Windows RT 8.1 Start screen no longer includes desktop tile by default

While the desktop tile in Windows RT 8.1 is not visible by default, it can be enabled as seen here.

Microsoft is slowly moving away from the traditional desktop interface with the release of the Windows RT 8.1 update. The company has now confirmed that the desktop tile on the operating system's Start screen has been taken away by default, unlike in Windows RT, where it was immediately available.

According to Winsupersite, that means when people purchase new Windows RT 8.1 hardware products, they will have to enable the desktop Start tile as an extra step if they wish to access it regularly. This apparently applies to Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet as well as the upcoming Nokia Lumia 2520.

The desktop UI is still needed to run the Office RT 2013 Home and Student software, which is included for free on both tablets. Microsoft includes tiles for each of the Office programs on the Start screen by default, and these launch their respective programs on the desktop as normal.

This minor but meaningful change shows that Microsoft is likely looking forward to a future where the desktop environment will be done away with completely in upcoming editions of Windows, at least for mobile devices such as tablets. There will still be a need to support desktop apps for several years so that transition is still in the very early phases. Indeed, in an interview earlier this summer, Microsoft Chief Evangelist Steven Guggenheimer said, " ... it probably never goes away completely. Or if it does, it’s hard to predict when."

Source: Winsupersite

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Meh. The desktop is pretty useless in Win RT I would assume with the whole lacking desktop applications bit.

nub said,
Meh. The desktop is pretty useless in Win RT I would assume with the whole lacking desktop applications bit.

Office still uses it, some control panel options use it, Admin Tools use it and explorer is more useful for file management at the moment.

As you can see that's quite a bit that still uses the desktop that needs equivalent Modern UI versions or integration with the Modern UI.

This is perfectly fine and should have been done from day 1. In the RT environment the desktop is extremely useful but only to those who know what to use it for. Hiding it from your average user makes for a better experience IMO.

That's the reason we each have a Surface RT in our house to force ourselves not to use the legacy desktop which after the first week of using just Metro and touch I won't look back for home use (work is a different story until they have the equivalent of Adobe's CS & Microsoft Expression Suites)

Surface RT needs to get rid of the desktop mode! make it tile world only and it will help alot. Have RT and i like most parts of but swaping from tile world to desktop work is not helpfull!

I would buy an RT device if the desktop was gone, and I never had to use it.

If it was still there, but nothing, ans I mean absolutely, and utterly nothing needed to be done in it, and it was only there for people that actually needed it for something they don't want to do in Metro, I would buy one.

It hardly matters what Microsoft does with this OS; all OEMs have abandoned it and adoption has been disastrous. The true value of Windows remains the desktop and this is what the market has been telling Microsoft loud and clear.

Asik said,
It hardly matters what Microsoft does with this OS; all OEMs have abandoned it and adoption has been disastrous. The true value of Windows remains the desktop and this is what the market has been telling Microsoft loud and clear.

Why do you think they're making changes? I can't think of any reason I or any other user would need the desktop on an ARM device. Office, yesw. But that's it, and once Metro Office (Gemini) comes, I guarantee it'll be snipped from being accessible.

Asik said,
It hardly matters what Microsoft does with this OS; all OEMs have abandoned it and adoption has been disastrous. The true value of Windows remains the desktop and this is what the market has been telling Microsoft loud and clear.

Pretty much. There are a ton of x86 devices getting ready to hit the market, and only 1 Windows RT device is seeing a refresh and that happens to be from Microsoft (I don't think Nokia really counts as they are getting bought by Microsoft). The few RT devices there were have been discontinued, and some never even made it to market to begin with.

The reason desktop is there in the first place is office. Once that goes metro,I expect the desktop to be completely removed.

I think it's a great move. The only time I use the desktop on my Surface is when I'm using office or doing file management. They need to create a file management app for RT where dragging and dropping is supported.

