Microsoft Windows 8.1

Everything you need to know about Microsoft Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 was the first major update to the Windows 8 operating system. The Windows 8.1 update is free for all Windows 8 users.

The Windows 8.1 update includes a number of new features, user interface changes, and bug fixes.

Originally code-named Windows Blue, the Windows 8.1 update is in many ways equivalent to the service packs that were available in previous versions of Windows like Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

Microsoft logo on a brown wall
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Windows 8.1 Release Date and Updates

Windows 8.1 was released on October 17th, 2013.

Windows 8.1 Update, released on April 8, 2014, is currently the most recent major update to Windows 8.

Windows 10 is currently the most recent version of Windows available.

Microsoft isn't planning a Windows 8.2 or Windows 8.1 Update 2 update. If new features are made available, they'll be pushed alongside other updates on Patch Tuesday.

Windows 8.1 Download

Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Pro are free updates to those respective editions of Windows 8, but the update package isn't available as a standalone download.

To upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 for free, visit the Microsoft Store from the Windows 8 computer you want to update to 8.1.

Microsoft no longer offers Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 for consumer purchase, but you can download the Windows 8.1 OS as an ISO image straight from Microsoft's website. You'll still need a valid product key to use it, however.

Windows 8.1 Changes

A number of new features and changes were introduced in Windows 8.1.

One of the most notable changes in Windows 8.1 is the ability to configure Windows 8 to boot straight to the desktop, skipping the Start screen completely. See our article How to Boot to the Desktop in Windows 8.1 for instructions on doing this.

Below are some additional changes you might notice:

  • Introduces a Start button (not a Start Menu)
  • Allows booting directly to the Desktop
  • Integrates SkyDrive (now called OneDrive)
  • Improves integrated search
  • Includes Internet Explorer 11
  • Updates PC Settings to include everything found in Control Panel
  • Allows greater customization of Start screen app tiles
  • Adds several additional personalization options
  • Improves built-in apps
  • Includes support for 3D printing

More About Windows 8.1

The following tutorials may be particularly useful if you're new to Windows 8 as of the 8.1 updates, or if you're having some trouble during your upgrade to Windows 8.1: