Microsoft Windows

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Microsoft Windows
Windows logo
Windows logo introduced in 2012
Windows 8 Start Screen.png
Windows 8, showing the start screen
Company / developerMicrosoft
Programmed inC, C++ and Assembly language[1]
OS familyWindows 9x, Windows CE and Windows NT
Working statePublicly released
Source modelClosed source / Shared source
Initial releaseNovember 20, 1985; 27 years ago (1985-11-20) (as Windows 1.0)
Latest stable release

Windows 8
NT 6.2 (Build 9200) [edit]
 (October 26, 2012; 4 months ago (2012-10-26))

Windows Server 2012
NT 6.2 (Build 9200) [edit]
 (September 4, 2012; 5 months ago (2012-09-04)) [±]
Latest unstable release[±]
Marketing targetPersonal computing
Available language(s)137 languages (listing of available Windows 7 language packs)
Update methodWindows Update, Windows Anytime Upgrade
Supported platformsARM, IA-32, x86-64 and Itanium
Kernel typeHybrid (Windows NT family), DOS (16-bit Windows and Windows 9x/ME series)
Default user interfaceGraphical (Windows Shell)
LicenseProprietary commercial software
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Microsoft Windows
Windows logo
Windows logo introduced in 2012
Windows 8 Start Screen.png
Windows 8, showing the start screen
Company / developerMicrosoft
Programmed inC, C++ and Assembly language[1]
OS familyWindows 9x, Windows CE and Windows NT
Working statePublicly released
Source modelClosed source / Shared source
Initial releaseNovember 20, 1985; 27 years ago (1985-11-20) (as Windows 1.0)
Latest stable release

Windows 8
NT 6.2 (Build 9200) [edit]
 (October 26, 2012; 4 months ago (2012-10-26))

Windows Server 2012
NT 6.2 (Build 9200) [edit]
 (September 4, 2012; 5 months ago (2012-09-04)) [±]
Latest unstable release[±]
Marketing targetPersonal computing
Available language(s)137 languages (listing of available Windows 7 language packs)
Update methodWindows Update, Windows Anytime Upgrade
Supported platformsARM, IA-32, x86-64 and Itanium
Kernel typeHybrid (Windows NT family), DOS (16-bit Windows and Windows 9x/ME series)
Default user interfaceGraphical (Windows Shell)
LicenseProprietary commercial software

Microsoft Windows is a series of graphical interface operating systems developed, marketed, and sold by Microsoft.

Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces (GUIs).[2] Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal computer market with over 90% market share, overtaking Mac OS, which had been introduced in 1984.

The most recent client version of Windows is Windows 8; the most recent mobile client version is Windows Phone 8; the most recent server version is Windows Server 2012.


Version history

The term Windows collectively describes any or all of several generations of Microsoft operating system products. These products are generally categorized as follows:

The classic Windows logo, used from 1992 until the release of Windows XP in 2001

Early versions

Windows 1.0, the first version, released in 1985

The history of Windows dates back to September 1981, when Chase Bishop, a computer scientist, designed the first model of an electronic device and project "Interface Manager" was started. It was announced in November 1983 (after the Apple Lisa, but before the Macintosh) under the name "Windows", but Windows 1.0 was not released until November 1985.[3] Windows 1.0 lacked a degree of functionality, achieved little popularity and was to compete with Apple's own operating system. Windows 1.0 is not a complete operating system; rather, it extends MS-DOS. The shell of Windows 1.0 was a program known as the MS-DOS Executive. Other supplied programs were Calculator, Calendar, Cardfile, Clipboard viewer, Clock, Control Panel, Notepad, Paint, Reversi, Terminal, and Write. Windows 1.0 did not allow overlapping windows. Instead all windows were tiled. Only dialog boxes could appear over other windows.

Microsoft Windows version 2.0 was released in December 1987, featured several improvements to the user interface and memory management.[3] and was slightly more popular than its predecessor. Windows 2.03 changed the OS from tiled windows to overlapping windows. The result of this change led to Apple Computer filing a suit against Microsoft alleging infringement on Apple's copyrights.[4][5] Windows 2.0 also introduced more sophisticated keyboard shortcuts and could make use of expanded memory.

