Why You Need to Know
There are many times that you may need to know exactly what version of Windows you have installed on your home computer or your laptop. Any time that you have a technical issue with your computer and you have to seek help from an outside source, one of the first questions they will ask you is what version of Windows you currently have installed. This is important information for them to have, because each version is different. How Windows accesses files and where they are stored changes depending on the version of your particular operating system. It is also something that you'll need to know if you decide to upgrade your computer. If you don't know what your current version of Windows is, then you won't know whether a computer you are considering purchasing is an upgrade.
There are a few different ways to find out what version of Windows you are running and how Windows loads your files.
If you are still able to turn on your computer, watch the screen as it boots up. You will see a lot of information displayed, including which version of Windows you have. This is how Windows computers load up. This can be very helpful during tinmes of technical support, when your computer will turn on but will not load up the desktop or other programs that you would need.
If this goes by too quickly, have no fear. There are other ways to get this information if your computer can boot up, and if not, then you just have to restart the computer again.
If you are able to boot your computer up normally, then the best way to get specific information about your computer's operating system, and other information that is helpful during diagnostic testing, is to run the DirectX Diagnostic Tool. To do this, open your Start menu by clicking the icon at the bottom left of your desktop, on the task bar. Locate the 'Run' box, and type in 'dxdiag' (without the quotations). Press enter or click 'OK'. You will then see a window displayed on your screen with several tabs. On this first tab, you will see a line that says 'Operating System' followed by a colon and your version of Windows. There is a lot of other useful information in this window as well, so take the time to familiarize yourself with it. Knowing how Windows stores your information is important.
If for some reason you cannot access the DirectX Diagnostic Tool (which shows how Windows works), or your computer will not turn on at all, look at the outer part of your computer's tower - the large box that contains the brains of your PC. Somewhere on the outside there should be a label that lists the model of your computer. How Windows lists this would look something like "Win XP SP 1". You - or tech support personnel - could then look up the specifications of that model online to determine what version of Windows was installed on it at the time of manufacture.
Contact the manufacturer of your computer if no label is present, as they should be able to access your records and tell you what version of Windows the computer was sent to you with and how Windows was installed on your machine - by disk or by download.
If all else fails and you cannot access any of these methods, you will need to take your computer to a repair shop, where they can use specialized equipment and software to restore your files and tell you how Windows will run for you in the future.
Remember to write down any of the information a tech support person may ask you for. There are times that they may need for you to give them the information again if something that you try together does not work. This will save you time and prevent unnecessary repetition.
Take a little time to learn how Windows operating systems differ, so that you can find the one that fits you best.