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4/9/2014
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Windows 8.1 Update: 5 Essential Facts

Microsoft's Windows 8.1 update will try to tempt non-touch users, including those transitioning away from Windows XP.

configured to the user's preference, she'll be able to launch Modern apps without ever accessing the Start screen or clicking on a Live Tile. She'll also be able to switch among Modern apps and legacy titles from the taskbar. Microsoft OS chief Terry Myerson said last week that users can't expect windowed Modern apps or a full Start menu until later, but even now, the Modern UI and the desktop UI are merging.

4. The Start screen gets a mouse-friendly makeover.
Microsoft knows users dislike both the Start screen and the jarring experience of jumping between desktop and Modern interfaces, and it's making concessions. But it still hopes users will give the Start screen a chance.

Previously, Windows 8.1 required that mouse-and-keyboard users click on a Live Tile to activate it, and then navigate to the bottom of the screen to access controls. This process is now much faster and less tedious; if a user right-clicks a Tile, he'll summon a context menu with options for moving, resizing, organizing, uninstalling, or unpinning the app.

Windows 8.1 now includes more mouse-friendly features, such as right-click context menus.
Windows 8.1 now includes more mouse-friendly features, such as right-click context menus.

The Start screen now includes a search tool in the top right. Users can still simply begin typing to initiate a search, but the visual cue should make upgrading Windows XP and Windows 7 users feel more at home. A power button has likewise been added, though it won't appear on smaller tablets.

The update also adds a group of new Tiles for commonly used settings and locations: This PC/My Computer; PC Settings; Documents; and Pictures.

Windows 8.1 now makes many commonly used settings and locations available from the Start screen. (Source: Microsoft)
Windows 8.1 now makes many commonly used settings and locations available from the Start screen.
(Source: Microsoft)

In another nod to mouse-and-keyboard users, the update makes hot corners less aggressive. Before, it was too easy to accidently launch the Search charm and other corner-driven functions. Now, the system pauses to see if users linger in a corner, in which case it activates the appropriate task. If the user quickly moves to another part of the screen the system continues as normal.

5. Installation will be easier -- and more mandatory -- for some than others.
If you're running Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, the new update is free and available through the normal Windows Update process. From here it gets a little confusing. First, if you're currently running Windows 8.1, this first update is mandatory -- if you want to continue to get security updates from Microsoft. If you're still running Windows 8, you can ignore this update and Microsoft will support Windows 8 through 2015.

However, if you're running Windows 8 and want the very latest operating system, you'll need to upgrade to Windows 8.1 first and then proceed to the update.

Even once you have the update installed, you might still need to dive into PC Settings to implement all desired changes. The update incorporates some tweaks according to the type of hardware on which it’s installed, such as defaulting non-touch devices to boot-to-desktop. When we updated a Surface Pro tablet, for instance, the option to minimize apps and right-click Live Tiles was deactivated. Though the tablet can be used like a laptop, its touch-centricism determined its default behavior.

If you're running Windows XP or Windows 7, you'll need a new Windows license to upgrade. The standard version is $120 and the Pro version is $200. Upgrading from XP to Windows 8 has always been an iffy proposition, but the new update shrinks the OS's footprint, which might help a few older machines to make the leap. Microsoft representatives at Build declined to speculate whether Windows 8.1's newly slimmed-down profile would help it to run on aging hardware, however. Microsoft made Windows 8.1 leaner in order to enable cheaper devices, not to offer new pathways for longtime XP customers.

Cheaper devices bring up another upgrade consideration. If you're running Windows 7 and considering a Windows 8.1 license, you might get more value out of a new machine, especially if you're interested in moving from a PC to a tablet. Some of the least expensive devices cost little more than the licenses themselves, and, with Windows licenses now free to tablet OEMs, even cheaper options should be on the way.

Emerging standards for hybrid clouds and converged datacenters promise to break vendors' proprietary hold. Also in the Lose The Lock-In issue of InformationWeek: The future datacenter will come in a neat package (free registration required).

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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moonwatcher
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moonwatcher,
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2014 | 4:00:33 PM
Re: Booting to Windows start screen after Windows 8.1 Update 5 installed
I liked the changes....But a nearly 1 GB download for these seemingly simple minor tweaks? That is just crazy. And as someone previously noted. what if some PCs or lap tops sit on the store shelves unsold past the download deadline? How will you be able to convince Microsoft to let you upgrade?
Cyber Senior
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Cyber Senior,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/16/2014 | 6:57:24 PM
Booting to Windows Start Screen following latest updates to Windows 8.1
I wrote the original post in this thread. I actually like the Windows Start Screen in Windows 8.1 and would like to be able to boot my laptop directly to it without first going to the desktop. Some sources indicate that this is possible, but I haven't succeeded in achieving this. I have installed all of the latest Windows 8.1 updates.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
4/15/2014 | 8:36:00 PM
Re: There is an alternative: linux
Choice is important. Whether it's some flavor of Linux, Mac, Chromebook, Windows 7 or Windows 8x, there are options that each have benefits and draw backs. Unless someone has a specific business need for a specific OS, there's all the flexibility in the world.
anon7687420124
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anon7687420124,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/15/2014 | 3:44:14 PM
There is an alternative: linux
My friend was very happy with Windows/XP.  He also has a perfectly good computer, thank you very much, and didn't want to spend a lot of money getting a new machine.

 

So I installed Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on it, with wine and xfce (a lightweight window manager).  All of his favorite windows apps work just fine.  In addition, he has a whole suite of native linux apps to play with.  Canonical is going to support 12.04 for another 2 years.  He also has the option of booting into KDE - he's still experimenting with which desktop he likes.

I realize that this is going to sound heretical, but there alternatives to Microsoft.  You don't have to do as they say.  You have options that do not involve grabbing you by the ankles and shaking you until all of the spare change in your pockets falls out.  Where the EULA says what you *can* do, not what you *can't*.

 

 

 

 
Misterdevers
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Misterdevers,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/13/2014 | 5:16:48 AM
Go to Start Screen after closing apps involves disabling more optional features
Aparently you have to disable the "show Windows Store apps on the task bar" option for Windows to give you the Start screen after closing your apps, even if you have the "when I log in or close all apps on a screen, show the desktop instead of the start screen" option unchecked. This makes no sense. I like the tighter integration of the task bar, but I have become accustomed to the new Start screen. Plus this means users who wish to be brought back to Start cannot have the task bar appear in the modern apps. This is frustrating. 
6 one way half a dozen another
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6 one way half a dozen another,
User Rank: Strategist
4/12/2014 | 5:08:40 AM
Pinning
Thanks for mentioning pinning in this article. As a new to 8.1 user, I was both alarmed and annoyed by a bunch of the live pre-installed apps by Windows. The mention got me to look into how to not only unpin them from my start screen, but how to also turn them off. I don't want to really uninstall them but not having a bunch of unused apps constantly updating unwanted info is a big relief.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
4/11/2014 | 5:54:37 PM
Re: Win 8 update
I think a lot of people feel that way-- but remember: A lot of the decision-makers who worked on the original Windows 8 are no longer with the company. That might not wash the bad taste out of your mouth, but if you haven't already jumped to a non-Windows platform, I think it allows for some optimism. Seems like Terry Myerson knows the stakes facing him.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
4/11/2014 | 5:50:59 PM
Re: Booting to Windows start screen after Windows 8.1 Update 5 installed
Thanks for listing the steps, moonwatcher. Incidentally, for those who haven't done much tweaking in Windows 8.1, the Navigation tab is also where you can activate or deactivate hot corners, among other useful things.

Oddly, though, some important controls are elsewhere. As mentioned in the article, the Surface Pro we updated didn't have the Windows Store app pinned to the taskbar at first. To enable this feature, we went to PC Settings via the Charm, then PC and devices, then Corners and edges-- but not the Navigation tab.
DAVIDINIL
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DAVIDINIL,
User Rank: Strategist
4/10/2014 | 11:31:13 AM
Win 8 update
Logically I believe that the 8.1.1 tweeks fix most of my beefs with Win 8. What Microsoft cannot fix is the bad taste this fiasco has left in my mouth.   Win 7 won Microsoft a lot of consumer goodwill, which it promptly destroyed with Win 8.  Then made it worse with Win 8.1 by not addressing consumer complaints. 

Arrogant, out of touch, ***holes, tone deaf, idiotic, top heavy, takes its customers for granted, condescending towards its customers.  Did I leave any adjectives off?
moonwatcher
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moonwatcher,
User Rank: Ninja
4/10/2014 | 8:53:25 AM
Re: Booting to Windows start screen after Windows 8.1 Update 5 installed
Here is how to do it: 

1. After booting Windows 8.1, click the Desktop tile to enter Desktop mode.

2. Right-click any open area in the taskbar, then click Properties.

3. Click the Navigation tab, then check the box next to Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in.

4. Click OK, then reboot. Windows should plunk you right into Desktop.

And that's all there is to it.

Of course if you get the 8.1.1 update, it ought to do it automatically.
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