The good, the bad and the awful: a history of Windows ads

Windows 95 - the classic

The classic. Images of an extremely advanced (for the time) Windows 95 interspersed with aspirational imagery and overlaid by the perfect soundtrack for the launch - the Rolling Stones' Start me up. One bloke is even working outside! On a laptop! Where do you want to go today? Mind you, don't get too comfy - here's a Windows 95 retailer promo featuring a meeting between MS DOS and a chainsaw and a voice over so sickly you'll wish you hadn't eaten yet.

Windows 98 - the plinky plonk

This plinky plonky ad sells on gaming and the internet. It's not so bad, but up against the Windows 95 offerings it's just plain dull. Then again there's always something to lower the tone...

Windows Me - the modern era

You might have seen our Windows boot screens through the ages piece in which we professed our undying hate for Windows Me. This ad isn't anywhere near as putrid as the OS and is the more straightforward marketing fare that we usually get from tech companies these days. We say usually, as there's still the occasional little error.

Windows XP - the green, green grass

There's no doubt about it - Windows XP was (and eight years on is still) a superb operating system. The "yes you can" ad campaign went back to the values of the Windows 95 campaign, highlighting the huge benefits of the new OS over its predecessors. Madonna's Ray of light track features, though it was several years old at the time.

Windows Vista - wow to forget

"The wow starts now" wouldn't have been a bad slogan if there was anything to recommend Windows Vista. Microsoft oversold the OS to an audience who loved XP - an OS that Microsoft had Service Packed with features to the point that people just didn't need Windows Vista. This is a bland ad for a bland OS.

Windows 7 - "More happy is coming"

This isn't the finest ad ever, but it is quite well executed. A young girl reads bits of headlines from a laptop of positive reviews of the new OS. "Seven, seven, seven... happy words, happy pictures, I'm going to make a slideshow." A slideshow then appears with cartoons appearing alongside quotes from the reviews. The music for that bit? A cover of Europe's The final countdown. Is the band name an EU-related pun? Perhaps, perhaps.

Oh, and it's not a Windows ad per se, but make sure you check out one of Microsoft's worst ads in our list of 10 tech PR stunts that spectacularly failed.


Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.