Upgrading to Windows 8.1: What You Need to Know

Microsoft has released the Windows 8.1 Pro Preview. It’s available as an upgrade to all Windows 8 users and an ISO will be provided soon. In the meantime, users can make the choice if they want to take advantage of Microsoft’s beta test of the first Service Pack for Windows 8.

Windows encourages users to create recovery media before upgrading to Windows 8.1. This ensures that if something goes wrong, you have a way to restore your PC to Windows 8.

By accepting the License Agreement for the upgrade to Windows 8.1, you agree that when the official 8.1 release comes out you have no issue reinstalling all Modern and desktop apps on your PC. They will be lost if you upgrade now as opposed to later, despite having a Microsoft Account that saves your app data and settings.

The upgrade process is straightforward. You head to Microsoft’s web site for the preview, download it and run the installer. Once the installer confirms your PC is eligible for the preview, you’ll restart your computer and then upgrade through the Windows Store. The whole process makes it easy for anyone to upgrade to Windows 8.1.

The process takes anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours depending on your PC setup. You’ll go through similar steps when you first upgraded or installed Windows 8 but as long as you have a Microsoft Account, all your Windows 8 settings are saved and imported into Windows 8.1.

The first thing you’ll notice after the upgrade is the changes to the Start screen.

windows-8.1-start-screen

You’ll see a new image-based background instead of the boring single color from before. Windows 8.1 offers a wider variety of backgrounds you can use for the Start screen and lock screen.

You’ll also see a down arrow at the bottom.

new-app-search-screen

If you click on that, you’ll be introduced to the new search and apps screen.

Windows 8.1 introduces a more streamlined approach to grouping, naming and resizing tiles on the Start screen.

new-sizes-for-tiles

Right-clicking on any app will give you the new resize option. Click on it to resize your apps into wide, medium, small or large. This will all depend on the type of tile.

Perhaps the biggest win and loss of the upgrade to Windows 8.1 is the Start Button. Windows 8 users were livid when the Start Menu was taken away. The Start Button, in theory, is the compromise for those users.

windows-8.1-start-button

At first glance, the Start Button is actually your Win + X Menu. While the Win + X Menu can be edited and added to, Microsoft has added some of the most wanted features to it. This includes Shut down options, quick access to the desktop and more management options. However, this wasn’t exactly what Windows 8 users had in mind when they asked for the Start Menu back.

IE 11 is also introduced.

IE 11

IE 11 looks the same on the outside but key changes in coding have made it quicker and more competitive with browsers like Chrome and Firefox. IE 11 introduced tab syncing but only IE 11 platforms. This means until Android, iOS and other Windows updates catch up, you may not actually be able to sync your tabs across sessions.

Web site tracking protection is improved in IE 11. IE 11 allows users to turn on and off tracking per web site as opposed to turning it on or off completely.

An interesting feature we noticed on the desktop comes in the way of the Help tile.

help-not-found-in-windows-8.1

However, I was disappointed clicking on it to find the feature coming soon. I’m looking forward to when Windows 8 introduces a truly Modern-inspired Help section for Windows 8 and RT users. This looks like the first step in the right direction.

Windows 8.1, so far, doesn’t seem as big of a deal as users made it seem. Windows lived up to its promises of what changes were added to make Windows 8 a better OS for users.

What do you think of Microsoft’s decision to release a preview of Windows 8.1? Are you going to upgrade? Let us know in the comments below!