What is Windows 8.1? Online features in Windows 8? Windows 8.1 is a release of the Windows NT operating system developed by Microsoft. It was released to manufacturing on August 27, 2013, and broadly released for retail sale on October 17, 2013, about a year after the retail release of its predecessor, and succeeded by Windows 10 on July 29, 2015. Windows 8.1 was made available for download via MSDN and Technet and available as a free upgrade for retail copies of Windows 8 and Windows RT users via the Windows Store. A server version, Windows Server 2012 R2, was released on October 18, 2013.
Windows 8.1 aimed to address complaints of Windows 8 users and reviewers on launch. Enhancements include an improved Start screen, additional snap views, additional bundled apps, tighter OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) integration, Internet Explorer 11 (IE11), a Bing-powered unified search system, restoration of a visible Start button on the taskbar, and the ability to restore the previous behavior of opening the user’s desktop on login instead of the Start screen.
Windows 8.1 also added support for then emerging technologies like high-resolution displays, 3D printing, Wi-Fi Direct, and Miracast streaming, as well as the ReFS file system.
What is Windows 8.1?
Windows 8.1 is an operating system designed by Microsoft. Windows 8 introduced a lot of new changes, and many people found it difficult to use. Windows 8.1 is very similar to Windows 8, but it addresses some of the problems people had with Windows 8.
There have been many different versions of Windows over the years, including Windows 7 (released in 2009), Windows Vista (2006), and Windows XP (2001). While previous versions of Windows mainly ran on desktop and laptop computers, Windows 8 is also designed to run on tablets. Because of this, the interface has been simplified so it will work with touchscreens.
An operating system manages all of the hardware and software on a computer. Without it, the computer would be useless. To learn more about how operating systems work, check out Understanding Operating Systems and Getting to Know the OS in our Computer Basics tutorial.
How is Windows 8 different from earlier versions?
There are many new features and changes in Windows 8, both small and large. These changes include a redesigned interface, online features, and improved security.
The first thing you’ll notice about Windows 8 is that it looks totally different from previous versions of Windows. The all-new interface includes features like the Start screen, live tiles, and hot corners.
- Start screen: The main screen you’ll use is called the Start screen, and it displays all of your apps as tiles. You can personalize your Start screen by changing the color scheme, choosing a background image, and rearranging your tiles.
- Live tiles: Some apps use live tiles, which let you see information without even clicking on the app. For example, the Weather app displays the current weather on its tile, and you can click on it to see more details.
- Hot corners: You’ll navigate through Windows 8 by using hot corners. To use a hot corner, just hover the mouse in the corner of the screen, and it will open a toolbar or tile that you can click. For example, to switch to another open app, you can hover the mouse in the top-left corner and then click. If you’re using a tablet, you’ll swipe from the left or right instead of using hot corners.
- Charms bar: Many of your computer’s settings are now found in a toolbar called the Charms bar. You can access it by hovering in the top-right or bottom-right corner of the screen. If you’re using a tablet, you can swipe from the right to open the Charms bar.
Online features in Windows 8
Many people are starting to save their files and other information online (also known as the cloud). One way to do this is with Microsoft’s OneDrive service (previously call SkyDrive). Windows 8 is designed to connect seamlessly to OneDrive, as well as to other online services like Facebook and Twitter.
- Sign in with Microsoft account: Instead of creating an account on your computer, you can sign in with your free Microsoft account. This will bring all of your OneDrive files, contacts, and more into your Start screen. You can even sign in to a different computer that has Windows 8, and all of your important files will be there.
- Social networking features: You can connect your Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr accounts to Windows 8, allowing you to see your friends’ updates directly from your Start screen or from the built-in People app.
- To learn more about Microsoft’s online services, check out our Microsoft Account and OneDrive and Office Online tutorials.
Updating Windows 8 to Windows 8.1
When Windows 8 was released in 2012, many users complained that it was difficult and confusing to use, especially compared to older versions of Windows. Windows 8.1 is an update for Windows 8 that includes a number of improvements and features to address some of these issues. Below are some of the most helpful and notable features:
- Start Button: Windows 8 removed the Start button from the Desktop. Many users complained about the missing Start button, so Windows 8.1 adds it back to the Desktop. Clicking the Start button on the Desktop will launch the Start screen, which you’ll use to open programs and search for files.
- Boot to Desktop: Rather than launching the Start screen when you turn on your device, Windows 8.1 now gives you the option to boot directly to the Desktop, much like older versions of Windows. This is especially helpful if you’re not interested in using the Start screen very often.
- Snap Start Screen Apps: Windows 8 introduced full-screen apps for the Start screen, but it did not allow you to view more than two apps at once. Windows 8.1 allows you to view several different Start screen apps and snap them to different parts of the screen. Traditional desktop apps still work the way they did in earlier versions of Windows: They’ll appear in individual windows that you can move and resize.
If you already have Windows 8, you should now able to upgrade to Windows 8.1. Your computer may be updated to Windows 8.1 automatically, but you can also update it manually. To do this, open the Windows Store app from the Start screen, then select Update Windows.
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