Amazon.co.uk Widgets
Microsoft, flag logo designed by Jonathan D. Cowles and Jeff Boettcher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A tweet about the hardware compatibility list for the MIPS, Alpha, and/or PowerPC versions of Windows NT caught my eye in my timeline

I had a lot of affection for the non-Intel releases of Windows NT 3.x back in the day. I seem to recall that Windows NT 3.1 was slow as slow can be compared to OS/2 back then on equivalent computers but NT 3.51 was fast! I went to the launch of Alpha AXP at Digital Equipment Co. with the catchy tagline "Imagine being the one without Alpha AXP" and they excitedly sent a couple of Alpha AXP desktop computers with Windows NT for Digital Alpha AXP on them for evaluation. Nothing we made ran on them at Lotus. Just like today, an 'Error in exe' or some such message was returned if an invalid binary was launched. Unlike today fat binaries were not a thing despite some early hints that perhaps they would be for NT. Anyway the Alpha AXP desktops were beautifully built computers as you'd expect from Digital, and they were fast for the time with what were big specifications. Importantly they never made it to the company books as they were on evaluation from Digital. This meant they were fair game to take home since they were also incapable of being used for anything much! Wheeling them out of Lotus Park reception one evening the CEO helped us load them into our cars, thanking us for working late as usual. We were grateful! In reality they weren't that useful for anything — apart from for learning Windows NT of course!

All those memories came back to me as I was reading the tweet and thinking, "I know I've read that hardware list somewhere, but where was it? This was when support was via ftp, and CompuServe.

TL:DR — I found it, it was distributed on the MSDN Platform archive CD at the time in HLP file format which has long been obsolete. You can however coax Windows 7 into loading it up if you have an old Windows XP CD kicking around. Details of how to do that below.

WINNT HCL Version 3.51 - from HCLMAY95.HLP

Here it is loaded in Windows 7. It came with NT 3.5.1 distributed with MSDN platform archive CD at least back in the 90s. I knew I had read it years ago. Its in .HLP format at this path WINNT351_WKS/FREE/SUPPORT/HCLMAY95.HLP if you have that CD. It is hard to open on modern Windows computers. Once you open it you can get from here to a list of all the supported computers with non-Intel processor architectures.

Windows NT Version 3.51 Hardware Compatibility list open in Windows 7 via XP's Help Viewer
Windows NT Version 3.51 Hardware Compatibility list open in Windows 7 via XP's Help Viewer

How to open a Windows HLP format helpfile nowadays

Find an old copy of Windows that shipped with Windows Help. The downloads have been removed from the update sites. I found one in the Windows directory of an old copy of XP.

winhlp32.eze 04 Aug 2004 284kb

Copy the file into your Windows 7 instance (for me a VM on VMware Fusion on an Intel-based Mac). Copy the HCLMAY95.HLP over to Windows 7 too, and launch Windows Help from where you can open the hardware compatibility list and browse away.

Post task Windows update

Windows 7 is out of support. I keep obsolete OS virtual machines hanging around for occasions such as this. I ran Windows update and to my surprise it found a couple of things and reports back 'all green'. So thats good. I can shut it down now until next time it's needed.

Screenshot of Windows 7 'up to date'
Screenshot of Windows 7 'up to date'