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Introduction to Chinese Computing Support


Before the year of the millennium of last century, when Windows 95/98/ME was the dominant operating system used by most people, it was very inconvenient to read and edit any content of Chinese with a non-Chinese Windows. For instance, anyone who would like to read or edit Chinese contents in Windows 95/98/ME English edition, had to manually download and install a separate language pack from either Microsoft or third-party vendors such as UnionWay and NJStar to enable the language support. Furthermore, some users might still face some compatibility issues where they cannot view all Chinese characters correctly after the language pack installed.

Since the Windows 2000 and Windows XP era, Microsoft was kind enough to include the language pack within the same installation disk. Though it was not installed and enabled by default, this had provided a convenient way to enable the Chinese language support on any non-Chinese Windows without compatibility issue. However, inexperience users might still lack the knowledge on how to set it up correctly.

The good news is, most of the modern Windows such as Vista, 7, 8 and 10 have already had the language pack pre-installed by default. If you are using one of these modern Windows mentioned above, you will most likely not have any issue to read any content written in Chinese.

Besides that, you may want to know more than just to view Chinese characters in one of these modern Windows, such as to enter Chinese characters using a standard keyboard. This guide will brief you an introduction of Chinese computing support on Windows and the different components that you may need to configure further.

Character Encoding

Applications that show content in Chinese

There are 3 major parts in Chinese computing that any Windows-based system support natively. First and foremost, the most common usage is to display content with Chinese characters, such as documents, web pages and etc. If the system is not configured correctly, you will see boxes or garbage characters when you view the content that has Chinese characters.

Compare the Chinese content in Firefox that has the Unicode encoding disabled and enabled

Verify for existing support

Before we go any further, let's do some simple test to see whether your system has already been configured to display Chinese characters. First, please refers to the table below to make sure you set your browser to use the correct text encoding.

Browser Version Configuration
Chrome 39 - 54 Menu > More tools > Encoding > Unicode (UTF-8)
7 - 38 Menu > Tools > Encoding > Unicode (UTF-8)
Mozilla Firefox 39 - 50 Menu > View > Text Encoding > Unicode
1 - 38 Menu > View > Character Encoding > Unicode (UTF-8)
Internet Explorer 7 - 11 Menu > View > Encoding > Unicode (UTF-8)
= A reference of four lines of Chinese poem

Next, check with the section above. It has a four lines Chinese poem with a title. If the text content on the left to the equal sign is showing the same content as the picture on the right, then you have your system configured correctly to display the Chinese characters. If you only see boxes or garbage characters, then your system is yet to have the Chinese characters support.

Input Method Editor

Secondly, there are also some people who want to enter Chinese characters with a standard keyboard. Once the configuration is done, depends on the Windows version, you will see a language icon appears either in task barTaskbar Icon or system traySystem Tray Icon. And you will be able to switch between the native language and the Chinese input method.

Steps to input Chinese with a standard keyboard

System Locale

Finally, though they are rare, but a few people may want to use certain applications that only displays text in Chinese characters such as on the menu bar that does not show any language other than Chinese. All you need is to change the system locale to Chinese, so that it will encode any non Unicode characters to Chinese.

Compare application menu that has system locale set between non-Chinese and Chinese
Compare application context menu that has system locale set between non-Chinese and Chinese
NOTE: Some people may experience some side effects with this configuration, where some applications that were showing the native language before the configuration is now showing Chinese characters. This is because some applications are designed to support internationalization and localization, these applications will detect and show the language that your system locale set to.


If you are using one of those modern Windows such as Vista, 7, 8 or 10, and all you need is to browse web pages, read documents, emails that have Chinese characters, then you don't need to configure anything in your operating system. Legacy Windows such as 2000 and XP still need to install the language pack from the installation disk to enable you to view any content in Chinese.

Any versions of non-Chinese Windows editions do not come pre-configured with Pinyin keyboard. If you need to enter some Chinese characters, whether you are using a modern or legacy version of Windows, you will need to add a Pinyin keyboard through your control panel manually to activate the Chinese input method.

It is very rare that people need to change the system locale under most circumstances, therefore you do not need to change it until you discovered that one of your application only has a user interface that supports Chinese characters.

See also

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