Windows 8.1 update arrives April 8th and everything else you need to know

Microsoft's Windows 8.1 update, commonly called Windows 8.1 update 1, has finally arrived. And if you are wondering what the fuss is all about, we have a handy guide to walk you through all of the new features that will be arriving when the update finally reaches your machine via Windows Update. 

What's New:

If you have been reading Neowin frequently, you will know that the Windows 8.1 update brings a lot of mouse and keyboard friendly features to the platform and the final build of the update stabilizes some of the features we have previously seen.

The first new feature that you will notice when using the Windows 8.1 update is that modern apps can now be pinned to the taskbar. By right clicking on any tile in the modern environment, you can select "pin to taskbar" and this will, not surprisingly, allow you to pin apps directly to your taskbar.

This makes it easier to launch your favorite modern apps quickly from the desktop and for power users, will offer a faster way to move around Windows 8.1. To unpin the application, all you do is right mouse click on the icon and select "unpin this program from taskbar", simple as that.

Microsoft has also added a few new features for working inside of modern apps. For one, the taskbar can now be accessed inside modern apps much like you would inside any other application on the desktop. The taskbar does auto-hide but by moving your mouse quickly to the bottom of the screen you can access the taskbar for easy application switching.

Along with the taskbar, modern apps can now be closed by moving your mouse to the top of the screen which reveals a title bar that has a X that can be clicked to close the app. Inside the modern environment, Microsoft has added a new context menu that allows you to resize, unpin or pin items to a taskbar, turn off live tile notifications and remove the application too.

In addition the the context menus, Microsoft has made it easier to access the power options too by creating a power options menu in the top right area of the modern environment. Not a huge addition by any means but there was a bit of critical feedback around the launch of Windows 8 that the power options were not easily accessible.

Onedrive will also be making it's first appearance with the update, so if you haven't updated your SkyDrive app, OneDrive will replace that application upon installation. In addition, Microsoft is also pushing OEMs to include OneNote as well, so look for that app to be part of the standard Windows 8.1 update 1 install.

Internet Explorer has also been tweaked in the modern environment to show the address bar and tabs by default. This will likely help novice users out who had trouble with the gestures needed to show these two core features of the browser. There is also a new Enterprise mode as well inside of IE that makes it easier for corporations to keep their sites compatible on an intranet.

Microsoft is also improving the Windows Store UI to make it more mouse and keyboard friendly with new context information at the top of the UI.

Finally, Microsoft has tweaked it's boot sequence depending on the type of device you are using. If the device has a touch screen (tablet and some laptops), the first boot will be to the modern environment. If your device does not have a touch screen, then the default boot will be to the classic desktop. It is important to note that if you are upgrading from Windows 8.1, your previous settings will be honored and will not use the above configurations.

Do I Need New Hardware:

If you are running a machine with Windows 7 or above, you should be in good shape to run the latest version of Windows 8.1. In fact, Microsoft is reducing the spec requirements for the OS to only require 1GB of RAM and only 16 GB of storage, which makes it easier for older hardware to run the OS.

By lowering the requirements, it makes it easier for those with XP machines to upgrade to Windows 8.1 and the low 16GB storage space requirement means that Windows 8.1 can run well on tablets too.

How Do I Get it:

Unlike the Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft will be pushing out this update via Windows Update on April 8th which means that it will get applied to your machine automatically.Seeing as most of the updates are convenience features too, it makes sense to use Windows update to make sure that all users have the features installed on their machines.

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56 Comments

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If I cannot download it via Windows Update, is there a way I can download a .img or .exe file and install that way? Is this being provided for us?

Mike Allen said,
For the people that have already downloaded this update (via the MS leak a while back), will we need to install this?

IIRC what was leaked was an early test build - you'll need to upgrade to the final release.

Sweet. I tried the downloadable files a few times for this update, and each time Internet Explorer would not launch for me, other than the odd time after a restart I may get it to open, so I always had to do a system restore. Last time I ended up doing a full reformat.
I really love the new features and speed of this update, so hopefully a legit instal of it will work flawless this time.

shinji257 said,
Microsoft needs to fix their USB 3 stack to work better on more implementations of the hardware. It sucks on mine.

So it is Microsoft's fault that hardware vendors aren't conforming to the USB specifications? Dafuq?!

Mr Nom Nom's said,

So it is Microsoft's fault that hardware vendors aren't conforming to the USB specifications? Dafuq?!

Well considering they wrote the driver then yes. The hardware conforms to specs fine.

