A close-up look at the Windows 8.1 Update

A close-up look at the Windows 8.1 Update

Summary: A major update to Windows 8.1 arrives via Windows Update on April 8. It's aimed at making the desktop experience easier for keyboard and mouse users. Here's a close-up of the changes you can expect.


 |  Image 13 of 13

  • Thumbnail 1
  • Thumbnail 2
  • Thumbnail 3
  • Thumbnail 4
  • Thumbnail 5
  • Thumbnail 6
  • Thumbnail 7
  • Thumbnail 8
  • Thumbnail 9
  • Thumbnail 10
  • Thumbnail 11
  • Thumbnail 12
  • Thumbnail 13
  • You've got (new) apps

    In Windows 8, installing any new desktop program or Windows Store app added that program's icons to the Start screen, resulting in icon overload. Windows 8.1 changed that behavior so that the new program's icons were added to Apps view but not automatically pinned to Start. That led to a different sort of confusion, with users puzzled over how to find the newly installed apps. The spring 2014 update adds a notification at the bottom of the Start screen, alongside the arrow that leads to Apps view. On the Apps screen, icons for newly installed apps are marked with a bright label that reads "New."

  • Disk space at a glance

    One of the few changes in PC settings with Windows 8.1 Update 1 is this new pane under the PC and Devices entry. The Disk Space list shows which types of files are gobbling up the most disk space and offers a button for emptying the Recycle Bin.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Windows 8

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • "Couldn't figure out how to shut it down"

    "Couldn't figure out how to shut it down" are you kidding me, I'm 58 it took me about a day to figure out the everything in 8/8.1 and about 1 minute after installation of the operating system when I did my first driver installs I had the machine shut down. Are the so called "geeks" just as thick as a few planks.
    Kevin Cobley
    • You

      get the tape measure and I'll get the two short planks, then we'll show them how intelligent they are! :-D

      As a power user and geek, I like Windows 8.
    • Reply to Kevin Cobley

      I agree Kevin Cobley, They are sometime thicker....Instead of letting the system do what it does best they tend to think they know better. they could however, just read the instructions.....
  • More of the same is good.

    The reason for the Window' Operating System's success was keeping more of the same and advancing forward at the same time. Windows XP kept more of the same but at the same time was much more advanced and was considerably better. Windows 8 is however not successful because it got rid of a lot of things that people were accustomed to. I don't blame the engineers and hard working employees at Microsoft at all for the unsuccessfulness of Windows, it was the leaders of Microsoft who decided that Windows needed an unnecessary life changing surgery.
    Pollo Pazzo
    • mobile and touch are the future...

      Windows needed to get there.
      Not sure what you mean by XP being "more advanced"?
  • [o_o]

    To me WIN8.1 is the best, has innovations, and at last they change the startmenu in to a full screen menu or start screen. I have no gripes with the start menu. even its first release during the days of WIN95 it was a simple program menu that replace program manager. and the start menu continue to evolve until WIN7. but the changes from each windows version seems so minimal to me. it feels the same or nothing new at all. maybe the startmenu has little room for improvements and its already reaching its limits for innovation. while the startscreen in WIN8 was simple fullscreen menu just like WIN95 simple startmenu. Now im using WIN8.1 update 1 the startscreen improve. I like the changes now and waiting for more better improvements in the Startscreen adding right click submenus, taskbar in startscreen, minimize and close bottons in fullscreen programs and many more. Im happy user of WIN8.1 in my ASUS X102BA NETBOOK. My DESKTOP is empty because I don't like to put icons to it and I like to see my wallpaper with no icons interfering. so I prefer to pin theme in the STARTSCREEN. my startscreen has same wallpaper with my desktop wallpaper. I like the FILE EXPLORER now, the security of WIN8.1 is better. Still I can run my WIN7 games in WIN8.1. I like the WINDOWS STORE has many apps now, many simple funs games. the live tiles I like it because it give me a preview of NEWS,SPORT,WEATHER,FOOD etc. I am satisfied, I know how to use WIN8.1 the way it is of both worlds.

    Actually its a matter of choice, liking, purpose of what you do in your PC, LAPTOP, HYBRID NETBOOK/LAPTOP. Windows 7 is good for person who dislike WIN8.1 while WIN8.1 good for person who likes to learn new ways of using WINDOWS and see's the benefits to it. Whether its keyboard,mouse,touchpad,touchscreen it depends on the user. others that find it hard because they cant adopt to changes and they prefer the old school of using WINDOWS. WIN XP to WIN7 feels the same to me. WIN8.1 you need to learn new ways of using it. Anyway Im using WIN8.1 because I like the features and serves purpose to what I do in my LAPTOP. Only WIN8.1 give me the SNAP VIEW of a Fullscreen program while my Internet browser is open so I can view my internet activity while playing games at the same time. In Win7 I cant do this because I must Alt-TAB in order to see my internet browser then again ALT-TAB to continue with the game I play. Most of the time it will hang WIN7 in minutes or hang 4ever =reset windows 7.

    lastly adding an improve start menu when right clicking the start button in WIN8.1 making it just like WIN95/98 start menu when right click the start button is good also for those who don't like the start screen.
    • no aero, no desktop icons...

