What’s New in Windows 8.1 for Windows 8 Users

You’re joking, right? Windows 8.1 is a no-brainer if you already have Windows 8. If you're still running Windows 8, drop everything right now, and install Windows 8.1. Here's what you'll find, when shifting from Win8 to Win8.1:

  • The tiled Metro side of 8.1 has loads of features that should have been in the original release: more PC Settings options, resizable Metro Snap panes, better SkyDrive integration. You'll also find the kind of cosmetic surgery you should expect in a version 2.0 product, such as different sizes for live tiles, more colors and patterns, and a few new Charms options.

  • On the old-fashioned Desktop, you get a new Start button, from which one can actually shut down or reboot the system, and a way to disable the hot corners for the running apps list on the left and the Charms bar on the right. One of the two major Desktop improvements is the ability to disable overbearing Windows 8 features.

  • For both Metro-philes and Metro-phobes, you have a new boot-to-desktop option and a remarkably upgraded Internet Explorer 11. SkyDrive is built-in. You don't need to install a separate app.

While most of the features in Windows 8.1 should have been in Windows 8, the engineering work done on the update is extensive. Microsoft has put together an enormous number of improvements and shipped them in less than a year. That has to be the fastest "version 2.0" of a major product in Microsoft history. Plus, it establishes a cadence of annual, substantive updates that Microsoft claims it can maintain.

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