Windows bloat? It's always been that way

Has there ever been a Microsoft operating system that hasn’t been derided for its “bloat"? (Spoiler alert: No.)
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

Last week I wrote about the first online critiques I've run across that Windows Vista will be YABMOS (Yet Another Bloated Microsoft Operating System).

And it got me to thinking: Has there ever been a Microsoft operating system that hasn't been derided for its "bloat"? Apparently not. I took a little trip in the Wayback Machine to see what the mainstream media were saying about earlier Microsoft operating systems. The dreaded b-word came up more often than not.

A few weeks after Windows XP shipped, John Naughton of The Observer called it "a monstrous, bloated brute that requires a state-of-the-art PC and two gigabytes of hard disk space before it will even say 'hello'. This means any consumer foolish enough to want to run XP will probably have to buy a new PC."

And XP's Service Pack 2 made it even worse, according to eWeek's Jason Brooks, who wrote in 2004:

You need look no further than the swollen feature set planned for XP Service Pack 2 to see that a significant new version of Windows will be upon us within the year. … Microsoft should ship a new version of Windows to fill its yawning road-map void but not in the form of a bloated service pack. We're due for an update to XP on the order of what Windows 98 was to Windows 95—a set of upgrades, fixes and new features that demonstrated that the Windows team had spent at least some of the three years between releases thinking about what it could and should deliver for users.

OK, but surely Windows 2000 was lean and mean, right? Uh, not according to the normally Microsoft-friendly Paul Thurrott, who panned it as "too big for consumer machines … requiring massive amounts of RAM and high-end processors. … Windows 2000 is bloated with features designed for the customers that should be using that enterprise OS: corporations. Things like IntelliMirror, Active Directory, and the advanced security features in Windows 2000 have no place in a consumer OS."

Ironically, Thurrott's remarks were in the context of an extraordinarily rare positive review of Windows Millennium Edition (aka Windows Me). The more common view of Windows Me was summed up by John Sheesley at TechRepublic, who marked the 10th anniversary of Windows 95 last August by calling Windows Me "a bloated pig of an OS that made everyone beg and plead for the rapid release of Windows 2000."

Have wistful memories of good old Windows 98? Ditch 'em. My old Ziff-Davis comrade Jesse Berst took a cudgel to that OS with this memorable screed:

Windows 98 should have been released for free on January 1, 1996 and titled Windows 95.1. If this were Hollywood, then Windows 98 would be the equivalent of "Heaven's Gate," "Waterworld" and "Godzilla" rolled into one. A huge, overhyped, bloated embarrassment.

Was Windows 95 the mother of all bloated Microsoft operating systems? Steve Gibson says Microsoft's biggest mistake was not writing it in assembly language and junking it up with "bloated .WAV files." After completing a killer 16-bit Windows utility, he discovered that "the world had (pretty much unnecessarily) moved over to the 'bigger must be better' 32-bit world of Windows 95. <<sigh>>"

Can an operating system that runs in 640K be bloated? Of course! The late, great Douglas Adams got a twofer with this slam on Windows 95 and MS-DOS:

[F]or years Microsoft managed the awkward juggling act of rubbishing Apple's user interface while simultaneously trying to devise something like it that would fit on top of the bloated clutter that MS-DOS had become. … An awful lot of people who try to install Windows 95 will end up having to spend so much money buying extra RAM and upgrading their peripherals to get features that Mac users have enjoyed for years, that they might as well give up and buy the real thing.

Ah, some things never change.

The next time someone whines about how bloated Windows has become, remind them that it has always been thus.

Me? I'm pulling the old Amiga out of mothballs. Now, that was a lean, mean OS.

Editorial standards