10 factors to consider when upgrading to Windows 8.1

While 8.1 is not a completely new operating system, it is a significant upgrade, and shouldn't be viewed simply as a service pack.

By David Chew

PC users have traditionally relied upon an iOS or Android companion device to reap the productivity benefits of BYOD, but the touch-enabled interface enabled by Windows 8 eliminates the numerous challenges of this approach.

For more information about Windows 8.1, check out the TechRepublic Fact sheet.

With the Windows 8.1 update scheduled for general availability in mere months, it's important to understand what to expect from the new system. Windows 8.1 provides enterprise-level upgrades that give users a consistent computing experience across devices, but it may require infrastructure upgrades to experience the full benefits of the platform.

A significant upgrade

While 8.1 is not a completely new operating system, it is a significant upgrade, and shouldn't be viewed simply as a service pack.

Below is a list of 10 ways that Windows 8.1 can benefit the enterprise:

  1. Extended Mobility: While most companies have a mobile strategy in place for certain segments of the business, concerns over bandwidth of IT, technical support, device management, and other issues often prevent them from expanding to provide mobility to more of the workforce Windows 8.1 eliminates much of that trepidation, enabling organizations to extend the productivity benefits of mobility to a wider range of employees. It's a more universal management experience for IT as well, because they can manage Windows 8.1 PCs as mobile devices without having to deploy a full management client.
  2. Tablet Adoption: The proliferation of Windows 8-enabled hardware means that enterprises can standardize on the operating system, but still allow individual end-users to select their device of preference and have a consistent interface across these devices. While this includes desktops, laptops, and Windows phones, the tablet is becoming a more versatile and popular device in the enterprise. Windows 8.1 is able to support this wider adoption of tablets.
  3. Application Innovation: Windows 8.1 enables organizations to develop applications that can work seamlessly across mobile and traditional devices. This is a particularly critical benefit for the many developers with deep expertise in the Windows operating system who previously have been unable to apply their skills fully to mobile applications. The Windows Store has a redesigned interface and now includes more than 100,000 modern apps, giving users either on a tablet or a PC a more fluid, unified experience.
  4. IT Support: Having to troubleshoot different devices and platforms has turned out to be one of the chief support headaches for IT staff. I'll enumerate some of these frustrations in greater detail below, but standardizing on Windows 8.1 allows IT to become much more streamlined in its support and reduce a significant amount of the complexity associated with enterprise mobility. Enterprises that are not standardizing and forcing IT to stretch to support many iterations of the Windows OS are severely straining resources.
  5. Cost Reduction: Standardizing on Windows 8.1 eliminates the licensing and support costs of a heterogeneous environment. In addition, the costs associated with application development, support, and maintenance are reduced because everything is centered on a single operating system. For example, the new Workplace Join feature (some features require SCCM 2012 R2, DAC and PKI) would allow a user to work on the device of his or her choice, but still have access to corporate resources. Workplace Join also gives IT greater security control in a BYOD environment.
  6. Resource Optimization: Because Windows 8.1 facilitates restoration of the operating system to factory settings, enterprises can save the time and money associated with sending IT personnel to redeploy technologies when something goes awry. This feature can result in significant savings for enterprises that support thousands of users and would be of significant benefit for remote workers.
  7. Streamlined Operations: An ancillary resource benefit of Windows 8.1 is that IT departments need to create only one user guide and any other support materials for every application developed. Again, this might not seem like a significant saving at the outset, but when you consider the impact for an enterprise supporting thousands of users the benefit quickly becomes apparent. As with the 8.1 service pack for Windows 8 future service packs are expected to provide new features not just fixes. These feature updates have the potential to drive training and support document updates with greater frequency.
  8. Reduced End-User Confusion: By offering a consistent computing experience across devices, Windows 8 significantly reduces user confusion and related support requests, freeing IT staff to focus on more strategic projects or other revenue-generating activities. When a user enrolls a device, it joins the device to the Windows Intune management service (one of the new technologies that requires current infrastructure). The user gets access to the Company Portal, which provides a consistent experience for access to the applications, data, and device settings. The self-help portal within the service desk allows end-users to troubleshoot on their own.
  9. Enhanced Security: Windows 8.1 offers a number of security enhancements, including Remote Business Data Removal and enhanced Internet Explorer. Remote Business Data Removal gives enterprises greater control over encrypted content that can be wiped when it is no longer needed. In addition to greater speed and customized app settings, Internet Explorer now enables an anti-malware solution to scan binary extensions to help stop the execution of known and unknown malware.
  10. Partner Education: Because Microsoft will no longer maintain Windows XP after April 2014, any organization considering an upgrade should weigh the advantages of Windows 8.1. The platform offers a range of benefits and solutions to solve manageability, mobility, and security challenges. A technology partner expert in Windows 8.1 can help organizations educate themselves about the new version, determine how it fits into their existing infrastructure and execute the appropriate migration plans.

By David Chew, Solutions Architect, Unisys

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My laptop is running pre-installed Windows 8 and has a Windows 8 recovery partition.  When I upgrade to Windows 8.1, will the recovery partition be updated to 8.1?

In other words, after upgrading to 8.1, if I perform a refresh or restore, will I get 8.1 or will I get 8.0 and need to upgrade again?   If I make a backup CD or USB drive, will it be 8.0 or 8.1?


There is so much about windows 8 that I do not like but I have not the time nor energy to embark on a major mission to downgrade to windows 7 especially given microsoft's lockdown in the MLA.

As a business user and home business PC user, I find it offensive that windows 8 wants to turn me into some app loving, social media loving teen.  I understand the desire to bring a 'one face' to all devices but I personally do not want that (not like this anyway).  I want the choice of being an app loving social media user or NOT.  I want the choice of turning off some of the features that are standard in windows 8.  I think Windows 8 was a big mistake, I'm simply not interested in twitter and facebook and all the apps/apps store and find that as a power user of windows 7, it can be very confusing trying to find ways around windows 8 due to the dumbing down of the interface and removal of the start button.

I have downloaded which has helped considerably.

Saying they reduce user confusion across all devices is probably one of the main drivers for windows 8 but I think they have gone about it the wrong way entirely.  

DavidTC68 your comment about users focussing too much attention on the 'user' interface is ironic to me.  For most end 'users', that is the make or break aspect of an operating system and while training is a big part of learning how to get the most from a new system, most people I know will not fork out the money for training on windows 8 when it appears to be forgetting business and non social media/non app loving PC users and they would rather just get rid of it.

However as we cannot stop inevitable change and progress, one suggestion I do have is around the confusion on my android device.  I have many different email addresses for different parts of my life and different websites like to log me in automatically, some apps do on the android as well. This sometimes creates confusion because they all want to stay connected, e.g. google play, samsung app store, gmail, windows live, skype etc. Sometimes my business gets confused with my personal and vice versa.  One way to keep the two separate would be to look at 2 different interfaces which I can switch between and can fully customise so I know this is my business interface and the other is my personal and any auto log-ins can be completely separate to avoid any mess ups.  Just a thought.


Very interesting comments. I appreciate your interest. Developing a dialogue and interest among users is the best way to feed input into the vendor's next OS design. I wrote the article to discuss the potential benefits Windows 8 or a Windows 8 upgrade can have for an enterprise but I understand the debate still rages over whether (or when) to upgrade the Windows OS. With the Windows 95 release moving from WfWg, the start button was rejected – now it's mainstream. In addition, I think users tend to focus too much attention on the user interface and not enough on the benefits of the OS itself. Combined, and with some training, it can actually be easier to access applications in fewer steps.


Windows 8 as with Windows 7 is just VISTA. It's all VIsta. Microsoft never got off Vista. It's just Vista on a phone, tablet and a very, very sad OS on a desktop. Look at the command line number - Vista Windows 6.0, Windows 7 is Windows 6.1 and Windows 8 is Windows 6.2. When will Microsoft learn that people hate Vista in all its forms and fashions - no matter how they dress up this PIG it's still all Vista to me!

Asok Asus
Asok Asus

So, wouldn't all those high-highfalutin, buzz-wordy, corporate-speak sounding "benefits" be moot if an enterprise just decided Windows both blows AND sucks at the same time and therefore they're gonna just stick with Windows 7 until Hades freezes over or Microsoft comes to their senses with Windows 9, whichever comes first?


As long as Microsoft continues to ignore its installed base (keyboard and Mice users) with Windows 8, Thoughtful PC Users and Business will just ignore Windows 8!

How could a software designer ever think that Flat Icon architecture featuring Program Icons or Social Media filling same would be better than an interface Microsoft gave us that would allow us to far better customize the look (THE WAY WE WANT IT) and put OUR CONTENT in most accessible places (Windows 7). Heck the Google News page is a remarkably efficient and effective Flat and Deep interface (WE CAN ALSO CUSTOMIZE THE WAY WE WANT).Microsoft would better off now just officially announce that Windows 7 is the last optimized-for- Keyboard and Mice OS they will offer and they won't EOL it.

Of course this leave open the possibility that some clever and innovative PC player might step up and steal Microsoft’s installed base with an even better Keyboard and Mouse interface. Is it any real surprise the PC marketplace has stalled majorly?

Tablets naturally took market share from PCs either because people wanted the next “New and cool thing” or more importantly, because Tablets did better what those under utilizing PCs ( by consuming mostly content ) were doing. Then, really, has the PC market had any real innovation over the last 5 years before Win 8 came out? Lastly, I am a fan of the strategy of optimizing a common interface across Cell, Tablet and Computers but Microsoft so far has implemented that strategy terribly leaving an opportunity for Apple or a new major push from a big player stepping up with say a new polished Linux offering.  Seen the remarkable Ubuntu Edge momentum!?

Lenovo , Acer, ASUS, Samsung, a privatized Deal or a new sleek Hp separate entity tired of Microsoft’s waffling yet?

to JJFitz: NO it is NOT, it is MS's idea of a START button and there is STILL NO START MENU. We will NOT accept the METRO in any shape or form. IT MUST be GONE altogether.

There is NO WAY our business will ever use WIN8 it is the most unproductive I have come across.

We will stay with WIN7 and yes we are still purchasing systems with WIN7, and for other instances MS have lost us we are using Google and Google Docs, much easier and also more COST effective.



@carlsf The start button returned (mostly) with Windows 8.1.



@carlsf I said the start button returned (mostly) with Windows 8.1.

Right click it in 8.1 and you will see Programs and Features, Mobility Center, Power Options, Event Viewer, System, Device Manager, Network Connections, Disk Management, Windows Powershell, Task Manager, Control Panel, File Explorer, Search, Run and Shutdown.

If you want your old Start Menu (program list) from the start button, you can always pin the start menu folder to the taskbar. It still exists in Win 8 & 8.1.

Personally, I pin the programs I use the most to the taskbar. - Just like I did with the previous two Microsoft Operating Systems. For the rest, I just use search. 

For example, type "Char" on the Start Screen to find the character map. It's much more efficient than Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Character Map (if you can remember that that is where it is.)

You can even make 8.1 boot directly to the desktop if the Start Menu offends you that much.

But hey, if you're happy with Windows 7, good for you.

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