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Journey to the past
The tower PCs of the 1990s may now be landfill, but decades later the screensavers that danced across their screens are still burned into memory.
Whether it’s winged toasters, flying Windows icons or a sprawling network of 3D pipes, the classic screensavers of yesteryear made a lasting impression.
Revisit some of the best-known screensavers from Windows history, dating right back to the very first release of Windows.
Jump to Windows screensavers through the ages:
Windows 1.0: After Dark
Berkeley Systems’ After Dark for Windows 1.0 screensaver program was released for PC in March 1991.
The collection of 35 screensavers included the massively popular Flying Toasters.
Windows 1: After Dark - Aquatic Realm
Aquatic Realm offers a glimpse of life under the sea, as marine creatures go about their business at the bottom of the ocean.
Windows 1: After Dark - Clocks
In Clocks, three types of clocks float move about the screen showing the current time.
Windows 1: After Dark - Down the Drain
Down the Drain liquefied your desktop and saw it spiral down a drain.
Windows 1: After Dark - Fade Away
As the name suggest, Fade Away, made your desktop fade into nothingness.
Windows 1: After Dark - Flying Toasters
Perhaps the most famous screensaver in the collection, Flying Toasters, saw winged appliances fill your screen alongside slices of toast.
Windows 1: After Dark - GeoBounce
GeoBounce let you choose a geometric shape, which would then spin and bounce around the display.
Windows 1: After Dark - Globe
Globe saw a rotating world drift across the display.
Windows 1: After Dark - GraphStat
One for science junkies, GraphStat, displayed random graphs on the screen.
Windows 1: After Dark - Gravity
Balls of varying colors bounce across the screen, leaving trails in their wake in Gravity.
Windows 1: After Dark - Spiral Gyro
As the name suggests, Spiral Gyro, draws patterns reminiscent of those created by Spyrograph toys.
Windows 1: After Dark - Logo
A simple option, Logo just made an image float across the display. While it defaulted to the After Dark logo, you could choose your own image instead.
Windows 1 : After Dark - Magic
The intricate patterns generated by the Magic screensaver were in a state of constant flux.
Windows 1 : After Dark - Messages
Messages would display text that would float around the screen, with users able to write their own messages or choose from a number of humorous default options.
Windows 1: After Dark - Mondrian
As you’d expect, this screensaver transformed your screen into an abstract style reminiscent of the painter Piet Mondrian.
Windows 1: After Dark - Mountains
3D mountains from a planet of your choice were rendered on screen in Mountains.
Windows 1: After Dark - Nocturnes
This creepy option showed eyes of nocturnal creatures that peered at you out of a black screen.
Windows 1: After Dark - Punch Out
Punch Out decimated your desktop with a hole puncher, complete with optional sound effects.
Windows 1: After Dark - Puzzle
Puzzle transformed your desktop into a grid of sliding tiles that randomly shuffle themselves.
Windows 1: After Dark - Hard Rain
These colorful circles radiating outwards represented rain drops hitting the screen.
Windows 1: After Dark - Rose
Rose generated shifting and complex patterns that grew over time.
Windows 1: After Dark - Satori
Tie-dye patterns ebb and flow across the desktop in Satori.
Windows 1: After Dark - Shapes
This rather plain screensaver saw solid, colored shapes gradually fill the screen.
Windows 1: After Dark - Spheres
Eye-catching spheres of different colors are rendered one by one in Spheres.
Windows 1: After Dark - Spotlight
The Spotlight screensaver blacked out the screen apart from a spotlight that revealed parts of Windows’ desktop.
Windows 1: After Dark - Starry Night
Starry Night recreated a city skyline, complete with lights blinking on and off in buildings, red beacons on top of the tallest skyscrapers, and the odd flash of lightning.
Windows 1: After Dark - Rain Storm
Rain Storm unleashed a torrent of bad weather on screen, with driving rain and lightning.
Windows 1: After Dark - String Theory
Dazzling Moire-like patterns dance across the screen in String Theory.
Windows 1: After Dark - Vertigo
As these psychedelic spirals and squares balloon outwards they create a vertiginous optical illusion.
Windows 1: After Dark - Lasers
This simulated laser light show recreated an explosion of light across the screen.
Windows 1: After Dark - Warp
Recreating the effect of engaging warp drive in Star Trek, Warp made stars swirl towards you.
Windows 1: After Dark - Can of Worms
Hungry worms squirm across the screen and nibble away at the desktop.
Windows 1: After Dark - Wrap Around
Similar to String Theory, Wrap Around presented more Moire patterns that twisted across the screen.
Windows 1: After Dark - Zot
This simple screensaver projected bolts of lightning across the screen.
Windows 3.1 - Flying Windows
The Flying Windows screensaver was one of several default options with Windows 3.1.
Windows 3.1 - Mystify
Reminiscent of the Mystify screensaver from After Dark for Windows 1.0, this Windows 3.1 offering bounced a constantly shifting pattern around the screen.
