When was Windows 8.1 released? Windows 8 is officially toast 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.
When was Windows 8.1 released?
Windows 8.1 was released on October 17th, 2013.
Windows 8.1 Update, released on April 8, 2014, was the last major update to Windows 8. Microsoft never released a Windows 8.2 or Windows 8.1 Update 2 update.
On January 10, 2023, Microsoft officially ended support for Windows 8.1. This means no new features or security updates are planned.
Windows 11 is currently the most recent version of Windows available.
Windows 8 is officially toast.
Microsoft has pulled the plug on Windows 8’s life support. It told customers they need to upgrade to Windows 8.1 — or better yet, Windows 10 — to continue receiving crucial updates and security patches.
Despite a free upgrade to the superior Windows 8.1 two years ago and another free upgrade to the far, far superior Windows 10 in July, 2.6% of PCs around the world still amazingly run Windows 8, according to data tracker Netmarketshare.
With nearly 2 billion PCs in use, that’s an astounding number: Close to 50 million PCs are running Windows 8.
When Windows 8.1 was released in October 2013, Microsoft made it clear to Windows 8 customers that they had two years to upgrade. Microsoft said then it would no longer support the old version of the operating system by 2016.
Windows 8 customers can still use their computers. But without security updates, they will be more susceptible to hacks.
Many customers will say “good riddance.” Windows 8 wasn’t a bug-ridden disaster like Windows Vista, but it wasn’t widely loved. It forced customers to boot straight to the Start screen, which was a sea of unfamiliar tiles — a radical departure from prior versions of Windows.
Windows 8 was redesigned with tablets in mind, and Microsoft hoped that its fledgling app store would take off in a big way. (It still hasn’t.) The desktop was featured as an “app” within the Start screen, which was far from intuitive for the vast majority of Windows customers, who were using keyboards and mice.
Windows 8.1 fixed most of Windows 8’s glaring problems, and all Windows 8 customers should have received it as part of a regular update.
But some consumers never update their PCs, and many corporations are slow to upgrade. Similarly, Microsoft abandoned support for its decade-plus-old Windows XP operating system in April 2014, even though 12% of PCs are still running XP.
Last year’s Windows 10 evolved the PC operating system even further. It kept Windows 8’s best features while returning the familiar Start button and desktop style that Microsoft introduced with Windows 95 and maintained through Windows 7.
Why not just upgrade?
Getting users to upgrade to newer, more secure versions of Windows has always been a problem for Microsoft. Today, more people are still using the older Windows 8 than 8.1, even though the later version is free and is an improvement on the old.
Why are people slow to install upgrades? Probably because they are busy and the update process is a disruption to their work-flow, taking time and enforcing a re-boot. The user then has to re-open their applications and re-load their work-in-progress. People probably think, “I’ll do that later” but they seldom do.
But for 8.1 users, the longer they leave it to upgrade, the more they risk being hacked.
Windows 8.1 Update is an improvement
The irony is that regardless of how authoritarian Microsoft’s efforts have been to get people to upgrade, this new release is an improvement worth having.
It is one that most users are likely to appreciate once they have installed and got used to the changed setup.
New features of Update include the default booting of users without touchscreens to the desktop and the default use of desktop applications.
The sensitivity of those pop-up “hot corners” has been reduced, recently installed apps are highlighted and generally a much improved user interface for keyboard and mouse users.
On the technical side, the size of the installation package has been halved from 32Gb to 16Gb. Being leaner, Update also performs faster on older hardware while reducing the minimum RAM from 2Gb to 1Gb.
Windows 8.1 Update is probably the version that Microsoft should have released from the beginning. If it had, then Windows 8 may not have received so much harsh criticism and disappointing user uptake, being variously described as an unfinished touchscreen operating system aimed at tablet users.
What’s that!? Windows 8.0 supported until January 2016?
One of the most baffling aspects of the Windows 8.1 Update story is that users of the original, much-maligned Windows 8 will continue to be supported by Microsoft until January 2016.
If Microsoft’s intention is to establish 8.1 Update as the “service and support baseline” why would they not insist that Windows 8 users also upgrade. Why take a hard line with 8.1 and not 8.0? It doesn’t make sense.
Compounding the difficulties for users wanting to upgrade, it was announced earlier this month that the Windows 8.1 Update was having SSL problems that held up deployment of the upgrade for a few days.
This issue has since been resolved, but it could not have come at a worse time with the Heartbleed security bug creating alarm around the world with its exploitation of an OpenSSL library vulnerability.
The best advice is for all users to do a manual check to make sure they have access to the latest software upgrade and get it installed as soon as possible, ahead of the deadline. Simply relying on automatic updates is not enough.
A race against time
So the clock is ticking. With support for Windows 8.1 ending on May 13, and various problems rendering their 8.1 Update package problematic, time is running out fast for both Microsoft and those people who are trying to comply with the strong-arm directive to upgrade there computers before support ends.
But Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella has only been on the job since February 2014 and already we are seeing much activity at the US headquarters these days;
- Office for iOS,
- Office on Android,
- free Windows for phones and small tablets,
- Cortana (a Siri-like AI).
There will be plenty more too in the run-up to the release of Windows 9 sometime in 2015.
With Microsoft’s market share still under threat from Apple, the Windows 8.1 Update mandate is a high-stakes gamble that may yet pay off for the company – as the old saying goes “you have to risk going too far to discover just how far you can really go.”
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