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October 17, 2013

Microsoft Releases Free Windows 8.1 Upgrade to Existing Customers

Software Hits Retail Stores Tomorrow

Windows 8.1 Preview Start screen
Windows 8.1 Preview Start screen

Microsoft today debuted its long-awaited Windows 8.1 upgrade as a free download to all existing Windows 8 customers.

There will be no automatic update, however. Windows 8 customers must  visit the online Windows Store and download Windows 8.1 themselves.

Windows 8.1 boxed software will hit retail stores around the world tomorrow. It will also be available on all new devices.

Windows 8.1 Preview Search powered by Bing.

Windows 8.1 Preview Search powered by Bing.

The newly-released software addresses many of users’ concerns with Windows 8. The update features the return of the Start button, provides shortcuts to commands and apps and offers the ability to boot to the traditional desktop layout.

Other changes include two new tile sizes (large and small) and the ability to sync customizations, apps and files across all Windows 8.1 devices.

The reviews of Windows 8.1 appear to be mixed, thus far.

Here are some of the comments:

CNet: If you’re an existing Windows 8 user, the update is free and largely seamless, and adds some useful new tweaks and features. You should upgrade as soon as possible.

If you’re a Windows 7 user thinking of upgrading your legacy hardware, I’d suggest sticking with the OS you have until it’s time to buy a new PC. Your Windows 7 PC most likely doesn’t have a touch screen, so many of the Windows 8/8.1 features won’t do much for you.

If you’ve been holding off on a new PC purchase because of your dislike for the original Windows 8 release, this update isn’t going to change your mind. However, it’s likely that your misgivings about Windows 8 are at least slightly hyperbolic, and outside of a handful of specially PC gaming rigs, any new PC you buy is going to have Windows 8 (now 8.1) on it, so you might as well get used to it.

PCWorld: “Windows 8.1 is chock-full of user-friendly features, updates, and general improvements. We can recommend it unreservedly.”

NY Times’ David Pogue: “The fundamental problem with Windows 8 hasn’t changed: you’re still working in two operating systems at once. You’re still leaping from one universe into another — the color schemes, fonts and layouts all change abruptly — and it still feels jarring. There are still too many duplicate programs and settings, one in each environment. And you still can never live entirely in one world or the other.”

Ars Technica: Windows 8.1 is nonetheless a surprisingly substantial update to Windows. It rounds off many of Windows 8’s rough edges, providing a more coherent, better-designed working environment.

Customers can go to http://www.windows.com/shop to take a look at the “wide variety of new Windows devices available now and throughout the holiday season,” Microsoft said on its website.

More information about Windows 8.1 is available at http://blogs.windows.com and http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news.


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Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.

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