Windows 2.1 was released in two different versions: Windows/386 employed the 386 virtual 8086 mode to multitask several DOS programs, and the paged memory model to emulate expanded memory using available extended memory. Windows/286 (which, despite its name, would run on the 8086) still ran in real mode, but could make use of the high memory area.

In addition to full Windows-packages, there were runtime only versions that shipped with early Windows software from third parties and made it possible to run their Windows software under MS-DOS and without the full Windows feature set.

The early versions of Windows were often thought of as simply graphical user interfaces, mostly because they ran on top of MS-DOS and used it for file system services.[6] However, even the earliest 16-bit Windows versions already assumed many typical operating system functions; notably, having their own executable file format and providing their own device drivers (timer, graphics, printer, mouse, keyboard and sound) for applications. Unlike MS-DOS, Windows allowed users to execute multiple graphical applications at the same time, through cooperative multitasking. Windows implemented an elaborate, segment-based, software virtual memory scheme, which allowed it to run applications larger than available memory: code segments and resources were swapped in and thrown away when memory became scarce, and data segments moved in memory when a given application had relinquished processor control.

Windows 3.0 and 3.1

Windows 3.0, released in 1990

Windows 3.0, released in 1990, improved the design, mostly because of virtual memory and loadable virtual device drivers (VxDs) that allowed them to share arbitrary devices between multitasked DOS windows.[citation needed] Also, Windows applications could now run in protected mode (when Windows was running in Standard or 386 Enhanced Mode), which gave them access to several megabytes of memory and removed the obligation to participate in the software virtual memory scheme. They still ran inside the same address space, where the segmented memory provided a degree of protection, and multi-tasked cooperatively. Windows 3.0 also featured improvements to the user interface. Microsoft also rewrote critical operations from C into assembly. Windows 3.0 was the first Microsoft Windows version to achieve broad commercial success, selling 2 million copies in the first six months.[7][8]

Windows received a facelift in Windows 3.1, made generally available on March 1, 1992. In August 1993, a special version with integrated peer-to-peer networking was released with version number 3.11. It was sold in parallel with the basic version as Windows for Workgroups. Windows 3.1 support ended on December 31, 2001.[9]

Windows 9x

Windows 95, released in August 1995

Windows 95 was released on August 24, 1995, featuring a new object oriented user interface, support for long file names of up to 255 characters, the ability to automatically detect and configure installed hardware (plug and play) and preemptive multitasking. Windows 95 was designed to replace not only Windows 3.1, but also Windows for Workgroups, and MS-DOS. It could natively run 32-bit applications, and featured several technological improvements that increased its stability over Windows 3.1. The changes Windows 95 brought to the desktop were revolutionary, as opposed to evolutionary, such as those in Windows 98 and Windows ME.

There were several OEM Service Releases (OSR) of Windows 95, each of which was roughly equivalent to a service pack. Mainstream support for Windows 95 ended on December 31, 2000 and extended support for Windows 95 ended on December 31, 2001.[10]

Next in the consumer line was Microsoft Windows 98 released on June 25, 1998. It was followed with the release of Windows 98 Second Edition (often shortened to Windows 98 SE) in May 1999. Mainstream support for Windows 98 ended on June 30, 2002 and extended support for Windows 98 ended on July 11, 2006.[11]

In February 2000, Windows 2000 (in the NT family) was released, followed by Windows ME in September 2000 (Me standing for Millennium Edition).

The consumer version following Windows 98 was Windows ME (Windows Millennium Edition). Released in September 2000, Windows ME updated the core from Windows 98, but adopted some aspects of Windows 2000 and removed the "boot in DOS mode" option. Windows ME implemented a number of new technologies for Microsoft: most notably publicized was "Universal Plug and Play". It also added a new feature called System Restore, allowing the user to set the computer's settings back to an earlier date.

