Review

Review: Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 is the start of something new for Microsoft. It’s a dynamic shift in strategy for its core OS and it is also a refinement to Windows 8, one that will likely shift the tide in terms of user perception. 

Prior to this release, Windows 8 had been a toss-up between a dramatic separation from the traditional Windows platform, and a push in creating a new user experience that is touch-friendly. The result was that Windows 8 was a hybrid OS - and consumer reaction to this was mixed, to say the least - but there were some glimmers of real innovation tucked inside the OS.

Windows 8.1 builds upon Windows 8 and includes many new features that were requested by consumers. The most obvious change is the return of the Start button, but not the Start menu, and the ability to boot directly to the desktop.

Even with the new features, will Windows 8.1 be enough to convince the crowd that stuck with Windows 7 that 8.1 offers big enough improvements to make the jump? Read the full review below to see what’s new with Windows 8.1.

Windows 8.1 is an upgrade to Windows 8 that will be delivered via the Windows Store. While you can acquire Windows 8.1 as a stand-alone product, for anyone that has Windows 8 installed, the 8.1 upgrade will be free.

Steve Ballmer referred to Windows 8.1 as a ‘refined blend’ of Windows 8 and many will likely agree. Or more specifically, most will probably say Windows 8.1 is what Windows 8 should have been when it launched last October.

The upgrade to Windows 8 has been significantly influenced by feedback from consumers, and the end result is a matured Windows platform that increases the usability and reduces the ‘new user frustration’ that many experienced when jumping from Windows 7 to Windows 8.

Windows 8.1 is not a service pack, by Microsoft’s definition, but it is a substantial update to Windows 8.


Windows 8.1 will feature an installation process that is familiar to those of you who have installed Windows 8. If you are upgrading from any other version of Windows, the install process is quite easy to understand and allows for customization right out of the box.

If you are upgrading from Windows 8, your files and apps will come along for the ride and the process will be quick and easy. You will only have to enter a few bits of information to get your machine up and running Windows 8.1.

If you are opting for a clean install of Windows 8.1, the process will feel much like Windows 8 too but with a few more customization options (new colors etc). But again, the process is quite easy to follow and no real surprises are included with the Windows 8.1 installer.

As with Windows 8, if you have a Microsoft account and you sign in once Windows 8.1 loads (assuming you are doing a clean install), all of your system settings will sync to your new setup. The same can be said too for the Windows Store: once you login with your Microsoft account, all of your purchased content will be available for download.

Microsoft has mastered the installation process and putting Windows 8.1 on your machine, with either an upgrade or a clean install, is a simple process. Long gone are the days of complex settings and screen after screen of blanks demanding to be filled. With only a few clicks, your machine will be up-and-running in very little time at all.


There are many places we could start with Windows 8.1, but the Start screen is one area that has seen some of the most dramatic changes when compared to Windows 8. Like Windows Phone 8, there are now more live tile size options that will make it easier to create your perfect start screen.

In addition to the new tile sizes, Microsoft has also enabled a ‘customize’ mode that makes it easier to transform your Start screen and reduces the amount of times that you accidentally resize or move a tile.

While these two features may not seem like much, they go a long way to improving the usability of the space and generally make the Start screen a bit more user-friendly.

One of my favorite features for the Start screen is the ability to match the background image to that of your desktop. Why is this important?The improvements to the Start screen are simple, but greatly improve usability. Well, with Windows 8, toggling between the desktop and the Start screen is a visual assault on your retinas if your background images are two different colors. By allowing you to use the same image (this is where the “Windows 8 should have had this” comes into play), the transition between the two interfaces feels much more natural. But we suspect that, even with this update, it will still not appease those who want the classic Start menu back as the usefulness of the modern interface is still debatable for the keyboard and mouse users.

For those of you who do live (and die) by your trusty keyboard and mouse, Microsoft has made the ‘All Apps’ section a bit easier to use with Windows 8.1 with a small arrow that you can click to reveal the all apps section of the modern UI. Additionally, you can configure the Start button to launch the ‘all apps’ section of the modern UI too. For those of you who still are not happy with this layout, I highly recommend that when you need to find an app, you hit your Windows button on your keyboard and start typing the name; this is easily the fastest way to find the program you are looking for and saves a few headaches along the way too.

If you want to read more about the customization options on the Start screen, make sure to check out our guide to customizing the Windows 8.1 Start screen.


It’s back! Kinda. Well, yes the button is back but what you really wanted was the return of the Start menu, which is not returning. Yes, Microsoft has put a button back in the beloved lower left hand corner that replaces that hot corner that Windows 8 utilized, but it does not offer more functionality than the hot corner it replaces.

The Start button is simply a toggle to open up the Modern UI, nothing more. Right mouse clicking the Start button pulls up a context menu but is still well short of the Start menu that Windows has utilized for the past couple of decades.

The return of the Start button is nothing more than a crutch to help users move from Windows XP and beyond to Windows 8.1. The button adds a bit of familiarity to the platform and does reduce the confusion for novice users who are new to Windows 8.1. Ultimately, this simple shortcut will likely get the most attention with Windows 8.1 but, in reality, it’s not that big of a deal as it doesn't add any real new functionality to the platform.               

Microsoft has improved the lock screen with Windows 8.1 as well to include options to make the lock screen have rotating images, just like on Windows Phone 8. Additionally, Skype is getting some lock screen love too as you can now answer calls from the VoIP service on the lock screen (other VoIP clients will offer this functionality too).

You can pull the images in locally or link your SkyDrive account as well use images from your personal cloud.

Aside from these small changes, the lock screen is still quite similar to that of Windows 8, which isn't all that surprising. The additional lock screen notifications do help in understanding what has happened to your accounts while you were away, but besides that, the lock screen is simply still a security wall between you and your content.


Microsoft has gone to great lengths to update many of the applications that ship with Windows 8.1. Everything from the Mail app to Xbox Video has received some sort of update with some being much larger than others. The updates vary from general improvements to significant updates, such as the Mail client which received a much-needed and quite substantial improvement.

All of the updates tend to improve the functionality of the core apps and are welcomed additions to the Windows 8.1 experience.