Windows 3.1 - Starfield simulation
The Starfield screensaver simulated flying through a field of stars.
Windows 3: After Dark - Artist
Released in the summer of 1994, After Dark 3.0 offered 28 screensavers, some of which were interactive.
The Artist screensaver, allowed you to choose an image, such as the Windows Splash screen, and a medium, such as Pastel, which would then be drawn on screen.
Windows 3: After Dark - Bad Dog
Bad Dog!, saw a mischevious canine digging holes, scratching the walls, shedding fur, and even relieving itself in a trash can.
Windows 3: After Dark - Bet Your Hand
You Bet Your Head was an interactive trivia game in which animated contestants would be flattened by the MC, a hammer, for wrong answers. To answer the questions yourself, you pressed Caps Lock and chose a numbered answer.
Windows 3: After Dark - Bug
Creepy crawlies swarmed over your desktop in Bugs, steering clear of the Baits Motel
Windows 3: After Dark - Clocks 3.0
Similar to the earlier After Dark screensaver, Clocks 3.0, saw six different timepieces float across the screen displaying the current time.
Windows 3: After Dark - DaredevilDan
Motorcycle stunt man Daredevil Dan raced his bike across the screen while making risky jumps over buses and through flaming hoops, occasionally having to be rescued by an ambulance.
Windows 3: After Dark - DOS Shell
An endless list of simulated DOS commands streamed down the page in the DOS Shell screensaver.
Windows 3: After Dark - Fish Pro
In Fish Pro fish and other marine creatures swam back and forth above the seabed.
Windows 3: After Dark - Flying Toaster Pro
The return of the famous Flying Toasters saw flocks of the home appliances fly across the screen, often performing tricks, while slices of toast soared alongside.
Windows 3: After Dark - Frost and Fire
Patterns swam outwards from the center of the image in Frost and Fire, as various colors were mixed in.
Windows 3: After Dark - Guts
A oscillating gravitational field pulled random Windows icons every which way as they flew across the screen.
Windows 3: After Dark - Draw Morph
Draw Morph let you choose from various stop motion animated figures, such as Pipecleaner Man, who performed acrobatics while walking across the screen. You could also create your own series of images to be animated.
Windows 3: After Dark - Nirvana
Warping patterns had a hypnotic effect in the Nirvana, screensaver.
Windows 3: After Dark - Nonsense
Randomly generated sentences filled up the display in the aptly titled Nonsense screensaver.
Windows 3: After Dark - Photon
Another laser light show screensaver, Photon dazzled with its bright patterns.
Windows 3: After Dark - Puzzle
Like the first After Dark screensaver, Puzzle rearranged the desktop into a sliding grid of tiles.
Windows 3: After Dark - Rat Race
Three rodents raced round a track in Rat Race, with users able to set their skill level, ranging from Drop Out to Professional.
Windows 3: After Dark - Ray
Ray adorned the desktop with colorful, transparent, rotating shapes that drifted across the screen.
Windows 3: After Dark - Rebound
Hundreds of metal and plastic balls bounce across the screen in Rebound.
Windows 3: After Dark - Satori
More elaborate tie-dye patterns swirled round the screen in the updated Satori.
Windows 3: After Dark - Slide Show
As the name suggests, Slide Show presented a carousel of images of your choice.
Windows 3: After Dark - Warp
The Star Trek-inspired Warp! screensaver returned for After Dark 3.0.
Windows 3: After Dark - Spheres
Another returning screensaver, Spheres fills the display with voluminous, colored balls.
Windows 3: After Dark - Spotlight
This time around the Spotlight screensaver illuminates the desktop with multiple spotlights.
Windows 3: After Dark - Zoom
The mesmerizing Zooommm! screensaver created the illusion of moving through a colorful tube.
Windows 3.1: Star Trek - Final Exam
Trekkies got a treat in 1992, when Berkeley Systems released Star Trek: The Screen Saver.
A favorite was called Final Exam, which combined an interactive Star Trek trivia game and screensaver.
Windows 3.1: Star Trek - Mission
The Mission screensaver cycled through images from different Star Trek episodes, such as this one from The Corbomite Maneuver episode showing Balok.
Windows 3.1: Star Trek - Scotty's Files
Scotty’s Files screensaver let Trekkies geek out over technical schematics of ships and a variety of devices, including a Phaser and a Tricorder.
Windows 3.1: Star Trek - Sick bay
The Sickbay screensaver recreated the readouts from the bed panels in Star Trek episodes, complete with the familiar heart beat sound effect.
Windows 3: Star Trek - Tholian
This visually arresting scene is from the Star Trek episode the Tholian Web, in which the Enterprise is caught in an energy-sapping web spun by the Tholians, an alien race.
Windows 3: Star Trek - Tribbles
These warbling critters are straight out of The Trouble with Tribbles episode, and continue to pile up until they block the desktop.