Windows ME is often confused with Windows 2000 (because of its name.) Windows ME was heavily criticized due to slowness, freezes and hardware problems and has been said to be one of the worst operating systems Microsoft ever released.[12]

Windows NT family

The Windows logo used from 2001 to 2006, for the Windows XP operating system.
The Windows logo used from 2006 to 2012, for the Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems.
The Windows logo used as of October 2012, for the Windows 8 operating system.

In July 1993, Microsoft released Windows NT based on a new kernel. The NT family of Windows systems was fashioned and marketed for higher reliability business use, considered to be the professional OS. The first release was Windows NT 3.1 (1993), numbered "3.1" to match the consumer Windows version, which was followed by Windows NT 3.5 (1994), Windows NT 3.51 (1995), Windows NT 4.0 (1996) and Windows 2000 (2000). Windows NT was the first Windows version to utilize preemptive multitasking.[citation needed] Windows NT 4.0 was the first in this line to implement the "Windows 95" user interface (and the first to include Windows 95's built-in 32-bit runtimes).

Microsoft released Windows 2000 as part of the NT line in February 2000. During 2004 part of the source code for Windows 2000 was leaked onto the Internet. Windows 2000 is the last NT-based Windows release that does not include Microsoft Product Activation. After Windows 2000, the Windows NT family was split into two lines: A client line, including Windows XP and its successors, consists of operating systems produced for installation on client computers, such as workstations, home computers, laptops, tablet computers and media centers. A Windows Server line, including Windows Server 2003 and it successors, consists of operating systems produced for server computers. Later, a third line for embedded systems was added with the introduction of Windows Embedded.

Windows XP, Vista and 7

Microsoft moved to combine their consumer and business operating systems with Windows XP that was released on October 25, 2001. Windows XP is built on the Windows NT kernel, retooled to also function as a home operating system. This new version was widely praised in computer magazines.[13]

XP shipped in two distinct editions, "Home" and "Professional", the former lacking many of the superior security and networking features of the Professional edition. Additionally, the first "Media Center" edition was released in 2002,[14] with an emphasis on support for DVD and TV functionality including program recording and a remote control. A niche market versions for tablet PCs was also released. Mainstream support for Windows XP ended on April 14, 2009. Extended support will continue until April 8, 2014.[15]

After Windows 2000, they diverged release schedules for server operating systems. In April 2003, Windows Server 2003 was introduced, replacing the Windows 2000 line of server products with a number of new features and a strong focus on security; this was followed in December 2005 by Windows Server 2003 R2.

After a lengthy development process, Windows Vista was released on November 30, 2006 for volume licensing and January 30, 2007 for consumers. It contains a number of new features, from a redesigned shell and user interface to significant technical changes, with a particular focus on security features. It is available in a number of different editions, and has been subject to some criticism. Vista's server counterpart, Windows Server 2008 was released in early 2008.

On July 22, 2009, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 were released as RTM (release to manufacturing) while the former was released to the public 3 months later on October 22, 2009. Unlike its predecessor, Windows Vista, which introduced a large number of new features, Windows 7 was intended to be a more focused, incremental upgrade to the Windows line, with the goal of being compatible with applications and hardware with which Windows Vista was already compatible.[16] Windows 7 has multi-touch support, a redesigned Windows shell with a new taskbar, referred to as the Superbar, a home networking system called HomeGroup,[17] and performance improvements.

Multilingual support: IMEs and LIPs

There are three main issues involved in making English-language Windows multilingual: (1) some languages require an Input Method Editor (IME) to enter text, (2) many users will want application menus (such as MS Office menus) to display in their own language, and they may also want to use a keyboard that matches the normal keyboard layout and marking for their own language, and (3) some users will want Windows menus and messages to display in their own language, i.e. they will want to switch from an English Windows environment to another language.