Mail

Microsoft has given the Mail application some love that it desperately needed and has fixed many of the shortcomings from the version that shipped with Windows 8. In fact, it felt like the initial Mail app with Windows 8 was rushed out the door, but the update for Windows 8.1 makes the Mail application a more suitable, full-featured client.

For those of you who use a Microsoft-based email account (such as Outlook.com), features like sweep, flagged messages andThe Outlook app has been significantly updated all of your other filters will now be imported to the client to allow you to effectively manage your mail within the app. Drag and drop is now also supported. With Windows 8.1, the Mail app will likely become a key part of your workflow. The client is now much more robust and a worthy companion to the Outlook email client many of us use in the corporate world. But unlike the Office Outlook client, this app ships for free with Windows 8.1.

Bing Apps

Microsoft has included a series of Apps with Windows 8.1 (and Windows 8) that all carry the Bing branding. Windows 8.1 ships with the following Bing apps: Finance, Weather, Maps, News and Sports. Windows 8.1 also introduces two new apps: Health and Fitness, and Food and Drink. All of these apps are well-designed, finger-friendly and do offer some casual entertainment, but we wouldn't necessarily call them ‘killer features’ for the platform.

Bing Maps also ships with Windows 8.1 and provides all the basic useful features you would expect of such an app. The app has the same feeling as the other apps in the Bing suite, with an app bar at the bottom and other general similarities that should make navigation quite easy for finding your favorite local pub... or more likely, looking at satellite images of your house.

The Bing suite does add a bit of content out of the box that some will find useful, and the design of the apps is generally bright and friendly, which should appeal to all audiences.

Calendar

The Calendar app for Windows 8.1 has been slightly updated from Windows 8 and now features a “What’s next” view that you will either learn to love, or it will drive you to find another calendar app. Once you get beyond the “What’s next”, the Calendar app is relatively unchanged from the previous version of the application but it does feel a bit smoother in operation.

Calendar applications have never really been all that exciting, but the Windows 8.1 Calendar app gets the job done.

Reading List

One of the new applications that Microsoft has built into Windows 8.1 is an app called ‘Reading List’. The name contains no surprises about what the app is used for, and for those of you who use a ‘read later’ service on other platforms, Reading List will be quite useful.

With Windows 8.1, you can add items to your Reading List using the Share charm, which is an easy way to aggregate your content into an easy-to-use application. We know that not everyone will use this app but it is a nice addition to the platform and enhances the OOBE for Windows 8.1. However, the app lacks an offline mode, which we would certainly expect in future updates. 

Help + Tips

One of the new apps, if you want to call it that, is a tutorial app that helps new users get adjusted to the Start screen. The app features several quick bits of information that demonstrate how to access the Charms bar, use the hot corners, pull up context menus using touch and a bunch of other helpful tips that new users may need.

It’s really a simple little application but the information This is the app that should have shipped with Windows 8found inside will likely help new users avoid frustrating experiences when they can’t locate a certain feature or how to access a context bar. Of all the new items in Windows 8.1, this is the one that we were most surprised that did not ship with. Windows 8. But, it looks like Microsoft listened to user feedback and voilà, a tutorial application for new users.

In addition to the tutorial app, Microsoft is also including tutorial boxes that will pop-up when using Windows 8.1 for the first time. These helpful boxes, while potentially a bit annoying for those of you updating from Windows 8, will again make the transition to Windows 8.1 from previous version of Windows much, much easier.

Internet Explorer 11

One of the biggest upgrades in the app section is the inclusion of Internet Explorer 11. One of the first things you will notice is that Microsoft has updated the UI in IE11 (in the modern app, the desktop app remains similar to IE10) which combines all of the action items in one location at the bottom of the screen. With IE10 in the modern UI, the action elements were split between the top and the bottom of the screen which resulted in you having to use two gestures to access key information.

Microsoft claims that modern IE11 builds upon IE10 in terms of being touch-optimized which is likely why the navigation bar has been updated to make it easier to use with one hand.

IE11 now also supports ‘pinned sites’ which allows you to take a favorite website and pin it to your Start screen with a live tile, provided the site has created a live tile for you to use. It’s a nifty feature and allows for quick access to frequently visited sites (but if you create too many, your Start screen can begin to get a bit crowded).

IE11 in the modern app and on the desktop does introduce a lot of new features and upgrades over IE10 including tab sync, which is likely the best feature for those of you who live in the Windows ecosystem. Simply put, your tabs sync across multiple devices so you can grab any device and pick up wherever you left off when you were browsing on your desktop or vice-versa.

Microsoft also introduced a ‘permanent tabs’ feature too, which is a new mode that allows you to display open pages and the URL bar permanently along the bottom of the window. This new mode is quite useful if you find yourself spending a lot of time in the modern version of IE11.

Among other additions to IE11 is that you can now open an unlimited number of tabs in the modern browser, there is WebGL support, improved snap browsing, and the ability to manage your favorites from inside the modern app.

IE11 can also automatically detect phone numbers and highlight them. When you click on the highlight, Skype will open and you can dial the number without having to get out of your seat. It’s a simple little feature when you need it, and it’s a great addition to the browser.

The updated browser also improves benchmark scores over the previous version of Windows, but benchmark scores are a bit redundant. What’s important is that the browser feels like it gets out of the way and allows you to simply view the content without interference or delay.

IE11, both the desktop and modern app, offer an improved experience over IE10 and that’s all that matters. Microsoft is making strides in support for web standards and usability and that, at the end of the day, is what’s most important for a web browser.

Xbox Apps

Microsoft has included an updated version of Xbox Music with Windows 8.1 and the update is one that was much needed. The previous version of the application was a pain to use when navigating your content, but the updated version of the app that ships with Windows 8.1 makes this process much easier.

It is now possible to do much of your listening and navigating from a single screen, but there aren't any new features, just an updated UI. Even with the simple UI changes, the end-user experience is much better in the new app.

The Xbox Video app does not appear to have received much of an update; if anything, it looks like the background color may have changed but that’s about it.


The Windows Store is still an odd experience in our opinion. The layout, while improved from the Windows 8 experience, still appears to be focused much on visual appeal over functionality. Yes, there are the top paid and top free lists and when you load the store it shows a couple of the better apps but something still feels a bit off.

