Stripped-down 'MinWin' kernel to be at the core of Windows 7 and more

Stripped-down 'MinWin' kernel to be at the core of Windows 7 and more

Summary: Microsoft has created a stripped-down version of the Windows core, called MinWin, that will be at the heart of future Windows products, starting with Windows 7, the Windows client release due in 2010.


Microsoft has created a stripped-down version of the Windows core, called MinWin, that will be at the heart of future Windows products, starting with Windows 7, the Windows client release due in 2010.Stripped-down ‘MinWin’ kernel to be at the core of Windows 7 and more

While the Windows team has been working for years on reducing the dependencies in Windows which have made the operating system increasingly bloated and difficult to maintain and upgrade, it's only been recently that the team has been able to create a separate, usuable new core.

Going forward, MinWin will be at the heart of future versions of Windows Media Center, Windows Server, embedded Windows products and more.

Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Eric Traut described some of the work the Microsoft Core OS team has done to build the MinWin core during a recent talk he gave at the University of Illinois. The full video of Traut's talk is here. Blogger Long Zheng clipped out the piece of Traut's talk which highlighted how the MinWin core will work in Windows 7 and posted it to his site.

MinWin is internal-only and "won't be productized but it will be the basis for future products," Traut said. But "it's proof there is a really nice little core inside Windows."

MinWin is 25 MB on disk; Vista is 4 GB, Traut said. (The slimmed-down Windows Server 2008 core is still 1.5 GB in size.) The MinWin kernel does not include a graphics subsystem in its current build, but does incorporate a "very simple HTTP server," Traut said. The MinWin core is 100 files total, while all of Windows is 5,000 files in size.

Traut said he is running a team of 200 Windows engineers working on the core kernel and Windows virtual technologies.

Traut acknowledged tat the Windows kernel is between twelve and fifteen years old right now. He said that Microsoft is operating under the premise that "at some point, we'll have to replace it (the kernel)," given that it "doesn't have an unlimited life span.

Traut did not mention Singularity -- Microsoft Research's built-from-scratch microkernel-based operating system -- during his talk.

Instead, Traut spent most of his time describing Microsoft's thinking around virtualization, and how virtualization can be used to ease backwards compatibility and other problems Windows users incur. He did not speak specifically about how Microsoft plans to incorporate virtualization in Windows 7, but did stress that virtualization should not be viewed as a crutch, in terms of improving existing code. He said Microsoft considers application virtualization, like that it provides via SofGrid, presentation virtualization (Windows Terminal Services and "enhancements to core Windows functionality" are all other ways that the company can improve users' Windows experience.

(mini me. Image by Sue P. CC 2.0)

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Virtualization, 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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  • I wonder...

    Will this "MiniWin" require only 32MB of RAM? :D
    Grayson Peddie
    • Wouldn't that be nice?

      Then only the user apps will be resource hogs. ;)
      Michael Kelly
      • Hopefully the user apps

        would get trimmed down as well as there will be less for them to tie into (A few apps definately come to mind!)
        John Zern
  • RE: Stripped-down 'MinWin' kernel to be at the core of Windows 7 and more

    Sounds like a linux kernel..... Now how are they going to prevent developers from accessing it so they can cut the OS down to a manageable size?
    • Wiat for the law suit

      I agree, it does sound like a Linux Kernal.

      Now all we have to do is wait for Microsoft to sue Linux for violating their minimum kernel patent.

      I've been expecting Microsoft to start using Linux source code in their kernel in the way that Apple based their os on Unix. If Microsoft has really learned anything, instead of a lawsuit, we will find the ability to run Linux apps without the need to recompile.

      As for size? Considering that Dos and Win3x a whole lot less space, 25 megabytes is still to big. I'd like something that I can run on my old 486 laptop with 8 Meg of ram. You can't find a recent version of Linux to do that these days.

      Maybe one day I will have the resources to build my own OS that can be installed from 3.5 floppies. :)
      • MenuetOS - Why Wait?

        Why wait to build your own, you can try this
      • Or maybe KolibriOS
      • Wait for the law suit

        "Maybe one day I will have the resources to build my own OS that can be installed from 3.5 floppies."

        What are floppies?