Alternatively Intel could just cough up a USB 3.0 driver for Windows 8/8.1 but they refuse saying to just use the Microsoft stack.

http://www.intel.com/support/chipsets/usb3/sb/CS-033977.htm
"Windows 8* has a native in-box USB 3.0 driver. Intel is not releasing a specific Intel® USB 3.0 eXtensible Host Controller Driver for Windows 8."

Any word on Dreamspark? And what if someone does the download the Window 8.1 ISO from the download with KEY ISO downloader will it be the updated ISO?

I wonder what happens to people still running Windows 8? Will they just get the updates (or some) or will they be referenced to update to 8.1 first? There are probably a lot of people who don`t know about the store and thus haven`t got 8.1 running!

"Windows 8.1 update arrives April 8th and everything else you need to know"

and

"Unlike the Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft will be pushing out this update via Windows Update on April 8th"

Quite an ambiguity with the "Windows 8.1 update" phrase...

Windows 8.1 was pushed out via the App Store, Windows 8.1 Update 1 is being pushed out via Windows Update. That's what he says, that's what's happening.

Perhaps "Windows 8.1 update" should be changed to "Windows 8.1 upgrade" to remove the little bit of ambiguity it has.

Confirmed, both the updated ISO as well as the MU updates are on Technet.

mu_windows_8.1_windows_server_2012r2_windows_embedded_8.1industry_update_x64_4046913.zip

mu_windows_8.1_windows_embedded_8.1industry_update_x86_4046911.zip

en_windows_8.1_with_update_x86_dvd_4065105.iso

en_windows_8.1_with_update_x64_dvd_4065090.iso

I wonder if the taskbar can be configured to NOT auto-hide in modern ui apps. I'd like it to almost always be visible, which the exception of a few things like netflix/video apps, and perhaps a few games. It be nice to always be able to see things like battery, time, network status, etc, without having to right-swipe (or move a mouse pointer down). I've never liked auto-hide, but just having it available in modern ui at all is great in my opinion... I'm assuming these changes all apply to RT 8.1 as well. Now we just need a new jailbreak so I can upgrade from RT 8.0!

Edited by domboy, Apr 2 2014, 5:11pm :

I don't see it on MSDN. There is only Windows 8.1 RTM.

seeprime said,
The 8.1 Update is already posted on MSDN for subscribers to download.

1) It can be turned off
2) As I understand it, the "desktop" features will not appear at all unless there's a keyboard and mouse connected.

I actually agree that Win8.1 is a fantastic tablet OS, and I wouldn't want those features working in "tablet mode" either. But it looks like that isn't a problem.

The power button, I like that.

However the other changes just seem to be a bit of a joke in an effort to please everyone. The minimise and close buttons for example don't even make sense when the task bar is automatically going into auto-hide mode.

Instead of all tacked on extra stuff, why don't they fix real issues with Windows 8, for example the fact that DirectX8 and older games run slow due to DirectDraw issues. Unless of course that is fixed in 8.1u1.

Vince800 said,
The power button, I like that.

There's also a power button on the front of most PCs which you can press to turn the computer on and off.

Off the wall question, but can anyone give me the technical reason MS released 8.1 via the app store and this and other major updates have been via good old Windows Update?

92GTA said,
Off the wall question, but can anyone give me the technical reason MS released 8.1 via the app store and this and other major updates have been via good old Windows Update?

Differences in amount of code updates.

92GTA said,
...

No technical reason, just trying to guage the adoption of the store.
part of the reason this one is via Windows update and pins the store to taskbar by default, to make it more discoverable.

92GTA said,
...

Because Windows 8.1 is not an update to windows 8, but a new OS on its own. So when you install it from windows store you do upgrade like from Vista to 7. And Spring Update is like SP - thats why it comes from Windows Update.

92GTA said,
Off the wall question, but can anyone give me the technical reason MS released 8.1 via the app store and this and other major updates have been via good old Windows Update?

What that should be is that Windows Store is for apps update, and Windows Update for Windows platform update. I think they made it wrong previously. That's why it needs to be corrected as of now.

I'll wait until the maker of 7+ Taskbar Tweaker releases a compatible update version before installing this.

link6155 said,

That's Windows 8.1 Preview, not Windows 8.1 Update 1.

The only reason he had to change it was because they changed how the icons on the taskbar were rendered, and I'm sure they didn't change anything that would break the windows 8.1 version

NP. :) This business of not updating the version sounds strange but I guess they were forced to do this in order to achieve their goal of somehow bringing Windows and WP in sync. He'll probably have to change his OS version detection code to use the build number or something.