It’s hard to put our finger on it, but when navigating the store, it still feels more like you are looking at an art gallery rather than a cohesive ecosystem of applications. Additionally, Microsoft still needs to find a way to remove apps that are A quick search for ‘Facebook’ in the Windows Store offers up a dizzying array of Facebook applicationsdesigned to mimic official applications. A quick search for ‘Facebook’ in the Windows Store offers up a dizzying array of Facebook applications,  and clutters up the genuine Windows experiences.

With the above being said, the Windows Store does work and its trial and update functions offer a great end-user experience. We only wish they could clean up the "crap-apps" and make it a bit easier to discover new ones, but Microsoft is moving in the right direction in terms of usability.


It’s clear that the updates with Windows 8.1 are targeted at making the new Start screen a more cohesive part of the workflow with Windows 8.1. Many of the updates with the .1 release are directly targeted at making the transitions and adoption of the Start screen a more native experience, but that doesn’t mean that Microsoft didn’t update the desktop too.

For those of you who want to live in the desktop world and are not in love with the hot-corners Microsoft introduced with Windows 8, there are new options available that will likely pique your interest. In the ‘Navigation properties’ panel, you can adjust how the hot corners respond to mouse movements. The toggles allow you to adjust how the desktop responds when you move your mouse into the upper right, or upper left corner. It’s a small ‘feature’ if you want to call it that, but for those of you who have been driven nuts by accidental engagement of the hot corners in Windows 8, this may be your favorite feature.

It is within this panel that Microsoft has included what many refer to as ‘boot to desktop’ but used the language, “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start”. By checking this, when you boot up your machine or log-in, you will end up on the desktop instead of the Start screen. Again, it’s a really small feature but for desktop users, it does save a bit of time on startup as you can avoid having to start your day in the Start screen, instead of your desktop.

Aside from these new options to disable some of Windows 8 features, there is not much else new for the desktop but this shouldn’t be a major surprise. Windows 8.1 is an upgrade, not a new OS, and while it feels like a service pack, it is much more than that.


Microsoft’s SkyDrive service is the cornerstone for linking many of its products together. With SkyDrive, syncing your files and folder structures across multiple devices becomes an easy step when you use the same SkyDrive account as your Microsoft account.

With Windows 8.1, SkyDrive is baked deep into the OS and allows you to use the cloud file system as a local storage option. Put simply, SkyDrive is on the path to replace your local drive--maybe not wholeheartedly in Windows 8.1 since SkyDrive has limited storage options--but that time is coming soon and this is how it all starts as SkyDrive is now a default file save location.

Because of the deep integration, Microsoft makes it quite lucrative to become a SkyDrive user. At this time, SkyDrive is available for all major mobile and desktop operating systems which means you can have all of your files with you no matter the device; a serious value proposition if we do say so ourselves.


Like SkyDrive, Microsoft has made search a pivotal part of the OS with Bing. When you use the search panel, you now not only search your local files, but also your apps, settings and can even go out to the web to pull in relevant content. Fundamentally, Microsoft has made the web part of the OS with this level of integration and this begins to blur the line between what is your desktop and what is the Internet. 

The updated search is actually quite useful, as it's typically easier to pull up the search bar than it is to open a web browser and then enter the information into the search field. For those of you who want to limit your searching, you can do so by clicking on ‘everywhere’ and selecting the appropriate mask.

The search integration is quite useful and a feature that we have been using quite frequently during our evaluation of Windows 8.1; it’s one of those features you may not instantly use but once you understand how best to use it, you quickly see the value of having search so readily available.


Microsoft loves to tout in its commercials that Windows 8 allows you to run your favorite app next to your favorite app. Well, with Windows 8.1, you can run your favorite app, next to your favorite app, next to your favorite app (appception!) and so on, as Microsoft has expanded the snapping capabilities in Windows.

In Windows 8.1 you can now snap apps to have them show side-by-side with each taking up 50% of the screen, or if you have a screen with a high enough resolution, you can snap even more windows on your screen giving you a true multi-tasking experience.

For desktop users this may not be a huge feature, but for those of you who use a tablet, the option to adjust the size of the apps when snapped, and to have more than 2 apps in view is a great addition.

Windows 8.1 is a welcomed upgrade for Windows 8 and for those of you who are already running the latter, the free upgrade is highly recommended.

Windows 8.1 is what Windows 8 should have been as it makes the transition from the traditional desktop to the hybrid OS much easier for the end user. By refining the transition mechanisms, giving users more options for the modern UI and thankfully allowing ‘boot to desktop’ to be turned on by default, Windows 8.1 feels like a mature platform.

It's not without fault though: the Start button, while back, will likely not appease those who are still holding out for the Start menu to make a return, and even though Windows 8.1 has made strides in giving consumers more options, the jump to the modern UI still feels a bit forced and not like a natural part of the desktop experience.

For those of you who love Windows 7 and hated Windows 8, it’s a toss-up when using a desktop if the additions to Windows 8.1 will be enough to sway your opinion.

Microsoft is certainly moving in the right direction though, and if you feel that Windows 8.1 didn’t go far enough to appease classic desktop users, Windows 8.2 (or whatever Microsoft will release next year), is not too far away thanks to the new rapid release cycle.

Ultimately, Windows 8.1 is a big step up in the usability department over Windows 8 and for that, Microsoft has done a good job listening to user feedback. While Windows 8.1 will unlikely win over Gabe Newell’s opinion any time soon, if you enjoyed Windows 8, you are going to love Windows 8.1.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Halo 3 currently free to download for Xbox Live Gold members

Next Story

PlayStation 4 features and UI shown off in leaked video

120 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Still an operating system not intended for standard desktop, laptop, mouse and keyboard use. Hope the surface and the operating system they designed for it is working well for them. Maybe one day they will see the error of their ways, but it's doubtful.

Until then, Windows 7 will continue to work just fine no matter how many subservient features they attempt to throw at us to justify their nonsense.

It's perfectly well designed for standard desktop/laptop mouse and keyboard use. I've been using it for well over a year now just great with a mouse and keyboard. That the new Start Menu is "touch only" or "not mouse friendly" is stupid FUD I keep hearing over and over.

