Skip to comments.Windows 8.1 review: Latest edition should start to win over consumers and the enterprise.
Posted on 10/24/2013 9:18:21 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Microsofts Windows 8.1 is now available to download from the Windows Store for free and addresses a number of criticisms levelled at the Windows 8 operating system.
Microsoft has enhanced basic features such as search, improved built-in apps such as the Mail and increased the customisation options ten-fold.
Installing Windows 8.1 varies depending on the version of the operating system you have. Consumers with regular Windows 8 are able to download the update directly from the Windows Store. However, Windows 8 Enterprise users, volume licensees, and MSDN and TechNet subscribers are required to obtain 8.1 as an ISO image and install this.
So what benefits does the 8.1 update bring?
The Start button
The Start button has returned to the bottom left hand corner of the desktop but dont get too excited. A traditional left click switches users between the Live Tile interface and desktop, whilst a right click brings up the power user menu (Win + X).
These features were already available on Windows 8 - Microsoft has just added the Start Button icon into the corner. There's only one material difference. When you hit right click on the button you get access to more programs including Device Manager, Control Panel, Network Connections and even have the option to shutdown the machine.
Its not possible to access programs from the Start button so youll either have to pin shortcuts to your taskbar/desktop or go to the Metro interface to open them. It would have been nice to see Microsoft allow users the option to reinstate the Start Button's original functionality.
Boot directly to desktop
The desktop is where the majority of enterprise users get their work done, so it was baffling when Microsoft forced users to navigate through the Live Tile interface on Windows 8.
To enable this setting hit right click when on the desktop followed by Properties. Click on the Navigation tab and then check the box next to the Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in option.
There is another option marked Show my desktop background on Start. If you tick the box next to it, the Start Screen will now have the same background as your desktop when you switch to it. Its also possible to configure your machine to boot directly into an app or the app view if you wish.
Desktop users may also wish to disable hot corner features as it can get distracting when the mouse hovers over these areas. To do this go to PC settings > PC and Devices > Corners and edges.
Improved multitasking & resizing
In Windows 8 it was only possible to use two Live Tile apps on screen at the same time. You were also restricted to an 80:20 split. Windows 8.1 allows users to open up to four apps on screen at the same time and change the size of each window to suit your needs. This allows you to make better use of your displays.
Microsoft has introduced more Live Tile resizing options too. You can have giant tiles for frequently used apps or tiny squares for not-so-commonly used ones. It's possible to select multiple apps at the same time and resize, uninstall or rearrange them.
Internet Explorer 11
Microsoft has been hemorrhaging web browser market share in the face of strong competition from Chrome, Firefox and Safari for years. Will the introduction of IE 11 do anything to convert users back to the default Windows browser?
The signs are positive. Not only is IE 11 one of the most touch friendly apps on the market - with easy to hit icons and plenty of options accessible from the address bar, but it's also the fastest according to the Sunspider benchmark. IE 11 loads pages in an average time of 155ms, compared to 220ms for Googles Chrome.
You can open an unlimited number of tabs in IE, and snap browser tabs together side-by-side. Microsoft has finally introduced tab syncing between devices. Just open a new IE tab window, and then look for the names of your other PCs at the bottom of the page.
Another user friendly feature is the Reading List so you can bookmark articles to read later. To activate this click on the Star icon in the address bar, then the Share icon.
Microsoft has made numerous enhancements to the default Mail app to make it finger friendly. Tapping on an email brings up a wealth of options including the ability to move, flag, mark as unread, delete or open up the email in another window. Its also possible to sync and print emails by tapping on 'more' options button.
The sidebar has more options allowing users to quickly switch between flagged emails, folders and favourite contacts. Were still disappointed at the lack of a unified inbox, which has become a common feature especially in mobile devices.
Searching on Windows 8 was not user friendly. Launching the search menu made a list of apps pop up and searching itself was defaulted to look through apps. Not ideal.
