Windows 8.1 Now Available As Free Update

The first major update to Windows 8 is unleashed onto the Windows Store

Microsoft has started the global rollout of Windows 8.1, the first major update to Windows 8 since it launched last year.

Windows 8.1 is available as a free download from the Windows Store and as a boxed product from tomorrow, while it will also ship on new laptops and tablets.

The update adds a number of improvements to the operating system, including the return of the much-missed start button – but not the start menu.

Windows 8.1 Update

Windows 8 (5)Windows 8.1 adds enhanced search and a more customisable start screen with variable tile sizes, new background designs and colours, while users will be able to choose between the start screen or the familiar desktop view when they load up their machine.

New multitasking options allow users to use and resize up to four apps at any one time, something that should please tablet users, while there is improved multi-monitor support. Preloaded applications have been improved, including the mail app, while Internet Explorer 11 is included and there is deeper integration with the SkyDrive cloud storage service.

Early adopters will no doubt be overjoyed to learn that it features native support for 3D printing as well.

Windows 8.1 also introduces a number of features for enterprises, including security enhancements, management tools and new features aimed at implementing and securing BYOD mobile units.

Windows 8 problems

Microsoft says Windows 8.1 “refines the vision of Windows 8,” but critics have argued it fails to address many of the criticisms levelled at the platform.

Windows 8 has endured a difficult start to its life, having seemingly been unable to revive flagging PC sales, nor significantly expand Microsoft’s share of the lucrative tablet market. Early adopters have complained of usability issues, while enterprises are seemingly uninterested in migrating to the platform, preferring to move to the older Windows 7.

Microsoft is undeterred by the criticism, boasting that the platform has sold 100 million licences and logged 60 billion hours of use.

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Windows 8.1

Originally published on eWeek.