Windows 3.1: Microsoft Scenes - Mt. Robson, British Colombia
This themed collection of 40 Microsoft Scenes Sierra Club Nature Collection screensavers and desktop backgrounds was released in 1994.
Windows 3.1: Microsoft Scenes - Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Windows 3.1: Microsoft Scenes - Death Valley National Monument, California
Windows 3.1: Microsoft Scenes - Clements Mountain, Colombia
Windows 3.1: Microsoft Scenes - Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah
Windows 3.1: Microsoft Scenes - Glacier Bay Region, Alaska
Windows 3.1: Microsoft Scenes - Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado
Windows 3.1: Microsoft Scenes - Proxy Falls, Oregon
Windows 95: Microsoft Plus! Companion - Dangerous Creatures
Released on the same day as Windows 95, the retail package of the Microsoft Plus! Companion for Windows 95 bundled a number of different screensavers.
The Dangerous Creatures screensaver saw sharks and stingrays swimming around the screen accompanied by the relaxing sound of bubbling water.
Windows 95: Microsoft Plus! Companion - Travel
Sea planes soared through the clouds in this screensaver.
Windows 95: 3D Maze
Aping the style of the then nascent first-person shooter genre, Windows 95’s iconic 3D Maze screensaver endlessly wandered a redbrick maze.
Windows 95: Microsoft Plus! Companion - Leonardo Da Vinci
This screensaver displayed sketches of some of da Vinci’s most famous inventions, such as these wings designed for human flight.
Windows 95: Microsoft Plus! Companion - Mystery
This haunted house screensaver was brought alive by the sound of creaking doors, a pipe organ, and fluttering bats.
Windows 95: Microsoft Plus! Companion - Nature
Furry caterpillars crawled across a bed of leaves in this screensaver.
Windows 95: Microsoft Plus! Companion - Science
A lens moved back and forth across the screen in the Science screensaver, with users able to configure the the size, speed and type of the lens.
Windows 95: Microsoft Plus! Companion - Sixties
The Spiral lens from the Science screensaver traverses a psychedelic background.
Windows 95: Microsoft Plus! Companion - Sports
Football strategies were chalked onto the board in this screensaver.
Windows 95: Microsoft Plus! Companion - The Golden Era
A blast from the past, this screensaver featured a man listening to a vintage radio show while reading a paper, together with images of radio announcers and antique phones, set to the sound of old radio shows and ringing phones.
Windows 95: 3DText
The 3D Text screensaver in Windows 95 OSR2 and Windows NT had a hidden feature that enabled it to display the names of 17 major volcanoes in the Northwest of the United States.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Wallpaper
Released on the same day as Windows 98, the Microsoft Plus! 98 Companion for Windows 98 featured a range of screensavers alongside the new utilities, games, and desktop themes.
The screensaver above submerged the desktop wallpaper, complete with ripples on the surface.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Photodisc
Among the various slides in this screensaver was this impressive shot of the moon.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Foxtrot
In a gag from the comic, this screensaver showed Quincy the iguana flying through the air while tied to a rocket.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Horror channel
This screensaver cycled through images from classic horror films.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Jazz
This lively offering put on a display of dancing musical notes.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Peanuts
This screensaver cycled through classic scenes from the famous comic strip, such as this image of Joe Cool and Woodstock.
Windows 98 - 3D Pipes
Windows 2000 - 3D Pipes Teapots Easter Egg
A later version of 3D Pipes in Windows 2000 had a secret feature that hid teapoints in the joints between pipes.
Windows 98: Flying objects
The classic Windows 98 screensaver.
Windows 98 - Flower Box
Windows 98: Space station
Windows 98: Jungle screensaver
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Architecture
The screensaver showed off a collection of what was, at the time, impressively rendered 3D objects.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Cathy
Hearts floated across the screen in this themed offering.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Cityscape
In this screensaver, different shapes, such as 3D blocks, pulled the wallpaper with them as they moved around the desktop.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Corbis Photography
Among the selected images displayed by this screensaver were this world famous photograph of Florence Owens Thompson taken during the Great Depression.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Sci-fi
This screensaver showed the desolate landscape of an alien world with bizarre creatures above its surface.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Rock n' Roll
Guitars filled up the display and formed intriguing patterns in this screensaver.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Doonesbury
Images from various comic strips were displayed by this screensaver, such as this example showing Mike Doonesbury video conferencing.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Fashion screen server
This screensaver added a bit of style to the desktop, showing a range of black and white images of models.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Garfield
There was no ignoring this screensaver, thanks to the boing sounds that accompanied Garfield and Odie bouncing across the screen.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Geometry
A screensaver that showed a mix of fascinating patterns formed by geometric shapes.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - World Traveller
This slideshow explored a collection of amazing photographs.
Windows 98: Microsoft Plus! 98 - Falling Leaves
Leaves drifted across the screen in this beautiful and calming screensaver.
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