/*sorry for my english, i'm not native english speaker

Everybody knows that 8.1 is what 8.0 should have been, so i'm not surprised it's free. Anyway it has still that unfinished look'n'feel. Technologicaly it may be advanced, well optimized system but his aesthetics is rushed..

It begins with old style Vista-like installer and OS itself is still full of Aero styled icons. How many icons may be inside explorer.exe, shell32.dll and imageres.dll? Every geek can change them with rechacker during a day so how long it would take for MS to replace obsolete Aero icons with new, simpler style?

Even if under the hood are excellent technologies and 8.1 is the best Windows OS, Microsoft is still not able to polish UI aesthetics what is ****ing me off. They don't even need to design a new icons, perfectly re-usable resources are in Office 2013 which is full of simple, beautiful icons. IMO they simply does not care..

Laco said,
/*sorry for my english, i'm not native english speaker

Everybody knows that 8.1 is what 8.0 should have been, so i'm not surprised it's free. Anyway it has still that unfinished look'n'feel. Technologicaly it may be advanced, well optimized system but his aesthetics is rushed..

It begins with old style Vista-like installer and OS itself is still full of Aero styled icons. How many icons may be inside explorer.exe, shell32.dll and imageres.dll? Every geek can change them with rechacker during a day so how long it would take for MS to replace obsolete Aero icons with new, simpler style?

Even if under the hood are excellent technologies and 8.1 is the best Windows OS, Microsoft is still not able to polish UI aesthetics what is ****ing me off. They don't even need to design a new icons, perfectly re-usable resources are in Office 2013 which is full of simple, beautiful icons. IMO they simply does not care..


No problem understanding your english, and totally agree: desktop icons desperately need a refresh to go with the rest of the new look.

iwillneverstop said,
let's see,flip or flop

Definitely a flop. No matter what fanboys at neowin make you believe. The beauty of pudding is in eating it and the success of Win 8 is it in sales numbers, which MS always fear to declare.

Very thorough review, Brad, and there are some nice usability tips in there.

You might want to go back and proofread it again, though. Major typos and editing needs.

One thing I have to say, though. Did anyone here noticed how slow certain Metro apps take to start? Slower than Desktop applications.

As a desktop user it's still unusable without at least ModernMix. This allows the 1 or 2 metro apps I actually use sensibly in an environment that I find productive.

Other than that it's no different to my (improved) Version of 8. This means using tools like Start8/MM to hide most of the awful messy "app at a time" metro UI junk that is both unproductive outside of a touch environment and get back to using my PC as a PC without annoying sidebars and corners providing me nothing but junk.

Unplugged said,
As a desktop user it's still unusable without at least ModernMix. This allows the 1 or 2 metro apps I actually use sensibly in an environment that I find productive.

Other than that it's no different to my (improved) Version of 8. This means using tools like Start8/MM to hide most of the awful messy "app at a time" metro UI junk that is both unproductive outside of a touch environment and get back to using my PC as a PC without annoying sidebars and corners providing me nothing but junk.

You do know that you can stack 3+ apps across your monitors, right?

So I'm guessing the artists at Microsoft are too lazy to implement gradients/textures? Or wasn't there enough budget for artists?

drewho said,
gradients/textures are dead.....get with it
Why haven't Google/Apple completely overhauled their UI guidelines then? Excel through SkyDrive is such a bore to use. I just can't stand THAT dark green and the high contrast of white. It's just so depressing. I guess to you (and Dot Matrix) they're just "wow".

Put simply, we just have a different UI tastes - you use your theme, I use mine. Obviously our roads will never meet.

But seriously, Excel - try using it for a week (instead of Excel 2007/2010)...

68k said,
Why haven't Google/Apple switched? Excel through SkyDrive is such a bore to use. I just can't stand THAT dark green and the high contrast of white. It's just so depressing. I guess to you (and Dot Matrix) they're just "wow".

Put simply, we just have a different UI tastes - you use your theme, I use mine. Obviously our roads will never meet.

But seriously, Excel - try using it for a week (instead of Excel 2007/2010)...

A week? I've been using it for the past year. The flat simple colors are less distracting. I don't need gradients - just look at iOS7, they're horrible. The flat, simplistic look of digital design is what's in right now, and both Apple and GOogle have been switching to that.

Dot Matrix said,

A week? I've been using it for the past year. The flat simple colors are less distracting. I don't need gradients - just look at iOS7, they're horrible. The flat, simplistic look of digital design is what's in right now, and both Apple and GOogle have been switching to that.

We have very different tastes with UI design, and that's fine with me.

68k said,
We have very different tastes with UI design, and that's fine with me.

Seriously, you need to refresh your sense of aesthetics.

Windows 8.1 DOES have gradients. They are just far more subtle and less in-your-face, making for a much more readable interface that emphasises presentation of CONTENT instead of the design itself.

You must have noticed that Apple and Google's design (amongst others) has been getting steadily flatter since Windows 8 debuted (in fact, since Windows Phone 7 came out a couple years before that).

I'm loving 8.1 on my HTPC, but i still can't get my head around the design decisions for metro on a desktop OS. It should have had 2 different versions. when i'm on desktop i get a different internet explorer, the 2 photo viewers, metros is absolutely dreadful and basically anything metro slows you down whilst you wait for the splash screen to do its thing. I've never used this on a tablet but i imagine it would look and feel very nice, it would be something as simple as making the windows apps default over the metro apps. or offering a choice when you setup windows "Do you want traditional windows, or metro?" but no, they force you into something thats not really viable on a desktop.

But, i can get my head around it, for my use its great, i love it on the big screen the start screen works well, i can see bigger icons easier to navigate from the couch and get little live tiles with weather and news n photos n stuff...

Uhh updated this as I expected some drivers needed update which I did but before I did that I keep on getting a message saying System32 file missing, WTF?! Seriously, why do I always issues when updating Windows but never with Macs?

Best review I've seen concerning Windows 8.1:

"Windows 8.1: Microsoft's Most Bipolar Operating System Ever"

I'll keep running my Windows 8.7... Windows 8 with a *real* Start Menu and keeping the Start Screen from ever appearing on my desktop. Between Classic Shell and MetroMix, I have the Windows 8 that should have been offered but never was...

all the bickering......

