(Credit: Screenshot: Download.com/Tom McNamara)

There was a time when Microsoft actually had to fight its way to having the dominant desktop operating system around the world, and Windows 95 was a crucial part of that voyage. While it's now thoroughly dated and outdated, the curious and the nostalgic both can experience the magic once more, thanks to one intrepid programmer.

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Felix Rieseberg, a staff software engineer at Slack, is the one responsible for this trip down memory lane, providing installers on Github that you can use in Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Windows users will want to grab the one labeled "windows95-1.0.0-setup-x64.exe." Note the "x64" part -- users who are still using a 32-bit CPU won't be able to join this party.

This minor miracle exist thanks to a software packaging system called Electron, an open-source platform that works kind of like a virtual machine, but in a more streamlined way. Reiseberg actively contributes to Electron as well, and he's quite familiar with its plumbing.

Instead of having to set up drive space and go through an operating system installation process, Electron lets you install Windows 95 in the same way that you'd install Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox -- just double-click the installer file, and you're up and running in less than 30 seconds.

Of course, there are some limitations. The inimitable Internet Explorer web browser (whose desktop icon wasn't even yet the famous blue E when Windows 95 came out) doesn't load any pages in this version of Windows 95, and it's probably for the best. At the time of the OS's creation, the Internet wasn't yet perceived as the next big thing, so Internet Explorer's user security was pretty rudimentary, even by the standards of the time.

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Without Internet access, you may not get much mileage out of this version of Windows 95, though you might still enjoy going through the old wallpapers, screensavers, and color themes. Just right-click the desktop and select Properties to see your options there. Windows 95's screen resolution is 1,280x800 by default, but you can crank that up to 1,600x1200 to see those tiled wallpapers in their full majesty.

If you're yearning for the glory days of Solitaire, Minesweeper, FreeCell, and Hearts, click the Start button and go to Programs > Accessories > Games to find the treasure trove.

The takeaways

  1. You can now download Windows 95 in the form of a free desktop app, thanks to the work of a Slack engineer and a packaging system called Electron.
  2. Internet Explorer won't load any web pages, but you can still play Solitaire and Minesweeper, like the good old days.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.