      ... still no way this flat, boring low def lipstick on a pig gets into my rig...
      • No desktop icons?

        Exactly what version of Linux are you running?

        Seriously, it's still possible to have desktop icons for both programs and files in Windows 8.x. I've got multiple computers at home running this version of Windows, and each of them has at least the Recycle Bin on the desktop. Most of them have icons for some installed programs, and more than one has icons representing files or shortcuts to the files as well. Aero transparent effects are so far limited to the Taskbar, but is that really such a loss?

        For my money, despite some initial mistakes, Windows 8.1 is the best client OS Microsoft has yet introduced. I have absolutely no regrets moving my home PCs to it.
  • OneDrive and local account?

    Did Microsoft remove the requirement to use a local account to access OneDrive (aka SkyDrive)? This is the most annoying change that happened between Windows 8 and 8.1. As I totally refuse to configure my desktop PC with a non-local account I'm forced to use a third party app to sync my SkyDrive account to my local disk.

    That is also an issue for people logged in domain accounts.
    • I meant

      Requirement to use MICROSOFT ACCOUNT... sorry
    • RE: OneDrive and local account?


      You can add your Microsoft account to your computer as an additional account and get your Microsoft services such as SkyDrive using that account. I do that today on my work PC; I use a local account on my laptop, but have added my personal Microsoft account too, for all the services I use that span work and personal devices. It works like a charm and everything syncs like you'd expect it to if you were actually logged in using the Microsoft account.
      • Are you sure you're talking Windows 8.1?

        My current setup is: Windows 8.1, local account, my Microsoft account is setup in Mail application (People and Calendar syncs fine), but when I click on the SkyDrive app it tells me I've got to convert my account to a Microsoft account to use it. This worked fine in Windows 8 (it asked me my Microsoft account when I opened SkyDrive the first time) but MS removed that capacity in 8.1 (though all XBox games still allow to specify account manually).

        Where is it you add the account? I don't want to manually login to a seperate account.
        • RE: Are you sure you're talking Windows 8.1?

          Yes, I'm talking about 8.1... Go to Settings/PC Settings/Accounts from the Charms menu. You can link accounts under the Other Accounts option. Hope this helps. As I said, I log into my work PC using a domain account, but my Skydrive and other web services all sync using my personal Microsoft account. I actually use several PC's at home and work, plus mobile devices, two Windows tablets and a Windows phone and they all sync to the same Microsoft account. My work PC is the only one that I use a local account on.

          • Can't figure it out

            Maybe this works with Domain accounts, but does it works with local accounts?
          • No, does not have to be a domain

            Saw it last week when setting up a new Windows laptop for a friend. I had already created a local account but it also gave me the option to link a Microsoft account to that local account using the procedure kb5ynf described above. I always create a local account first as the admin. Everything after that Microsoft account or not is a standard user.
          • This is MY problem .....

            I DONT want CHARMS or METRO in any shape or form.

            I DONT have Touch systems for business and never will.

            Kicrosoft are fast becomming irrevelant
          • Didnt you read the article?

            All of the improvements are for non-touch devices.
            I also heard Windows 7 still works just fine.
  • Surface Pro 2 Improvements

    One of the most annoying things about Windows 8.x on the Surface Pro 2 with either a Type Cover 2 or Touch Cover 2 has been the lack of a tap, then tap-and-drag to select function on the touchpad. Reports from the Internet are that this has been fixed in Update 1. If so, this is a big hallelujah! to Microsoft as this was a glaring oversight on their part.

    Lack of this very basic touchpad functionality made the use of a mouse with the Surface Pro 2 almost mandatory, but if its really fixed, one would be able to get by using the Type or Touch Cover 2 alone, making for better portability.
    • RE: Surface Pro 2 Improvements

      I agree with you on this; that is one of the only things I dislike about my Surface 2 and the Surface RT before it... You can turn on the tap lock feature, but I don't like that as well as the tap and drag on laptop touchpads. Instead, I just use my other hand to hold the left button down when selecting and dragging; I also sometimes use the touchscreen for this, neither works as well as the tap and drag feature found on most laptop touchpads though. I hope they do add that feature!

      The Surface keyboard cover and their built-in kickstands are the two features that keep me using the Surface instead of competitor products.
    • Now that Update 1 has been released ...

      ... you'll be glad to know that double tap and drag has been enabled for Surface on touch and type covers and on Dell's Venue 8 with keyboard cover.