I hear echos of the Win95 release, and again of WinXP. Nothing has changed in Windows land. All it's users are a bunch of luddites.....

<ducks and runs for cover> ;-P

17 hours? Is the release on 10/18 at the international date line? I thought they might roll it out by timezone to smooth out the load.

Edited by Screw this Nazi Site, Oct 16 2013, 11:48pm :

I think most users forget that if you already own Windows 8, you can update to 8.1 FOR FREE.
So that is a no-brainer for updating it yes or no.

I was an avid anti windows 8 user. I swore to use windows 7 until the wheels fall off.

Now... with 8.1 installed.. I'm extremely happy with 8.1 because I actually don't have anything to do with the new start feature but the plus for me that even my wife noticed was how damn fast it boots to the logon screen BOOM!

Imagine if MS had made a push to educate and train users on how to search the Windows Vista/7 Start Menu upon release. I look at all the people at work using the click Start - click All Programs - find the app in question... I want to ask why are you using Windows 7 like it is Windows 95?

Imagine if they had pushed the newer ways to use the Start menu, (personal opinion) the transition to Windows 8 would be easier. You'd already be used to the behavior while performing the same number of key presses between the 2 (in most cases).

Tap Start key, type in app name, press enter.

Not interested. I got win 8 with startisback and not using anything related with ugly metro. The only reason I got Win 8 was because it was $15 , dual monitor support and ribbon on explorer. I guess Win 8 will be last Win OS for me.

Auditor said,
Not interested. I got win 8 with startisback and not using anything related with ugly metro. The only reason I got Win 8 was because it was $15 , dual monitor support and ribbon on explorer. I guess Win 8 will be last Win OS for me.

You sir have no taste. Modern UI is the future, all OS are moving toward the flat icon look and away from ugly skeumorphic pseudo-3d pictorial logos.

Hate change! Change is bad! Change is the enemy! Change go away! LOL

james.faction said,

You sir have no taste. Modern UI is the future, all OS are moving toward the flat icon look and away from ugly skeumorphic pseudo-3d pictorial logos.

Hate change! Change is bad! Change is the enemy! Change go away! LOL

Do you feel better now since you finished your rant.

Lone Wanderer Chicken said,
Windows 8.1 in my view really is a service pack. It is Windows 8.1 and the 1 means service pack 1.

Wrong.

The download is a FULL OS that you can install on a blank HDD. Can't do that with a service pack.

Technically it is a version increment on the kernel too: Vista was 6.0, Windows 7 was 6.1, Windows 8 was 6.2, Windows 8.1 is 6.3.

So we should really be calling this Windows 6.3, LOL.

complex settings and screen after screen of blanks demanding to be filled. With only a few clicks, your machine will be up-and-running in very little time at all.

You mean LIKE THE TIME ZONE!?!?!?!?!?!?!

i would say 1/2 of the windows 8 machines I come across are still set on Pacific standard time.

You'd be amazed! ... But XP, Vista, 7 they all let you change the time zone during setup. The Fact that an OS just defaults to a time zone is retarded.

It doesn't.

I've set up Windows 8 and 8.1 (and Server 2012) many times now - it asks where you are. Then sets time zone accordingly. This is a VAST improvement from previous versions of windows where you have to tell Windows where you are and what language you speak repeatedly. MS finally has this right.

You get a problem with the timezone if you click straight past the locale - or the stupid shop you bought it from clicked past it for you.

Thanks, but no thank you. We'll be staying with Windows-7. Struggling to keep making a profit is much more important that having to go through the major upheaval of a new OS with its new UI. Retraining staff, installing kludges and add-on to simulate the Windows-7 UI, or, to take advantage of the Metro UI, having to replace perfectly good hardware. Moving from XP to Windows-7 was nasty enough, not to mention the expense. Doing a repeat performance anytime soon? No.

You might consider staff changes if they're having such a difficult time with relatively simple upgrades. I'd hate to see what happens if they need to upgrade something substantial like an ERP system.

Spicoli said,
You might consider staff changes ....

Exactly.
I've never understood training as a reason not to upgrade.
Usually the benefits of a new OS outweigh the training costs.
I watched the video at first log on, I was trained in hot corners instantly.
Once I found the desktop, it was like home again. Then I get this whole new UI / runtime paradigm that will let my windows machine run lightweight apps that are all the rage in the tablet market.

I'm all in!

TsarNikky said,
Thanks, but no thank you. We'll be staying with Windows-7. Struggling to keep making a profit is much more important that having to go through the major upheaval of a new OS with its new UI. Retraining staff, installing kludges and add-on to simulate the Windows-7 UI, or, to take advantage of the Metro UI, having to replace perfectly good hardware. Moving from XP to Windows-7 was nasty enough, not to mention the expense. Doing a repeat performance anytime soon? No.

This is exactly what the problem is. We have a desktop, keyboard, mouse, environment in my office. Why should I spend thousands of dollars in training and lost production and be forced to upgrade new hardware, when it will not increase efficiency nor increase profitability? That's not including future troubleshooting and training issues that crop up later.

frett said,

This is exactly what the problem is. We have a desktop, keyboard, mouse, environment in my office. Why should I spend thousands of dollars in training and lost production and be forced to upgrade new hardware, when it will not increase efficiency nor increase profitability? That's not including future troubleshooting and training issues that crop up later.


You shouldn't.

frett said,

This is exactly what the problem is. We have a desktop, keyboard, mouse, environment in my office. Why should I spend thousands of dollars in training and lost production and be forced to upgrade new hardware, when it will not increase efficiency nor increase profitability? That's not including future troubleshooting and training issues that crop up later.

You don't need new hardware for Windows 8. It will run on anything that ran Windows 7.

To move to 8.1 you don't need new hardware. Windows 8/8.1 has LOWER system requirements than Windows 7.

I disagree with that part of the article that says the modern UI and Start Menu is for touch/tablet users only. This myth has been around since 8 came out. Works just great with me on my non-touch laptop and if anything is easier to use than 7.

james.faction said,
To move to 8.1 you don't need new hardware. Windows 8/8.1 has LOWER system requirements than Windows 7.