Agreed, get rid of the desktop and move the remaining settings, etc that are relevant to the modern UI, there is absolutely no need for it at all.

"Microsoft is likely looking forward to a future where the desktop environment will be done away with completely in upcoming editions of Windows"

I look forward to day when I can code with Visual Studio using hand and finger gestures /s

Now that I think about it, I'm kind of doing it already. There's a very handy finger gesture to handle all sorts of "exceptions".

It's still there, just not pinned to the Start Screen by default. But I agree, it won't be missed. Though I do use it sometimes for file management once in a while on my Surface RT, so I'm glad they didn't completely remove it.

As a teacher with 5 of these in his room, I think it's a great idea. When the metro versions of office come out, RT will be complete.

Add Windows-8.x to that list. Unless, of course, one decides to install all sorts of third-party software to make it "desktop friendly."

TsarNikky said,
Add Windows-8.x to that list. Unless, of course, one decides to install all sorts of third-party software to make it "desktop friendly."

Win 8's desktop is far better, improved, and more powerful than 7's. If you're still trying to use Windows the old way you're doing it wrong. The problem is you.

TsarNikky said,
Add Windows-8.x to that list. Unless, of course, one decides to install all sorts of third-party software to make it "desktop friendly."

Lol. If that's how you view Windows 8, you're better off not using a computer period. We will be too, so we won't have to read such nonsense.

Spicoli said,
I didn't think RT had the desktop mode??

Then you haven't been paying attention.

Windows RT = Windows 8 (on ARM)

It is the SAME OS, the only meaningful difference is it cannot run x86 software as it is running on ARM.

Yes, how dare you not pay attention. If you did, you would know that Windows RT Plus! with Runtime Student Edition 2014 has a desktop mode. Prepare for a reprimand.

Geezy said,
Can it run unsigned classic desktop software or must you get absolutely everything from the app store?

Neither option you presented is the case.

Outside the store, it can also run desktop software that is signed by Microsoft, if it's compiled to be ARM or architecture independent. Yes, desktop software exists that you can install. No, there isn't very many.

The ONLY reason why Windows RT has a Desktop mode is because there are some Microsoft apps and various applets (that control various Windows options) that haven't been fully transitioned over to the Modern UI. Hence the inclusion of it, or you wouldn't get Office 2013 and most of the Control Panel options.

In reality, Windows RT was never really meant to have a Desktop mode.

warwagon said,
Not foolish on RT. Desktop should never have been an option on RT from the start.

Agreed, much less confusing to consumers. Plus it's still there if you really want it. I don't see why people are complaining about this.

Rynolips said,
So foolish on so many levels... I have clients cry over Win8 on a daily basis..

Seriously? We have tens of thousands of clients that love Windows 8, maybe you need to find someone other than yourself to help them that understands the OS and can give them the paradigm shift in thinking that consumes 2-3 minutes for them to become comfortable with the differences. (*takes deep run-on breath*)


As for 'hiding' the desktop on ARM based Windows 8 tablets, it just reduces confusion for users, especially with 8.1 where most of the tablet configuration options are now available in the Modern UI Change PC Settings.

warwagon said,
Not foolish on RT. Desktop should never have been an option on RT from the start.

That's right. Options = bad. Can't have options. No way jose.

Mobius Enigma said,

Seriously? We have tens of thousands of clients that love Windows 8, maybe you need to find someone other than yourself to help them that understands the OS and can give them the paradigm shift in thinking that consumes 2-3 minutes for them to become comfortable with the differences. (*takes deep run-on breath*)


As for 'hiding' the desktop on ARM based Windows 8 tablets, it just reduces confusion for users, especially with 8.1 where most of the tablet configuration options are now available in the Modern UI Change PC Settings.


Same here dude... I also have lots of clients that love it, and the only negative ones I've heard were just confused on how to use it and loved it after figuring out the minor change in workflow, which they fixed in 8.1 by adding those start up tips. If that other guy's clients are hating it, he's obviously not helping them.

Dilburt said,
That's right. Options = bad. Can't have options. No way jose.

Considering it only supports Microsoft signed applications, and not even all the good ones, like PowerShell ISE then yes. It is a bad option.

Rynolips said,
So foolish on so many levels... I have clients cry over Win8 on a daily basis..

Your clients are idiots then.

Nashy said,
Don't be an ass to people who don't like Windows 8. There are more who don't like it than there are who do.

Where is your study to prove that?

rfirth said,

Where is your study to prove that?

You have access to the Internet. Go and look at the following:

- Adoption rates of Windows 8
- Marketshare
- Study's on Windows 8 as to why it isn't selling
- Rollback rates

I'm not here to hold your hand, if you want to know, go look for it yourself.

Nashy said,

You have access to the Internet. Go and look at the following:

- Adoption rates of Windows 8
- Marketshare
- Study's on Windows 8 as to why it isn't selling
- Rollback rates

I'm not here to hold your hand, if you want to know, go look for it yourself.

None of that shows that MORE people don't like it than do.

All they show is that SOME people don't like it (like every new O/S) and that a lot of people don't feel the need to upgrade their O/S. Nothing at all indicating which side is in the majority.

Nashy said,

I'm not here to hold your hand, if you want to know, go look for it yourself.

Just looked. Yep, 100+ million licenses still sold.

Nashy said,
I feel dirty agreeing with you. But desktop on RT is stupid.

Sorry, wrong.

Dot Matrix said,

Want the desktop? Use Windows 8 Pro.

Sounds just like typical Microsoft attitude of late.

Contrary to what some of you Modern UI fans seem to think, Windows on ARM could have been so much more than the sad hamstrung OS that Windows RT turned out to be. The desktop is perfectly functional on Windows RT, and I use it quite a bit on my Surface RT. I wouldn't have bought it had it lacked the desktop. Modern UI is no replacement for it. Maybe on very small tablets and phones it makes sense (but then why not just use the phone OS), but on a 10" device I want both UIs as they have different use cases. Unfortunately I do not see much hope for Windows on ARM with the current track Microsoft seems to be on... I had hoped it would become more open like Windows 8, not more closed like Windows Phone.

domboy said,

Sounds just like typical Microsoft attitude of late.

Contrary to what some of you Modern UI fans seem to think, Windows on ARM could have been so much more than the sad hamstrung OS that Windows RT turned out to be. The desktop is perfectly functional on Windows RT, and I use it quite a bit on my Surface RT. I wouldn't have bought it had it lacked the desktop. Modern UI is no replacement for it. Maybe on very small tablets and phones it makes sense (but then why not just use the phone OS), but on a 10" device I want both UIs as they have different use cases. Unfortunately I do not see much hope for Windows on ARM with the current track Microsoft seems to be on... I had hoped it would become more open like Windows 8, not more closed like Windows Phone.

What typical Microsoft attitude? Windows RT is not meant as a desktop replacement, it is meant as a consumer-oriented mobile competitor to the iPad. If you want the desktop, and all that comes with it, use Windows 8 Pro. They're two different SKUs - you can't use the lesser, and expect the features of the higher edition.

Dot Matrix said,

What typical Microsoft attitude? Windows RT is not meant as a desktop replacement, it is meant as a consumer-oriented mobile competitor to the iPad. If you want the desktop, and all that comes with it, use Windows 8 Pro. They're two different SKUs - you can't use the lesser, and expect the features of the higher edition.

Exactly!! Canned responses like "Just get a Pro", or "Surface RT is a consumer device", have been exactly Microsoft's response to all the problems with or restrictions on Surface/Windows RT from the get-go - lack of VPN support, lack of Outlook in Office RT, lack wired USB support, lockout on the desktop APIs, and so on. But buyers and users of these devices are wanting more than the narrow use-case both of you have in mind (Google any of these things if you don't believe me).

Based on a lot of your posts I gather that you seem to be a big fan of Modern UI and also seem to not see why anyone would want to use the desktop on a 10" device... I can't help that, but that doesn't make your view the only correct one. Every user has different needs. Plus the whole BYOD movement means all sorts of so-called "consumer devices" need to have features and functionality for both personal and work use. That was supposed to be the big selling tag for the Surface compared to iPad, but it really fails in a lot of important ways.

If I could put a fully unlocked "Windows 8 Pro for ARM" on my Surface RT I would be more than happy to do so, but such an OS doesn't exist as yet. But I agree that that's really what I've been asking for. Or some sort of developer option to unlock the full Windows potential that is already built-in to Windows RT, just locked up tight.

The Surface Pro is at least another $300-$400 dollars more expensive, and gets worse battery life (even with the Pro 2). I can't afford it right now, and I don't need the power of a Intel Core cpu in my Surface, I'm more interested in the battery life. At the time I bought it, there were no x86 Atom devices in a better or even comparable package. ARM is plenty fast enough for what I'd want to run on it (well, what I already do thanks to the jailbreak). Atom gets to run a fully functional OS because it is x86, not because it is so much more powerful. Let ARM do the same.

All OEMs but Microsoft have dropped Windows RT products in favor of regular Windows 8. To me that's very telling...

Edited by domboy, Oct 24 2013, 4:14pm :

domboy said,

Exactly!! Canned responses like "Just get a Pro", or "Surface RT is a consumer device", have been exactly Microsoft's response to all the problems with or restrictions on Surface/Windows RT from the get-go - lack of VPN support, lack of Outlook in Office RT, lack wired USB support, lockout on the desktop APIs, and so on. But buyers and users of these devices are wanting more than the narrow use-case both of you have in mind (Google any of these things if you don't believe me).

Based on a lot of your posts I gather that you seem to be a big fan of Modern UI and also seem to not see why anyone would want to use the desktop on a 10" device... I can't help that, but that doesn't make your view the only correct one. Every user has different needs. Plus the whole BYOD movement means all sorts of so-called "consumer devices" need to have features and functionality for both personal and work use. That was supposed to be the big selling tag for the Surface compared to iPad, but it really fails in a lot of important ways.

If I could put a fully unlocked "Windows 8 Pro for ARM" on my Surface RT I would be more than happy to do so, but such an OS doesn't exist as yet. But I agree that that's really what I've been asking for. Or some sort of developer option to unlock the full Windows potential that is already built-in to Windows RT, just locked up tight.

The Surface Pro is at least another $300-$400 dollars more expensive, and gets worse battery life (even with the Pro 2). I can't afford it right now, and I don't need the power of a Intel Core cpu in my Surface, I'm more interested in the battery life. At the time I bought it, there were no x86 Atom devices in a better or even comparable package. ARM is plenty fast enough for what I'd want to run on it (well, what I already do thanks to the jailbreak). Atom gets to run a fully functional OS because it is x86, not because it is so much more powerful. Let ARM do the same.

All OEMs but Microsoft have dropped Windows RT products in favor of regular Windows 8. To me that's very telling...

Sucks, but that's the way things are. You can't buy Windows 7 Home, and the features of Windows 7 Pro, so why do you think Microsoft should offer that here?

Dot Matrix said,

Sucks, but that's the way things are. You can't buy Windows 7 Home, and the features of Windows 7 Pro, so why do you think Microsoft should offer that here?

Because this isn't even Windows Home, it's not even the old Windows Basic in Vista days, but I'd gladly upgrade to a version of Windows on ARM that lacks all these brain-dead restrictions. You seem to be completely missing what I'm trying to say.

Let give you an example.

