Microsoft Windows 8.1

Everything you need to know about Microsoft Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 Boxshot
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.

For basic Windows 8 & 8.1 information, like system requirements, see my Windows 8: Important Facts.

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

Originally codenamed 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.

Windows 8.1 Release Date

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 is not 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 (standard) and Windows 8.1 Pro are free updates to those respective editions of Windows 8, but the update package is not available as a standalone download.

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

See How To Update to Windows 8.1 for a complete tutorial.

If you don't currently have Windows 8, you can purchase a copy of Windows 8.1 (the entire operating system, not just the update) direct from Microsoft: Buy Windows 8.1 Pro and Buy Windows 8.1 (standard). You have the option of a downloadable ISO file or a boxed copy you'll receive in the mail.

If you're looking to download a standalone copy of Windows 8.1 but aren't happy with your options direct from Microsoft, see Where Can I Download Windows 8.1? for some further discussion.

I also answer a lot of questions about Windows 8.1 in my Installing Windows 8.1 FAQ.

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 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
  • 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

While all of my Windows 8 tutorials were written for both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, the following ones may be particularly useful if you're new to Windows 8 as of the 8.1 update, or if you're having some trouble during your upgrade to Windows 8.1: