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How the Windows 8.1 Upgrade Improves on Windows 8

About a year after Windows 8 hit the shelves, Microsoft cranked out Windows 8.1, a free upgrade for Windows 8 owners that makes Windows 8 work much more smoothly.

Windows 8.1 changes Windows 8 in several ways:

  • Start button: Discarded in Windows 8, the Start button returns to the desktop in Windows 8.1. Don’t get too excited, though. The Start button fetches only the Start screen rather than the Start menu of days gone by.

  • Desktop and Start screen improvements: Windows 8.1 makes it easier for desktop owners to stay on the desktop and for touchscreen owners to stay on the touch-friendly Start screen.

  • SkyDrive: Microsoft’s online file storage service, SkyDrive, comes built into the Windows 8.1 desktop. When you first sign in to Windows 8.1, Microsoft asks whether you’d like to store your files there automatically.

  • Skype: Windows 8.1 drops the Messaging app but brings in Skype, a more full-featured messaging program.

  • Search: Finding things is a lot easier in Windows 8.1, whether you’re looking for files on your computer, apps in the Store, or information on the Internet.

  • Store: The Windows Store finally reached 100,000 apps. Appropriately, the newly improved Store app makes it easier to search for specific apps.

  • Libraries: Windows 8.1 removes libraries from folders. They still exist, though, and you can turn them back on.

Perhaps most important of all, Windows 8.1 eases the transition between the Start screen and the desktop. They can both share the same wallpaper, for example, a small change that eases the jarring sensation of switching between them.

In short, Windows 8.1 is an update you don’t want to miss. To update a Windows 8 computer to Windows 8.1, visit the Windows Store and search for the Windows 8.1 Upgrade. It downloads and installs just like any other app. When your computer restarts, it will be running Windows 8.1, and all of your files will remain in place.

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