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!

19 comments

    • Honestly, after using Windows 8 since it came out, I’ve learned the ins and outs of how it works so it works for me. I still using Windows 7, too, for certain things between two computers but Windows 8 really isn’t as bad as people say it is. It’s different, that’s for sure but it’s not horrible.

      • Melissa,

        I agree with you there.

        Microsoft needed to move forwards with their Windows Flagship OS. Microsoft took a gamble and it kind of worked, apart from the stereotype Die Hard Windows Style Guru who hated the changes Microsoft made to their beloved Windows OS. When I first got my hands on Windows 8 which I installed on my test-bed PC I soon got the hang of the changes and the new style. I couldn’t believe it when I seen a video of a young chap who just couldn’t work out hot to restart and/or shut down Windows 8. Oh for Gods sake, I worked with out within the first couple of seconds it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work it out.

        Now that Windows 8.1 is here the moaning has started all over again. Where is the start button. why can’t I find my installed software. Some people just need to be shown how to perform the simplest tasks.

    • WHAT?!?!?!!?? Win 8 trouces W7 performance wise. The modern/metro UI was a mistake, especially because you had to use 3rd party SW to avoid it, but apart from that, W8 has alot less bloatware, performs better, has no AERO eyecandies to bog doen the sys and so on.
      I HIGHLY recommend anyone how has the chance to upgrade, to do it!

      • yes, but why are they putting more bloatware into windows 8.1? They are making it worse, not better. skydrive can’t be uninstalled, and I don’t use it, so it is bloatware.

  1. With Windows 8 it’s the same as all new Operating Systems, It’s something new to get used to some like it some have complaints or hate it. I went from XP to 7 till I could get the 8 for the $14.99 download and disk for 64 bit. the only thing I have a problem about is that I had 2 Drivers knocked out going from 32 bit to 64 bit and have had problems getting the right Drivers because DELL say’s that they aren’t available for OptiPlex 755’s. Other than that I’ve learned to like 8 for the most part.

    • Dell drivers are the biggest pain on the Internet. I use two discontinued widescreen monitors from Dell and every time I have to reinstall/upgrade/new PC, I have to fight with Windows to get them to work. I’ve never had an issue eventually getting them to work, but it seems like each time I do it, it’s a different method.

  2. I installed the demo yesterday. Works great. I have held steadfast with 7, but as soon as this is available, I will change over.

  3. Windows 8 is actually a change from the old Windows OS that had a Desktop and Start Menu Windows 8 is just something that will take time for the Users to get used to After i started using Windows 8 I am not goin back to 7 thats 4 sure

  4. You know that recovery media you made before upgrading? You can’t make it in Windows 8.1. (Well, it’s still in command line, but this is Windows not Linux.)

    • This feature was purposefully turned off in the Windows 8.1 preview so that users wouldn’t create system recovery media for an incomplete beta. It will be reactivated and more easily available when 8.1 goes live later in the year.

  5. “Once the installer confirms your PC is eligible for the preview, you’ll restart your computer and then upgrade through the Windows Store”

    The Windows Store? Are you saying that the installer is a *web installer* and that Windows 8 is installed *over the Internet*??

    • Windows 8 itself if you opt to upgrade or buy it outright from the Microsoft store lets you install over the Web, Windows 8.1’s upgrade is the same.

      • There is one thing that some people find it very difficult to understand about Windows 8.1… Windows 8.1 is a free upgrade. but if you cannot be bothered with the upgrade you can buy the full version. I hate upgrading an OS mainly because the CAB files can become corrupt and all kinds of other things can happen. This is why I opted for the OEM.

  6. Dell are notorious for not updating their drivers. I would never buy a dell PC or laptop. Mainly because their put the cheapest components into their desktop PC’s and their laptops are just plain rubbish.

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