Hyped Windows Features That Perished
As Windows 8's arrival looms, we look back at the once-must-have features in earlier versions that got killed along the way.
Windows 8 may be an extreme case, in terms of numbers, but it's by no mean the first version of Windows to kill features that were ballyhooed as must-have reasons to upgrade just a few years before. Let's step down memory lane and see what's gone by the wayside.
DriveSpace: Born in DOS 6.0, departed in Windows XP. It would take the entire contents of a hard disk, compress it, and store it as a single file in the root directory of the disk. A long series of bugs and highly publicized data loss led to DriveSpace being severely restricted in Win Me.
Program Manager and File Manager: In Windows 95, the reimagined Windows Explorer combined file management with simpler navigation and program launching, interspersing program and file icons, thus obviating both Program Manager and File Manager.
The Microsoft Network: Born in Win 95, then quietly faded away. Part dial-up Internet service provider, part BBS wannabe with an AOL slant, the Microsoft Network tried to fit in all the niches, only to miss them all. MSN finally hit its stride as a completely different beast.
Active Desktop: Born in IE4 (for Win 95), died in Win Vista. The precursor to the modern Metro tiled interface, Active Desktop was an abomination that rarely worked correctly, and frequently froze machines. It was replaced in Win Vista by the revolutionary new Sidebar and gadgets.
Windows Desktop Search: Born in MSN Toolbar (for Win 2000), died in Win Vista. Originally called MSN Desktop Search, the product brought a new dimension to the terms "slow" and "buggy." Fortunately, Microsoft took a hint and baked the renamed Windows Search into Vista.
AutoPlay/AutoRun: Born in Win 95, died in Win Vista. Microsoft took this "feature" that allowed such subterfuge out of Vista, but didn't push a fix for Windows XP until 2011, with some claiming to the very end that it was a feature, not a security hole.
Quick Launch toolbar: Born in IE 4 (for Win 95), died in Win 7. The Quick Launch toolbar let you put icons to launch specific programs next to the Start button. It’s been largely supplanted by the "super" taskbar in Win7 and Win8.
WinFS: Born, Died in "Longhorn." One of the major stumbling blocks on the road to getting Win Vista (code-named "Longhorn" in beta) out the door, the fully relational WinFS scheme looked great on paper, demoed well, gave rise to engineering flights of fancy and in the end, just didn't work.
Aero: Born in Win Vista, died in Win 8. The "authentic, energetic, reflective, and open" interface, touted as one of the most compelling new features in Win Vista, led to a lawsuit when consumers were duped by "Vista Capable" stickers on new computers that couldn't handle Aero.
Gadgets: Born in Win Vista, died in Win 8. Last month, a team of security researchers showed how gadgets present inordinate security risks, and Microsoft released a patch that disables gadgets entirely. Win8 doesn't support gadgets.
Start menu: Born in Win 95, died Win 8. Many have begged Microsoft to restore the Start menu functionality in Win 8. The Start menu was originally designed to replace Program Manager, with the Start hierarchical menu structure hailed as vastly superior to the unnestable icons in the latter.
Windows Solitaire: Born in Win 3.0, died Win 8. Solitaire isn't so much dead as it's being, er, reimagined as a gorgeous, full-screen -- and optional -- Metro app. The old Solitaire that we all know and love, and have spent countless hours perusing and pursuing, is headed to the big bit bucket.
Hosts file: Born in Win 3.1, died Win 8. Win 8 has a hosts file, but apparently if you add entries to the hosts file manually, Windows Defender may remove the entries in some circumstances, even if the file is marked read-only. We're still waiting on details from Microsoft.