - same app, just slightly different interface to scale up the screen size. Or better yet, imagine having your Windows Phone (with its normal Metro UI) being put down onto a future Microsoft Surface tech-enabled table or connected wirelessly to a larger display or something and then a whole Windows experience pops up with your apps (powered and projected by the phone) showing up in desktop/big screen mode to make use of the space! And then just pick up your phone and carry on the experience albeit in phone mode! Whoooo!!!

    I dunno but you get the picture - a single OS where features or more device-focused versions of a particular feature can be switched in/out depending on the device. That would be awesome! (Sorry for the boring essay :/)
  • RE: Report: Thousands of references to MinWin are in Windows 8 (and why that may matter)

    I hope this could be very good for gaming if you can strip out most of the windows components from memory leaving just the basics and let the Game you are playing take over more of the resources and hardware you could get better game play.