In Windows 8.1 the search menu no longer hijacks the whole screen. Instead it pops out of the right-hand side leaving the majority of the screen unobstructed. Searching in Windows 8.1 is superior too. The OS is now set to search everything so it will search Settings, Files and the web thanks to Bing.
Enhanced support for BYOD
Microsoft claims Window 8.1 will make it easier for businesses to implement BYOD policies by increasing the device management options.
Windows 8.1 has New Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA-DM) support built in. End users can access network resources from any internet connection securely. Devices can be enrolled in management policies so users will be able to get access to enterprise portals, work files and corporate apps.
IT admins can control the way the Start Screen looks - giving employees a consistent experience across devices. Admins will also be able to enforce dynamic control access policies. This means that when a device is removed from the network, users will no longer be able to access enterprise data.
Despite initially stating that Windows 8 would be made for 10in+ screens, Microsoft has expanded support for smaller devices. There are a number of 8in tablets in coming including the Dell Venue 8 Pro and and Lenovo Miix2.
Automated app updates & SkyDrive syncing
This was another feature which was left out of the original OS. Its easy to activate. Go to the Store, swipe from the right-hand edge to bring up the Charms menu and select Settings. Then choose App Updates and switch them on.
All documents are now saved to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud repository by default. Of course its still possible to save files locally, but if youve got multiple devices the ability to pull them from the cloud is invaluable.
Users are given 7GB of cloud storage for free and it's possible to get increments of 10GB at £6 per year.
Better connectivity and security
Microsoft has beefed up connectivity in Windows 8.1 with tablets and PCs now able to connect to VPNs automatically when users click on an internal application or URL.
Windows 8.1 devices with built-in 3G/4G connectivity will also be able to act as a portable hotspot.
NFC support is enhanced too. Users can theoretically pair their device with peripherals without having to go through a complex syncing process. Microsoft claims users will be able to attach an NFC tag to a printer and connect to it by tapping their device, for example.
Windows 8.1 brings a wealth of upgrades to Microsoft's OS, enhancing the user experience by increasing customisation options and beefing up touch support. There is still work to be done, but if Microsoft continues to listen to customer feedback then the latest edition of Windows should start to win over consumers and the enterprise.
Min system specs:
1 GHz processor or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2
2 GB RAM / 20 GB available hard disk space
1024 × 768 screen resolution
DirectX 9 graphics processor with WDDM driver
It won’t support many of my peripherals, so I am considering having several computers (for my office) built by a private contractor who will install Win 7. This is on the advice of my computer consultant.
One thing that I didn’t like about the 8.1 upgrade is that you now need to have a Microsoft account in order to use certain apps like Skydrive and a few others. There are work arounds but I just don’t like using a Microsoft account to log into my personal computer.
Microsoft anything is like telling your kid to learn to play the trombone while all the other kids are learning guitar and picking up chicks with Apple products.
My wife brought home a new Asus laptop with Window 8 a few weeks ago. I didn’t know about it until yesterday, which means that she isn’t having problems or complaining.
Verdict: If you're on Healthcare.gov we definitely recommend updating to Healthcare.gov 2.o as soon as possible. It rectifies a number of issues which plagued the original release and whilst it's not perfect, Healthcare.gov 2.0 is a step in the right direction.
To get the full 8.1 version, one has to navigate through the Store app. The Store app does not open for me(server error), and according to Googly, many others.
Microsoft suggestion - reinstall Windows 8.0, then see if the Store is accessible.
Ping for later
I just bought a new Lenovo G500s a few days ago from Staples. 8G ram, 1 TB hard drive. Intel i5 2.6G processor. $500 bucks.
Was a little apprehensive about win 8, but read 8.1 was the fix. I love it. You have to install current updates to win 8 and then go to the apps store. There you will see the win 8.1 upgrade. It was a quick upgrade. One intermediate reboot required.
Once there (8.1) you can get your desktop back. You can make a few mouse clicks to make it boot to the desktop.
See this like for options and configurations.
I have no regrets with win 8.1
And another thing, why force the Store concept? Why couldn’t 8.1 be done through..da da da daaaaaaa, Windows Update?
