Microsoft

Comparing the Windows Update versions in Windows 8.1

Greg Shultz compares the traditional version and the Modern UI version of Windows Update. Find out which version he prefers and why.

Windows update versions

As you may know, with this month's Patch Tuesday, Microsoft has released new and updated Windows 8.1 features along with the normal stream of bug fixes traditionally associated with these monthly updates, which is also known as Update Tuesday. This indicates that Microsoft is indeed making good on its promise to use its existing delivery mechanism for distributing all types of updates, as Microsoft blogger Brandon LeBlanc described in a recent post. So, instead of a grandiosely named Windows 8.1 Update 2, the Windows 8.1 updates are being pushed out in Windows Update as an optional update titled Update for Windows 8.1 for x##-based Systems (KB2975719).

Now, as I was getting ready to download this update and begin investigating it in more detail, I went to the traditional version of Windows Update to look for it. I then went to the Modern UI version of Windows Update to look for it. Of course, I found KB2975719 in both places. As I did this, I decided to do some comparisons of the two Windows Update user interfaces. While they both have the same basic components and perform the exact same function, I discovered that I really liked the Modern UI version of Windows Update better. In this article, I'll tell you why.

What's new in KB2975719?

Before I get to the Modern UI version of Windows Update, let's take a brief look at what's new in KB2975719. To begin with, this update adds a new feature to the Modern UI version of Windows Update: The date and time of the last update check, plus when updates were last installed is now displayed in the interface. If you use a touchpad, you'll find several new precision touchpad features: The touch pad can now be configured to remain on when a mouse is connected, you can now use right-clicks on the touchpad, and it is now possible to double-tap and drag.

There are a couple of other items in the update, such as Miracast Receive, which exposes a set of Wi-Fi direct APIs that allow developers to create applications that let a Windows 8.1 system act as a Miracast receiver. And if you are using SharePoint Online, there's a bug fix that reduces the number of prompts you will encounter with federated use in accessing SharePoint Online sites.

The Modern UI version

If you've been using the Windows operating system for a while, you know that Windows Update has undergone some changes as the OS has evolved — but in Windows 8.1, the user interface of the traditional version of Windows Update is virtually unchanged from Windows 7 (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

The traditional Windows Update user interface still works fine, but it is a little long in the tooth.

While that isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it works just fine, I started to notice that the Modern UI version of Windows Update is more streamlined, has very well-designed features, and is easier to use. Plus, with the new features added in KB2975719, the Modern UI version of Windows Update has everything that the traditional version of Windows Update does. Let's take a closer look.

To launch the Modern UI version of Windows Update, press [Windows]+[I], select Change PC Settings, and choose Update and recovery. When the main Windows Update screen appears, you'll see that everything you need to interact with Windows Update is easily accessible (Figure B). At the bottom, you'll notice the new features added by KB2975719 — the date and time of the last update check, plus when updates were last installed.

Figure B

Figure B

The Modern UI version is more streamlined and easier to use.

View details

When you select View details, you'll see a list of all the pending updates categorized in sections titled Important, Recommended, and Optional (Figure C). This all-in-one display makes it easier to see what updates are available, especially when there are a lot of them.

Figure C

Figure C

This all-in-one display makes it easier to see what updates are available.

When compared to the more open display of the Modern UI version, the traditional version of Windows Update looks cramped and can be tedious to read and use (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

The traditional version of Windows Update can be tedious.

By clicking Details adjacent to the name of the update in the Modern UI version, you can easily obtain a synopsis of the update in a pop-up window (Figure E). As you can see, in addition to the synopsis, you can also find the size of the update and the date when the update was published.

Figure E

Figure E

Details are displayed in a pop-up window.

While this same detail can be found in the traditional version, it appears as a side panel, which adds to the cramped and tedious aspect. The Modern UI has a much cleaner look and feel to it.

This cleaner look extends to the More info link, which opens Internet Explorer in a side-by-side window configuration, connects to the KB article on the Support site, and quickly provides you with the information that you need (Figure F). This is probably the nicest feature of the Modern UI version of Windows Update, because it allows you to easily refer back to Windows Update screen while you get more details about the update on the Support site.

Figure F

Figure F

The side-by-side display allows you to easily refer back to Windows Update screen while you read about the update on the Support site.

When you click the More information link in the traditional version, Internet Explorer launches in the separate window that more often than not totally covers up the Windows Update display.

View your update history

When you select View your update history, not only can you find the name of the update and the date when it was installed, but you can also obtain a synopsis of the update (Figure G). This can come in handy if you are troubleshooting a problem that you suspect is related to an update that you recently installed.

Figure G

Figure G

The View your update history screen allows you to easily find information about a previously installed update.

Of course, this information is available in the traditional version (Figure H), but it's not apparent that you can access it, because the link is essentially hidden, and you have to separately close the pop-up window when you're finished with it. In the Modern UI version, you just press [Esc] or click anywhere on the screen and the pop-up disappears.

Figure H

Figure H

The link to open the pop-up is essentially hidden.

Choose how updates get installed

When you select Choose how updates get installed, you can customize how Windows Update downloads and installs updates on your computer (Figure I). Here, the Modern UI and the traditional version are basically the same — however, the Modern UI still has a cleaner look to it.

Figure I

Figure I

Configuring Windows Update is pretty much the same in the Modern UI and the traditional version.

Interesting tidbit

While I was performing my comparisons, I discovered that when downloading the installing updates, the Modern UI version and the traditional version operate as mirror images of each other. More specifically, if you launch the traditional version when you're downloading updates in the Modern UI version, you'll see the exact same progress in both.

What's your take?

Have you compared the Modern UI of Windows Update to the traditional version? If so, which one to you prefer and why? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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