For languages like Italian, Spanish, French and German, (2) alone may suffice. For languages like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK), an IME (1) is also required. This is bundled with the corresponding language version of Windows, but is also available as a separate download for English Windows, as described below; (1) and (2) can be essentially free (apart from the custom keyboard). For some languages, (3), multilingual support for Windows, is a free download for Windows XP and later—but it requires Windows 7 Ultimate or better for languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

(1) After releasing Chinese, Japanese, and Korean versions of Office 2010 and IME 2010, Microsoft made IME 2010 available as a free upgrade for users of the earlier IME versions of Windows. Microsoft later made these Chinese, Japanese, and Korean IME versions available free to users of Windows XP and later, including English Windows XP (but now says that users should own some version of MS Office).[18] Each IME package enables the entering of text in the corresponding language, and necessary fonts are bundled with it.

(2) Microsoft now also offers Language Interface Packs (LIPs) for MS Office. Some LIPs are free;[19] some "Language Packs" (such as the CJK ones) are sold separately and may include spelling and grammar checking tools.[20] (Recent application software from some companies may support two or more popular languages).

(3) Microsoft now also offers Language Interface Packs (LIPs) that allow users to view Windows menus, dialog boxes, and other user interface items in their preferred language. These are free; most are for English Windows (XP and later)—however, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean LIP downloads require Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise.[21] These LIPs include IMEs where applicable.

Windows 8

Windows 8, the successor to Windows 7, was released to the market on 26 October 2012. Windows 8 has been designed to be used on both tablets and the conventional PC. The Microsoft Surface tablet was released alongside Windows 8, as a competitor to the Apple iPad and Android tablets. Microsoft Surface is available in two editions, Surface with Windows RT and Surface with Windows 8 Pro, aimed at designers and other work-based users. The Surface RT will run a limited version of Windows 8, and will not run many classic Windows desktop applications, as users can download new applications from the Windows App Store. However, the Surface Pro, to be released on February 9, 2013, will have a full desktop operating system capable of running all classic desktop applications. See Microsoft Surface for more information. Windows 8 was released to manufacturing on 1 August 2012, with a build of 6.2.9200. It is available for purchase in two versions, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro.

For the first time since Windows 95, the Start button is no longer available on the taskbar. It has been replaced with the Start screen and can be triggered by clicking the bottom-left corner of the screen and by clicking Start in the Charms or by pressing the Windows key on the keyboard. However, there are many third-party solutions such as Stardock Start8 and Classic Shell, that do bring back the Windows 7 style start menu. See List of Start Menu replacements for Windows 8 for more information.

In February 2013, it was reported that an update to Windows 8, codenamed Windows Blue, had completed the first milestone, indicating development is approximately halfway complete.[22]

Platform support

Windows NT included support for several different platforms before the x86-based personal computer became dominant in the professional world. Versions of NT from 3.1 to 4.0 variously supported PowerPC, DEC Alpha and MIPS R4000, some of which were 64-bit processors, although the operating system treated them as 32-bit processors. However, Microsoft dropped support from the aforementioned in Windows 2000, which only supported the third generation x86 (known as IA-32) or newer in 32-bit mode. IA-32 is still supported in the client line of Window NT family, although the Windows Server line has ceased IA-32 support with the release of Windows Server 2008 R2.

With the introduction of the Intel Itanium architecture (IA-64), Microsoft released new versions of Windows to support it. Itanium versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 were released at the same time as their mainstream x86 counterparts. Microsoft dropped support for the Itanium version of Windows XP in 2005 and ceased to support it in all subsequent client operating system but continued to support it in Windows Server line until Windows Server 2012. Windows Server 2008 R2 was the last Windows operating system to support Itanium architecture.

On April 25, 2005, Microsoft released Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions to support the x86-64 (or simply x64), the eighth generation of x86 architecture. Windows Vista was the first client version of Windows NT to be released simultaneously in IA-32 and x64 editions. x64 is still supported.

After twelve years, Microsoft once again added support for non-x86 CPU architecture to Windows NT family: An edition of Windows 8 known as Windows RT is specifically created for computers with ARM architecture.

Windows CE

The latest current version of Windows CE, Windows Embedded Compact 7, displaying a concept media player UI.

Windows CE (officially known as Windows Embedded Compact), is an edition of Windows that runs on minimalistic computers, like satellite navigation systems and some mobile phones. Windows Embedded Compact is based on its own dedicated kernel, dubbed Windows CE kernel. Microsoft licenses Windows CE to OEMs and device makers. The OEMs and device makers can modify and create their own user interfaces and experiences, while Windows CE provides the technical foundation to do so.

Windows CE was used in the Dreamcast along with Sega's own proprietary OS for the console. Windows CE was the core from which Windows Mobile was derived. Its successor, Windows Phone 7, was based on components from both Windows CE 6.0 R3 and Windows CE 7.0. Windows Phone 8 however, is based on the same NT-kernel as Windows 8.

Windows Embedded Compact is not to be confused with Windows XP Embedded or Windows NT 4.0 Embedded, modular editions of Windows based on Windows NT kernel.

Timeline of releases

The Windows family tree

Usage share

SourceNet Market Share[25]W3Counter[26]Global Stats[27]
DateJanuary 2013January 2013January 2013
All versions91.71%75.59%83.84%
Windows 744.48%44.13%52.96%
Windows XP39.51%23.7%24.29%
Windows Vista5.24%5.48%6.59%
Windows 82.36%2.28%
Windows 20000.06%
Windows NT 4.00.05%
Windows 980.01%


Consumer versions of Windows were originally designed for ease-of-use on a single-user PC without a network connection, and did not have security features built in from the outset.[28] However, Windows NT and its successors are designed for security (including on a network) and multi-user PCs, but were not initially designed with Internet security in mind as much, since, when it was first developed in the early 1990s, Internet use was less prevalent.[29]

These design issues combined with programming errors (e.g. buffer overflows) and the popularity of Windows means that it is a frequent target of computer worm and virus writers. In June 2005, Bruce Schneier's Counterpane Internet Security reported that it had seen over 1,000 new viruses and worms in the previous six months.[30] In 2005, Kaspersky Lab found around 11,000 malicious programs—viruses, Trojans, back-doors, and exploits written for Windows.[31]

Microsoft releases security patches through its Windows Update service approximately once a month (usually the second Tuesday of the month), although critical updates are made available at shorter intervals when necessary.[32] In versions of Windows after and including Windows 2000 SP3 and Windows XP, updates can be automatically downloaded and installed if the user selects to do so. As a result, Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, as well as Service Pack 1 for Windows Server 2003, were installed by users more quickly than it otherwise might have been.[33]

While the Windows 9x series offered the option of having profiles for multiple users, they had no concept of access privileges, and did not allow concurrent access; and so were not true multi-user operating systems. In addition, they implemented only partial memory protection. They were accordingly widely criticised for lack of security.

The Windows NT series of operating systems, by contrast, are true multi-user, and implement absolute memory protection. However, a lot of the advantages of being a true multi-user operating system were nullified by the fact that, prior to Windows Vista, the first user account created during the setup process was an administrator account, which was also the default for new accounts. Though Windows XP did have limited accounts, the majority of home users did not change to an account type with fewer rights – partially due to the number of programs which unnecessarily required administrator rights – and so most home users ran as administrator all the time.

Windows Vista changes this[34] by introducing a privilege elevation system called User Account Control. When logging in as a standard user, a logon session is created and a token containing only the most basic privileges is assigned. In this way, the new logon session is incapable of making changes that would affect the entire system. When logging in as a user in the Administrators group, two separate tokens are assigned. The first token contains all privileges typically awarded to an administrator, and the second is a restricted token similar to what a standard user would receive. User applications, including the Windows Shell, are then started with the restricted token, resulting in a reduced privilege environment even under an Administrator account. When an application requests higher privileges or "Run as administrator" is clicked, UAC will prompt for confirmation and, if consent is given (including administrator credentials if the account requesting the elevation is not a member of the administrators group), start the process using the unrestricted token.[35]

File permissions

All Windows versions from Windows NT 3 have been based on a file system permission system referred to as AGLP (Accounts, Global, Local, Permissions) AGDLP which in essence where file permissions are applied to the file/folder in the form of a 'local group' which then has other 'global groups' as members. These global groups then hold other groups or users depending on different Windows versions used. This system varies from other vendor products such as Linux and NetWare due to the 'static' allocation of permission being applied directory to the file or folder. However using this process of AGLP/AGDLP/AGUDLP allows a small number of static permissions to be applied and allows for easy changes to the account groups without reapplying the file permissions on the files and folders.

Windows Defender

On January 6, 2005, Microsoft released a Beta version of Microsoft AntiSpyware, based upon the previously released Giant AntiSpyware. On February 14, 2006, Microsoft AntiSpyware became Windows Defender with the release of Beta 2. Windows Defender is a freeware program designed to protect against spyware and other unwanted software. Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 users who have genuine copies of Microsoft Windows can freely download the program from Microsoft's web site, and Windows Defender ships as part of Windows Vista and 7.[36] In Windows 8, Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials have been combined into a single program, named Windows Defender. It is based on Microsoft Security Essentials, borrowing its features and user interface. Although it is enabled by default, it can be turned off to use another anti-virus solution.[37] Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool and the optional Microsoft Safety Scanner are two other free security products offered by Microsoft.

Third-party analysis

In an article based on a report by Symantec,[38] has described Microsoft Windows as having the "fewest number of patches and the shortest average patch development time of the five operating systems it monitored in the last six months of 2006."[39]

A study conducted by Kevin Mitnick and marketing communications firm Avantgarde in 2004 found that an unprotected and unpatched Windows XP system with Service Pack 1 lasted only 4 minutes on the Internet before it was compromised, and an unprotected and also unpatched Windows Server 2003 system was compromised after being connected to the internet for 8 hours.[40] This study does not apply to Windows XP systems running the Service Pack 2 update (released in late 2004), which vastly improved the security of Windows XP.[citation needed] The computer that was running Windows XP Service Pack 2 was not compromised. The AOL National Cyber Security Alliance Online Safety Study of October 2004 determined that 80% of Windows users were infected by at least one spyware/adware product.[citation needed] Much documentation is available describing how to increase the security of Microsoft Windows products. Typical suggestions include deploying Microsoft Windows behind a hardware or software firewall, running anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and installing patches as they become available through Windows Update.[41]

Emulation software

Emulation allows the use of some Windows applications without using Microsoft Windows. These include:

See also


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  3. ^ a b Petzold
  4. ^ "The Apple vs. Microsoft GUI Lawsuit". 2006. Retrieved March 12, 2008.
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  18. ^ Download IME 2010 Microsoft.
  19. ^ MS Office Language Interface Packs Microsoft.
  20. ^ MS Office Language Packs Microsoft.
  21. ^ Download Windows Language Interface Packs Microsoft.
  22. ^ Foley, Mary Jo (2013-02-19). "Microsoft's Windows Blue may have just hit milestone 1". Retrieved 2013-02-22.
  23. ^ "Microsoft Support Lifecycle". Microsoft.
  24. ^ "Microsoft Delivers New Wave of Technologies to Help Businesses Thrive in Today's Economy" (Press release). Microsoft. May 11, 2009. Retrieved May 22, 2009.
  25. ^ "Operating System Market Share". Net Market Share. Net Applications. January 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  26. ^ "Global Web Stats". W3Counter. Awio Web Services. January 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  27. ^ "StatCounter Global Stats". Global Stats. StatCounter. January 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  28. ^ Multi-user memory protection was not introduced until Windows NT and XP, and a computer's default user was an administrator until Windows Vista. Source: UACBlog.
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  35. ^ Kenny Kerr (September 29, 2006). "Windows Vista for Developers – Part 4 – User Account Control". Retrieved March 15, 2007.
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  37. ^ "Microsoft Answers: How do I keep Windows 8 Consumer Preview secure from malware?". Microsoft. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
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  41. ^ Richard Rogers (September 21, 2009). "5 Steps To Securing Your Windows XP Home Computer". Computer Security News. Computer Security News. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  42. ^ Wine
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External links