        (Just teasing you)
        • Only 3.5"

          when did that happen. Mine are good 8" in size.
    • Stripped-down 'MinWin' kernel

      "how are they going to prevent developers from accessing it "

      Wellll it's on 25 meg on disk with 2 gig of security locks on it!
  • it's just a Linux ripp-off

    M$ just lifted the Linux code and called it MinWin.
    By 2010, with all the new bloated features it will be called MaxLoose and will require 1 TB of memory to start.
    You better stick with Linux, the genuine OS, not some M$ crummy knock off.
    Linux Geek
    • You don't know what you're talking about, don't you?

      Everyone, troll alert! Don't feed a troll!
      Grayson Peddie
      • Considering that it's a Friday I will forgive you.

        I Don't know what you Don't you?
    • Isn't it MaxLose vs "MaxLoose"?

    • Linux, UNIX, heck even maybe a Mach ripp-off

      I smiled when I read the story, and even the response to which I am responding.

      Windows appears to be going down the path to become more an more like that "30 year old" operating system all the time. Separation of the GUI, heck even text console from the core of the O/S makes a lot of sense. Push as much to user-space as makes sense.

      The reality is that the open source kernels have evolved to become incredibly stable and flexible. Open source kernel development hasn't slowed, the core of the MS kernel really has slowed. There actually may be the potential that kernel development by MS could be shelved to save engineering effort and money. Why not? The kernel is the most important part of the system that most users never see if it works well.

      If MS can produce a shell/GUI that sits on top of Linux/BSD/whatever and still keep compatibility and performance, the users may remain happy, they save time, and money. Heck, MS could even build a few bridges to the open source community and improve their image. Kind of like an olive branch, if people could possibly believe it.

      Sooner or later MS will realize that if you cannot beat them, join them. Consider that MS is smart enough to turn a potential loss into a big win. Conceptually they could bringing real developers back to do the hard kernel work happily and better yet, for free. Slap a nice smooth GUI on it that doesn't break compatibility and profit.
      • Olive Branch?

        If MS held out an Olive Branch, I'd expect to get stabbed with it ! :)
    • Linux? After screwing Con Kolivas?

      I'm sorry but the biggest threat to Linux is the Kernel developers themselves. The way they gave Con Kolivas so much grief is typical of the problems Linux faces. It seems Linux is selling out to the Enterprise and doesn't give a rats about the desktop anymore. However, the desktop is where M$ started and consolidated their market dominance.

      I boot Kubuntu, Ubuntu, & XP. Sadly, I've tuned XP to be far more responsive on the desktop than either Kubuntu or Ubuntu. That's pathetic. I've installed the -ck kernel patches and they make a massive difference to the speed of Linux running on my desktop, but, it still feels like it runs slower than XP on my machine.

      I'm running an AthlonXP 3200+ Barton with 2GB of CAS2.5 DDR400 on an Abit NF7 S2G with 4 x 500GB SATAII drives RAID0 + 1 500GB IDE drive as OS drive.

      That is pathetic for the OS that is supposed to be superior. If it's superior, why does it run slower than XP? Why does it feel slower? Why can't they get the desktop design down pat? Mac did it; M$ has done it; there is absolutely no reason why the Linux community can't stop squabbling like the Gods of Hubris IT and deal with the real issues preventing Linux from widespread adoption?
  • Less Bloat from the Bloatfarm?

    This would be good news if it were true but the entire ethos of the Bloatfarm runs in the opposite direction.

    Everyone is paid to add useless, superfluous "features" that add nothing to user friendliness. (Anyone for 650 ways to make a right turn in your car???)

    Until MORE is replaced by BETTER, the fundamental Bloat ethos will continue.

    Of course, replacing this ethos means replacing an increasingly isolated monkeyboy management intent on redoubling its efforts when the user objective was forgotten.

    If there is a single most important reason why MSFT has been a market underperformer it is because Bloatfarm management receives bloated compensation unconnected with stock performance.

    The only thing not bloated at the Bloatfarm is stock performance.
    Jeremy W
    • Well, if anyone should know about bloat, it's you

      as your posts are full of bloat.

      I guess the days of having a sensible discussion on these boards are long since gone, these boards are bloated with the useless posts of the likes of jw here, the IT wannabe's of the day.

      So I guess you'll have to remain on the outside looking in. :)
      John Zern
      • It is SOOO Sad that this site has become an Microsoft PROMOTION site!

        Words that speak against MS are LOST!

        Very sad! Last day for my visit! Bye Bye ZDNet Microsoft!