I use a .NET 4 app called KeePass2 (the portable executable). It's a password safe. I use it not only for personal use, but use the same one at work too. Since it is .NET, I can use it on Windows and Linux workstations (via mono). On Windows RT Microsoft has set the required signing level for desktop executables to "Microsoft". Once that is changed to "unsigned" KeePass2 runs flawlessly on my Surface RT as Windows RT includes .NET 4.5. It needs no recompile as .NET applications are not compiled for a specific architecture by default in Visual Studio. Let me say it again, this is NOT an x86 app.

But according to both Microsoft and you, I am not supposed to be allowed to run this, even though it is for my own "consumer" use. There is no logical reason why. It actually defies logic. Instead, the developer is supposed to re-code and re-design it for WinRT and Modern UI, all because of a needless signing restriction on executables, even though it works just fine as-is.

But that's ok, because pretty soon the Windows device market is going to be dominated by x86 tablets, convertibles, you name it, that can all run whatever you want to put on them. I really wanted to like Windows RT... it has its moments, and works well sans the signing restriction, but ultimately it is just an example of bad decisions.

Edited by domboy, Oct 24 2013, 8:44pm :

domboy said,

But that's ok, because pretty soon the Windows device market is going to be dominated by x86 tablets, convertibles, you name it, that can all run whatever you want to put on them. I really wanted to like Windows RT... it has its moments, and works well sans the signing restriction, but ultimately it is just an example of bad decisions.

Don't get me wrong, I really like my Surface RT, and I think the hardware is brilliant, which is why I bought it to begin with. I knew what I was getting, and I also followed the jailbreak from the get go, so I knew what I would and wouldn't be able to do.

But with RT 8.1 is't becoming obvious that Microsoft is more interested in turning Windows RT into Windows Phone, instead of into a more open Windows 8 like OS like I had hoped.

Dot Matrix said,

Sucks, but that's the way things are. You can't buy Windows 7 Home, and the features of Windows 7 Pro, so why do you think Microsoft should offer that here?

domboy said,

Because this isn't even Windows Home, it's not even the old Windows Basic in Vista days, but I'd gladly upgrade to a version of Windows on ARM that lacks all these restrictions.

Now that I think about it, a better (but not perfect) analogy would be if when Microsoft released 64bit windows they had decreed that the only 32bit apps that would run on 64bit Windows were from Microsoft (basically Office and the built-in windows apps). Everybody else had to run 64bit, and they had to be .NET apps, no third party win32. Basically locking out huge portions of the APIs in the OS from third party developers to use.

That's more or less what Windows RT is, just with a new UI to go along with it. From my perspective it is very unfortunate and limits what could have been a perfectly good ARM version of Windows if it lacked these restrictions.

Microsoft takes another step in the wrong direction. It's only a matter of time before they do this with the
non-RT version of Windows 8.x ... then possibly even disabling the abovementioned Win+D shortcut.

The desktop will not go away. I even expect that Microsoft may bring multiple desktops to a future update for Windows 8/9 Pro. Imagine how cool it would be for pro-users to have multiple desktops.

Um they said previously the desktop will probably never go away. There's way too many legacy apps that businesses and people rely on. Until the Metro side is advanced enough to handle the full desktop functionality, it won't go away... hence why there's Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro.

Then just wait until Microsoft comes out with Modern Office.

Look, RT is the consumer version of Windows, and the one that is competing with iOS and Android. You want your desktop, go with Pro, and your desktop will still be there for a while.

DJGM said,
Microsoft takes another step in the wrong direction. It's only a matter of time before they do this with the
non-RT version of Windows 8.x ... then possibly even disabling the abovementioned Win+D shortcut.
What makes you think that? If you even slightly follow what MSFT is saying on this instead of blindly following the nay sayer crowd you'd know that is exactly what they will not do.

j2006 said,
Um they said previously the desktop will probably never go away. There's way too many legacy apps that businesses and people rely on. Until the Metro side is advanced enough to handle the full desktop functionality, it won't go away... hence why there's Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro.
You do know that Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro both have the Desktop and you can install Win32 apps on either?

I think you actually mean Windows RT and Windows 8/8 Pro.