In just a few short hours, Microsoft will release the Windows 8.1 update. While only an increase of .1 to the version number, that doesn’t accurately reflect the size of the update. Initially the general availability of Windows 8.1 was going to be the first chance everyone had to play with what’s new, Microsoft thankfully backed down and released it to MSDN subscribers early. Since then, I’ve been running it as my primary OS across my devices. When the update is released, you can head to the Store and it’ll be hard to miss with MS likely to push a feature tile for the update. Just download and install and you’ll have the new features.
As mentioned there’s a lot contained within this update and I’ll be publishing feature articles over the next few days regarding the changes. If you haven’t made the leap to Windows 8, then getting to Windows 8.1 is a little more difficult. There’s a variety of paths depending on your current OS, Windows 7 upgraders will have data saved, but not settings or apps. Vista and XP users should backup, format and install 8.1 from scratch.
So lets talk about how to get the update if you’re not running Windows 8 and you don’t have MSDN to download and install the ISO file via USB. Surprisingly there is still going to be boxed copy of the software, containing those old out-dated optical discs.
The good news about Windows 8.1 compared to the time when Windows 8 launched around a year ago, is that the changes make it dramatically more usable. Personally I seem to be able to adapt to change rapidly, however others felt strongly against the new. So here’s a summary of what’s new.
- Background can be set as Desktop background (strongly recommended)
- Multiple window snap sizes
- Tile sizes add large and tiny (reflects importance)
- Boot to desktop (enthusiasts / business will love this)
- Metro Settings more extensive (spend less time in the desktop)
- Lock screen slideshow
- SkyDrive Integration (One of the biggest changes)
- New default apps (Food + Wine, Health + Fitness, Help + Tips)
- Mail app updated (Serious improvement)
- Calendar app updated (Featuring new Today view)
- Photos app updated (introduces radial editing control)
- Updated Windows Store (New layout)
- New keyboard shortcuts (Winkey + S = Search)
- Support for high DPI displays
- Miracast support
- Automatic app updates (One of the best features)
- Start button returns (Least important)
It’s a decent update that really makes Windows 8 desktop and metro environments more like a single OS, rather than the two-headed monster it was before. The new Help and Tips app should go a long way to helping people get used to what’s new and should have been there from the start.
Don’t forget Windows RT users will also receive the update.