Giant pain in the ass! Every apparent work around had negative consequences (really hating UAC, etc...)
Here's the way to install it initially with a local account to keep your old login/password:
After you install Windows 8.1 and you are asked to sign in to a Microsoft Live account, there's no apparent way to move past that screen if your intention is to only have a local account. Here's the trick: Click the Create New Account link and then at the bottom of that next screen you will see a link that will let you cancel the process. You will then login using your local account.
I tried to download Office.
Found out it couldn’t be done.
The entire combined brain power at Microsoft never bother to think that not everyone in the world has the exact same super high speed internet connection as Microsoft.
The more Microsoft tries to become Apple the more their OS becomes intolerable. I’ll be on Windows 7 for many years to come.
Yeah and the AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE ACT WILL REDUCE INSURANCE PREMIUMS AND SOLVE WORLD PEACE!
I went to (tying to remember, I’m on an xp mch at work) pc settings and then skydrive. You can, as far as I can tell, tell it to not use skydrive for cloud storage and/or syncing data between microsoft devices.
You can boot the pc without having an internet connection, so I am not sure if you even need a microsoft account?
It has been rumored that when Bill Gates started dating he would tell of his aspirations of starting his own software company someday. One night while on a “conquest” he asked his date if she could help him come up with a name for his potential company. She supposedly looked down and said how about micro soft?
Its not possible to access programs from the Start button so youll either have to pin shortcuts to your taskbar/desktop or go to the Metro interface to open them.
Wow... that would be like an IPhone update that messed up something as basic as copy and paste.... heh
I guess I’m going to find out if it breaks Start8.
No. it won’t.
I tried this past weekend to upgrade my Win 8 Pro laptop.
Install failed twice. Got all the way to reboot your PC, and it failed - restored me back to Win 8 PRO.
FAIL again MS. You suck.
Yep. there is definitely a resemblance.
“And another thing, why force the Store concept? Why couldnt 8.1 be done through..da da da daaaaaaa, Windows Update?”
Yea, that store thing and requiring users to set up that Microsoft account has sure confused users at a non-profit I help support on the side. I agree, terrible idea.
Guess again. Microsoft and the Feds can all burn in Hell together. I’m not drinking their poison. I have been running Linux for the past four years with some minor inconvenience, but no regrets.
Now, if I could just find an alternative to medicine in the United States once our options here run out. Which foreign countries would offer the best combination of safety and affordability to American tourists?
Too bad the people who bought the Forrestal for a penny couldn’t turn it into a floating hospital instead of selling it for scrap
I had thrown out my Windows 8 for my Samsung Slate but with 8.1 release I reinstalled. Not much changed unless I am overlooking fixes for the problems I have. Biggest problem with my touchscreen tablet is that once you tap on any window the keyboard does not pop up when tapping on an input window. You have to go to the bottom of the screen and tap on the keyboard icon. Then that keyboard is HUGE and I do not see a way to customize it. The alternate OSK(on screen keyboard) is the opposite, tiny and again need to separately tap up when trying to input data.
You can still purchase Win 7 computers off the shelf.
It will not. I'm using Start8 with 8.1 on two computers.
They ought to rectify Healthcare.gov, and in fact Obamacare in general, but there's just so many rectums to chose from.
>>She supposedly looked down and said how about micro soft?
I recall the one where his wife was filing for divorce because after several years they had still not consummated their marriage. The judge was amazed and asked why. The wife responded “all he does is stand at the foot of the bed and tell me how good it’s going to be.”
It was easier to “get” if you were around in the years leading up to Windows 95. :)
A: The used car salesman knows when he's lying to you.
I agree. I’ve got Snow Leopard and 6 Macs, 6 Iphones, 1 Ipad at home..... and one HP POS that has tons of family photos that my wife refuses to change over to the Mac because she can’t figure out how to get the photos out of the peripheral drive she stored them on and for some reason the Mac doesn’t “see” them.
I’m not messing with Mavericks because everything I have works.