This fact sheet will be continually updated with the latest details as we learn more about Windows 8.1 Preview. You can check back anytime and refresh this article to get the latest updates.
Microsoft has announced that Windows 8.1 will be released as free update on the Windows Store to all Windows 8 and Windows RT users on October 18, 2013.
After digging its heels in initially, Microsoft relented and on September 10, 2013, the company made Windows 8.1 RTM available for MSDN and TechNet subscribers and for Volume License customers.
What we know
- Prevalent caveat: Microsoft makes a point of offering this warning before you install Windows 8.1: This preview is mainly for experienced PC users, so if you're not sure whether it's right for you, read the FAQ.
- Noteworthy caveat: You are required to have a personal Windows Live account or the enterprise equivalent in order to finish the installation.
- Availability: You can download and install the Windows 8.1 Preview from the Windows Store for free. There is also a Windows 8.1 Preview for the Enterprise available for download.
- Search integration: Windows 8.1 features a single search feature that will return results for a search from your computer, your applications, and the web.
- Updated basic apps: The standard Windows 8 apps are updated and retooled in 8.1, including the mail, photo, people, and calendar.
- Cloud storage: SkyDrive is the default location for saving documents as opposed to the C: drive, for example.
- Internet Explorer upgrade: With Windows 8.1 you get the updated Internet Explorer 11.
- Apps: One of the new apps included with 8.1 is Fresh Paint, an updated and modern interface version of the venerable Paint program.
- Search improvements: Besides integrated search, Windows 8.1 also includes several new Bing apps, such as Bing Sports, Bing Travel, and Bing Health & Fitness.
- Windows Store: The Windows Store has been redesigned to be simpler to use and to provide you with a better shopping experience. Apps should be easier to discover with 8.1.
- Compatibility: Windows 8.1 is completely compatible with all Windows 7 apps, including Office 365.
- Adaptable windows: In Windows 8.1, you can have up to four apps on the screen at the same time and you can size and arrange those windows anyway you choose.
- Multi-monitor support: Windows 8.1 has a more coherent approach to support for multiple monitors, whether operating in the modern interface or on the traditional desktop.
- Across devices: Personal settings for desktop backgrounds, favorites, documents etc. can synchronize across various Windows 8.1 devices.
- Social connections: Windows 8.1 Preview expands on the concepts of social connections by integrating social features into Outlook, the Mail app, the People app, and Skype.
- BYOD: Coupling 8.1 Preview with Windows Server allows more flexibility when managing personal devices in the enterprise.
- Security: Enterprise-grade security is available through enhanced access control, data protection, and encryption.
- Connectivity: Windows 8.1 Preview includes several improvements to connectivity, such as enhanced mobile broadband functionality, NFC based tap to pair with enterprise printers, and native Miracast wireless display capabilities.
- Annoyances: Many of the complaints about Windows 8 revolve around what I would classify as simply annoying. Windows 8.1 Preview fixes a few of these:
- Shutdown/Restart/Sleep: A user can now Shutdown, Restart, or put a PC in Sleep mode from the Desktop by right-clicking the Windows button (where the old Start Button used to be) and navigating to the appropriate menu item. Total number of clicks required for the procedure - two.
- All Apps: Users can see all the available apps by clicking the arrow on the Start Screen. (To see the apps in Windows 8 you had to right-click on an empty part of the Start Screen.)
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.