I disagree with that part of the article that says the modern UI and Start Menu is for touch/tablet users only. This myth has been around since 8 came out. Works just great with me on my non-touch laptop and if anything is easier to use than 7.

1) Win8/8.1 has exactly the same requirements as win7, get your facts straight.

2) The whole win8 stupidity is the result of touch screen & gamepad friendly UI (Win phones and XBox respectively). I am glad that you can use it but for me a FULL SCREEN CALCULATOR is severely retarded on a 1080p 24in monitor!

Great review, Brad. Looks classy, is thorough and honest and a good read. Deserves all the attention it's getting and then some

Awesome article, Sam!!!
BTW, I love Windows 8.1. I'm deep into the MS ecosystem with hundreds of purchased apps already. Carry on Microsoft, carry on.

I really hope they will make something like "desktop app menu" in place of start menu. Right now Classic Shell or Start Menu Reviver are essentials.

And...my lockscreen slide stop functioning after using 8.1 RTM for some time (2-3 weeks). Same way as in 8.1 preview.

That's already there in the toolbars. I think that's been there since Vista. Right click on the taskbar and you can select them off the toolbars sub-menu. If you select New toolbar and select C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs you get menu very much like the old start menu.

There's also.
Create new shortcut on desktop. input the following

explorer shell:::{2559a1f8-21d7-11d4-bdaf-00c04f60b9f0}

save it, give it an icon with a Windows logo and drag it onto your task bar.

gadjah said,
I really hope they will make something like "desktop app menu" in place of start menu. Right now Classic Shell or Start Menu Reviver are essentials.

And...my lockscreen slide stop functioning after using 8.1 RTM for some time (2-3 weeks). Same way as in 8.1 preview.

It's not essential... at all. Just adapt and stop complaining about issues that are not even there.

Spicoli said,
Will the upgrade be an ISO download of the full install disk? I've got 4 systems to update and downloading for each one will take a while.

ISOs are available arm on TechNet/msdn/msdnaa so i guess they will be available also to the general public!

I only have one complaint. To use SkyDrive you have to convert from a local account to a Microsoft Account. All the other apps let you sign in on an app-by-app basis; why not SkyDrive too? I don't want my files in the cloud and I don't want them synced across devices. I just want to put a few files on SkyDrive so I can access them on the go.

Steven Parker said,
Use the web version then

That kind of defeats the point though.
Apps are supposed to be there to make it easier then using a webpage, or we'd just continue to use webpages and stay on Windows 7.

Of course, you could argue that Microsoft is forcing the users hand to suck them into converting into a Microsoft account so they're latched onto their app eco system via SkyDrive and of course by extension the rest of the apps.

riot said,
I just want to put a few files on SkyDrive so I can access them on the go.

Then they are in the cloud, which you said you don't want to do. To access them on the go then you need them in the cloud, or have remote access to the PC they are stored on.

Couldn`t see it mentioned anywhere and can`t be arsed searching for it so i`ll ask here Does anyone know if the`ve upped the file upload size in the Metro (ney! Modern) client for windows 8.1.
Why it`s only 100MB on win 8 i don`t know, but if i install the desktop client it becomes 2GB, i think.

Still no reason to update,Oh dear. Ive had all version of Windows since 1. This is the first I will not buy or use. I'm sure those using it, think its great but not for my use, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.

"Even with the new features, will Windows 8.1 be enough to convince the crowd that stuck with Windows 7 that 8.1 offers big enough improvements to make the jump?"

"No". grumpycat.jpg

Anarkii said,
"Even with the new features, will Windows 8.1 be enough to convince the crowd that stuck with Windows 7 that 8.1 offers big enough improvements to make the jump?"

"No". grumpycat.jpg

I really disliked Windows 8 - really, really disliked it. I'm planning to wipe my Windows 7 machine and give Windows 8.1 a shot and see if the things they've fixed are enough for me to warm to it. I've seen a few bits and pieces and some areas of improvement in specific areas that annoyed me so.. will see how it goes!

If your not sure whether you like Win8 or not. I suggest dual booting it besides Win7.
Although customizing it to look and work like Win7 isn't much work.

No review of 8.1 running on Surface or Surface Pro? Or will those be separate? My ol' RT got a new life big time with 8.1 in form & functionality..

Been using 8.1 for a month or so now. See no reason to go "back" to Windows 7.

As for the start button, I don't miss it. Even in Windows 7 i barely ever used it, mostly to shut down and that was about it.

I have Win 8.1 on desktop, laptop, and it will be on the Surface Pro 2 I get next week, I like it. I realize other don't, that's fine, we should all use what we like best.

Good article Brad.

One thing is weird is that the xbox music app is _behind_ the version that was available on the preview last month. maybe we'll have a few surprises on friday ?
On the current version there is no "Now Playing" section - this was added last month. And the search results still show the old layout.

honestly, if they just get rid of the hidden UI crap and allow windows store apps to run on the windowed desktop and taskbar, in addition to creating a metro version of the taskbar, then that will put a stop to the vast majority of complains.

You keep bring that **** up. You truly do not understand what MS are trying to do and think you're so clever with your stupid ideas. So heres the painfully obvious: Metro isn't a replacement for the desktop and isn't intended to function like the desktop at all. This is why the desktop is still there.

If Metro worked like the desktop with windowed apps and a taskbar... then whats the point of making a new UI in the first place, when its just the same thing as before?? It would be an utter failure on touch screen devices as well, like past MS attempts, because it wouldn't be designed with touch input in mind from the start.

neonspark said,
honestly, if they just get rid of the hidden UI crap and allow windows store apps to run on the windowed desktop and taskbar, in addition to creating a metro version of the taskbar, then that will put a stop to the vast majority of complains.

Exactly. Get rid of the Charm Bar, Metro switcher and hot corners; use the taskbar for Metro apps and have it visible at all times; unify system gestures; and allow Metro apps to run in a window on the desktop - those changes would dramatically improve usability.

Windows 8 / 8.1 is a decent operating system made worse by the hamfisted implementation of Metro.

If you hate how it comes out of the box so much. Here's a tip for you.
GOOGLE!

Or just visit a magical place like wincustomize.com, your mind will be blown.

Stop complaining at how it looks out of the box when with 5 minutes work (less) you can disable the hot corners, disable start screen and jam a start menu back to your corner.

MS isn't forcing you to use all the new modern stuff. Just because YOU want it YOUR way, MS shouldn't change entire Windows for you. They try to find a good middle-way for EVERYONE. Want it different, fine, enjoy customizing your windows to suit your needs.
Its Linux's (only) strong point people keep for argumentation why Linux is better than Windows.... While the customization level of how you control your OS and how it appears. Is identical and probably even better/more on Windows.

I'd like MS to give me the option to run desktop apps in the Metro side, so I don't have Mail and Nightly and Skype running in Metro, and my legacy apps crammed into the one "Desktop" panel in the Metro running apps list on the left.

At the very least, making the Metro side more aware of the individual desktop programs would be a plus. As it is, it feels like I'm running Win 7 in a VM, rather than running an integrated part of the same OS.

Shadowzz said,
If you hate how it comes out of the box so much. Here's a tip for you.
GOOGLE!

Or just visit a magical place like wincustomize.com, your mind will be blown.

Or I could criticise what I don't like and hope that Microsoft responds, like it did by reintroducing the Start Button and adding shut-down options to the right-click menu.

I like the desktop improvements provided in Windows 8 / 8.1, even the Start Screen (though there's plenty of room for improvement), but I dislike the implementation of Metro, like many other users around here. Why do you have such a problem with people disliking elements of Windows 8 and suggesting ways to improve it? Do you think your opinion is more important than ours?

ye but

Exactly. Get rid of the Charm Bar, Metro switcher and hot corners; use the taskbar for Metro apps and have it visible at all times; unify system gestures; and allow Metro apps to run in a window on the desktop - those changes would dramatically improve usability.

Telling MS to get rid of new features me and many enjoy? I'm sure the majority of Windows 8 users after getting off the bandwagon use these features.
And windowed Modern apps defeats the purpose MS is trying to achieve with its new Modern direction.
I and many in my surroundings hide the taskbar cause its wasting space. Its a giant hot 'corner' now to bring it in view, whats different with the app switcher for Modern?

Yeah there's plenty of room for improvement. Do not disable the customer experience feedback junk MS puts in Windows and its products. And just use it like you want to. And they'll get the feedback of it.

blasting around your opinion like MS should adapt to your individual personal needs is useless and it is never going to happen.

Shadowzz said,
Telling MS to get rid of new features me and many enjoy? I'm sure the majority of Windows 8 users after getting off the bandwagon use these features.

It's not a bandwagon. There are legitimate criticisms to be made regarding the usability of the current implementation of Metro, which is one of the reasons for the changes seen in Windows 8.1.

Shadowzz said,
And windowed Modern apps defeats the purpose MS is trying to achieve with its new Modern direction.
I and many in my surroundings hide the taskbar cause its wasting space. Its a giant hot 'corner' now to bring it in view, whats different with the app switcher for Modern?

And having Metro apps run in full screen or in split mode defeats the purpose of Windows, which is the ability to multitask. Further, it's absurd to criticise the taskbar for wasting too much space while defending Metro - just compare Mail (or any other Metro email app) to Outlook and tell me which has more wasted space and which has better functionality. A lot of the time Metro apps simply scale to the available screen size, leaving up to two-thirds of the display blank.

This is what XE.com looks like: http://img13.imageshack.us/img13/3669/z1c7.jpg
This is what Random Password Generator looks like: http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/255/ucfu.jpg
This is what Calculator looks like: http://img18.imageshack.us/img18/7986/somk.jpg
This is what Travel looks like: http://img607.imageshack.us/img607/2290/xpls.jpg

As you can see there's huge amounts of wasted space that could be eliminated by simply having them run in a window. I don't want to remove functionality from Metro, I was to see it improved to make it usable on the desktop. I don't have a problem with the Charm Bar on tablets but it simply isn't suited to the desktop; same with the Metro switcher. I like the Start Screen but the way it hides the taskbar impedes multitasking in a way that the Start Menu didn't.

Why are you so opposed to making improvements to Metro for the desktop?

Yeah it surely lacks some. But so did the desktop and start menu in Windows 95. Geesh

And blaming apps for their crappy support or little information on giant resolutions isn't Modern's or Microsofts fault. I can give you MILLIONS of similar useless screenwasting applications for the desktop too! Ever only opened a calculator on the desktop? Or that thing the size of 4 icons fills up and takes the most out of your screen real estate.
The apps you grab to use in this argument... seem to aimed for being loaded in the side-bar. Not as main.

It doesn't magically improve just because it becomes a bordered window.

And the ability to run Modern apps in a window are there already. Just because it doesn't come included with Windows 8 is nothing to moan about.
For good reason not everything everyone wants in Windows. Or do you wish to install a 3tb OS just to suit everyone's needs?

NoClipMode said,
You keep bring that **** up. You truly do not understand what MS are trying to do and think you're so clever with your stupid ideas. So heres the painfully obvious: Metro isn't a replacement for the desktop and isn't intended to function like the desktop at all. This is why the desktop is still there.

If Metro worked like the desktop with windowed apps and a taskbar... then whats the point of making a new UI in the first place, when its just the same thing as before?? It would be an utter failure on touch screen devices as well, like past MS attempts, because it wouldn't be designed with touch input in mind from the start.

The point is, metro should be adaptable. On the desktop it makes absolutely no sense to force apps to be fullscreen and to have everything hidden behind hot-corners. It absolutely makes sense on tablets/phones, but for the desktop forcing it to act like this is the very definition of "shoehorning" metro onto the desktop without optimizing it.

An optimized metro that properly adjusts its behavior depending on whether its on a tablet or a desktop would allow windowed apps and have taskbar integration.

theyarecomingforyou said,

It's not a bandwagon. There are legitimate criticisms to be made regarding the usability of the current implementation of Metro, which is one of the reasons for the changes seen in Windows 8.1.

And having Metro apps run in full screen or in split mode defeats the purpose of Windows, which is the ability to multitask.

I do want to say that I actually think calculator will support multitasking better than the desktop with it's snapped view.

I've been using 8 as my workstation for a while now, I had resisted. While "in" a metro app, particularly remote desktop if you use it a lot, the UI can be more productive, yet, it's difficult to navigate touch elements like the app bar and charms bar, so a facility had to be built in to access these on the remote client from a menu. The other major issue is changing apps quickly when you have many open. Missing on the app bar, or accidentally hitting it when you want to close or even use the file or app menu on a maximized desktop app can result in a flurry of app switching (if your machine is fast enough and mine is) and you just have to stop and gather yourself. An easy solution would be the ability to pin modern ui apps to the taskbar. The inability to easily customize the start menu is something we're just now looking at, and there's no facility to auto-start modern ui apps that I know of.

It was made for touch but it is an interesting and usable blend. But yeah, there's a lot missing and the more you actually use it for productivity, the more inefficiencies you will find. Let's hope things keep improving.

theyarecomingforyou said,
..... Metro apps run in full screen or in split mode defeats the purpose of Windows, which is the ability to multitask. Further, it's absurd to criticise the taskbar for wasting too much space while defending Metro ...

Well you only have yourself to blame. Everyone who opts out of customer experience improvement program loses a voice in the next development cycle.

Change the aggregate telemetry data by contributing and you'll see the product sway in your favor.

The problem is that Windows 8.x is a desktop release for most of the Windows users. Only a few use the touch stuff on the poorly selling Surface tablets, so Metro is completely superfluous to them and just in the way. Unless they have some S&M interest and actually use Metro in a desktop environment, which is about as intelligent as using Windows 7 on a touch display.

deadonthefloor said,

Well you only have yourself to blame. Everyone who opts out of customer experience improvement program loses a voice in the next development cycle.

Incorrect..... This isn't a democracy where if you don't vote your forced with something you don't like. This this case Microsoft is forced to change when people don't buy the thing. In this case Customer Experience looses twice by providing a view that only a few want and most don't.

Unplugged said,

Incorrect..... This isn't a democracy where if you don't vote your forced with something you don't like. This this case Microsoft is forced to change when people don't buy the thing. In this case Customer Experience looses twice by providing a view that only a few want and most don't.


So you can give Microsoft feedback on how you use the OS and many others.
No instead you do not give feedback and wait until it is to late so you can b*tch and moan about it?

really dude?

What I noticed when I ask is that most that do not like the changes done to Windows 8, disabled customer experience. Well though titty.

MS is not forced to change it, or do you see a start menu? windowed modern apps?
No you do not. they are NOT going to change their current ways back to the old ways, is not going to happen. The majority does not really care how an OS works and/or looks like and just want it to open "The internet" (or for most people, the blue E).
I've seen people moving from XP to Win8, ye it takes a few days of finding your way around. But after a few weeks, people don't want to go back to older Windows'.

And most people have build in bandwagon hatred because the select few that b*tch and moan about anything MS does and never give back any feedback besides pointing fingers AFTER the matter...

Also Customer Experience give the view MOST people want, because MOST people do not disable Customer Experience. its the whiny people who been hating on MS and its direction that always disable this.

Raa said,
Some welcome changes for sure. But still not quite enough for me to make the move.

I think the same, MS is trying to sell 8.1 as a game changer. For me, it is not.

Raa said,
Some welcome changes for sure. But still not quite enough for me to make the move.

http://i.imgur.com/DS5LsyR.jpg

If this was an option, where exclusive mode meant that you only had access to either Windows 8 Metro interface (no desktop access), or Classic where you only had access to the desktop with start menu, but no Windows 8 metro (including start screen). Turning off exclusive mode and have it as windows 8 is now...

Would you have made the move to Windows 8? I think everyone would, and it would have dominated Windows 7 already by now.

Unfortunately Microsoft are too busy having to create a eco system for their app market space before it's too late,.. a fine line between killing off Windows and keeping Microsoft reverent long term.

Right. The goal of metro is to get that app eco sysetem forced onto everyone. Too bad it left most people alienated.

Brony said,

I think the same, MS is trying to sell 8.1 as a game changer. For me, it is not.


It definitely is, after using Windows 8 since it's initial release I will never go back to anything else.

Raa said,
Some welcome changes for sure. But still not quite enough for me to make the move.

If they were to re-offer the $40 deal they offered last year, then I'd probably bite. Wish I would have jumped on that bandwagon. Oh well, I'll probably get whatever latest version of Windows is available when I upgrade my desktop (which is just about due; I'm still rocking a Q6600 Core 2 Quad).

Brony said,

I think the same, MS is trying to sell 8.1 as a game changer. For me, it is not.


as for me I quite like 8.1, windows 8 was definitely faster and more stable OS compared to Windows 7 which was a brilliant OS itself. but some of the new stuff was kinda Off in windows 8 such as start screen experience, split apps on screen and search context. However, 8.1 is a game changer for me as I already installed RTM version and never felt frustration of windows 8

trojan_market said,

as for me I quite like 8.1, windows 8 was definitely faster and more stable OS compared to Windows 7 which was a brilliant OS itself. but some of the new stuff was kinda Off in windows 8 such as start screen experience, split apps on screen and search context. However, 8.1 is a game changer for me as I already installed RTM version and never felt frustration of windows 8

Depend what you call it fast, Windows 8 Desktop is fast, Modern UI is pain*ss slow.

In my case, i am enjoying windows 8 (as a desktop user), in my case, windows 8.1 gives me nothing (start button, boot on desktop, meh!).

What do you mean meh? You get a better experience for free? How is that meh? You don't even have to see that dreaded Start Screen I happen to love btw and start screen is even improved. Plus IE11 lot faster with WebGL

abysal said,
Right. The goal of metro is to get that app eco sysetem forced onto everyone. Too bad it left most people alienated.

Windows 8 never alienated anyone. Stop freading FUD.

Jarrichvdv said,

Windows 8 never alienated anyone. Stop freading FUD.

Yeah. Keep living in that happy cool-aid drinking MS world.

Glad I bought extra Winodws 8 licenses for $40 last year. Three of my computers have it and I've got 4 more waiting for 8.1 to install for my wife and kids.