Should a small business upgrade to Windows 8.1?

Should a small business upgrade to Windows 8.1?

Summary: Windows 8.1 brings improved features that help boost the productivity for a small business.


Microsoft has just released the upgrade to Windows 8 (matter-of-factly called Windows 8.1). What does it mean for small businesses and should they upgrade?

Definitely upgrade. It's free, it brings some great user interface enhancements, search improvements, and makes Windows 8 feel polished. It's definitely worth its cost (free for existing Windows 8 users!).

What are the new features that relate to small businesses - businesses that don’t have dedicated IT departments or network administrators.

  • With the ability to snap multiple applications to the screen (up to 4 on 1 monitor, depending on resolution and up to 8 on 2 monitors) and the additional customizations to live tiles (able to change sizes), there’s more reason than ever to provide your workforce with larger monitors. Big screen translates into improved productivity!

  • Better-integrated Skydrive (cloud storage and syncing) means it's easier for an employee to sit at any Windows 8.1-powered computer and have immediate access to their documents. Broken computers, hot-desking, etc. become more manageable.

  • Search improvements. In Windows 8 the search was split into different sections; it could be frustrating and confusing when a user is searching for a setting and they're getting no results since they were only searching across applications. In 8.1, search consolidates everything (Web pages, documents, applications, and etc.) and presents it attractively. This should also translate into improved productivity.

  • Automatic app updates from the Windows Store help effortlessly patch applications as well as keep the system more secure… assuming the update doesn't interfere with some other part of the OS.

  • Internet Explorer 11 loads web pages faster, syncs tabs across devices, and has touch-screen enhancements.

There are plenty of improvements geared towards enterprise environments, including Workplace Join, Work Folders, and etc--I focused on the features that a small business would immediately find useful.


Topics: Windows 8, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Windows, SMBs


Howard spent 14 years in the tech industry working as a programmer, evangelist, and community manager for Microsoft. In 2009, he had lived his "dream" of middle-management long enough and opened a Japanese restaurant called Standing Sushi Bar. Trading in stock grants and software licenses for raw fish and cash, he enjoys mixing his passion for technology into the daily hustle of small business.

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  • From Windows 8, YES. From Windows 7, NO.

    Windows 8.0 was a bad OS. If a small business is currently using Windows 8 via a new computer purchase, then by all mean.....he or she NEEDS to upgrade to 8.1. However, if a small business owner is using Windows 7, then Windows 8.1 is not necessary. The features in 8.1 are not worth the cost to upgrade.

    - "snap multiple applications to the screen"... the average small business user, really has no need for this. How many small businesses are actually going to buy large monitors and need to see multiple applications on-screen at the same time?

    -"Better-integrated Skydrive"...the cost to change the OS for a small business is not worth it. Not a game changer. Not a game changer from Windows 7.

    - "Search improvements"....Again, not a game changer from Windows 7.

    -"Automatic app updates from the Windows Store".... The most vital piece of a small business' computer operation is the accounting system. Not necessarily the apps. The average small business user hardly ever thinks about updates to their software unless something really bad happens where they have no choice but to take notice and action.

    - "Internet Explorer 11"...Isn't that going to be for Windows 7 as well?

    The way how everything is now....Windows 7 looks like it's going to be the new Windows 3.1.
    • Not necessary

      agreed. Although I found Windows 8 was still an improvement over Windows 7, not worth upgrading a whole business for, but still improved.

      Given the choice, I'd take 8 or 8.1 over 7 every time.
      • Upgrade current Windows XP to Windows 8.1

        After upgrade Windows XP to Windows 8.1, what to do if there is password problem to login Windows 8.1?
    • Should a small business upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1? - Maybe

      Even with a more appropriate headline, the answer is still a 'maybe'. Beside all the reasons already enumerated by an earlier comment, Windows 8.1 upgrade is not going to be *free* if the small business had chosen to install Windows 8 Enterprise edition. They will be required to buy an ongoing subscription of one kind or another to be eligible for the upgrade when it becomes available.
    • Windows 8 Is way better than 7

      This notion that windows 8 is inferior to Windows 7 is crazy. Sure if you base it on the start menu alone its up for grabs because the start menu/screen is a mute point it launches applications. However Windows 8 as a desktop running in the desktop interface is much leaner and more stable. I've used everything from 3.1. XP SP3 was good, Win 7 was great, Win 8 way better. I don't have much use for most of the new apps given I do most of my work through Adobe products but as an OS its hands down the most stable and responsive yet. So get over the start screen. I rarely use it to launch apps anyway, just pin them ... thats essentially the most efficient way to work in Win 7. Unless you really liked going to start > All programs > Company Folder > ohh there is my application Click. Inefficient.
      • An inconsistent bipolar user interface

        is a defect in the operating system. It is a defect not shared by Windows 7.

        It is fixable with third party tools, and certainly that will work as a workaround in situations where the computer came with Windows 8. And Windows 8.1 is more usable than Windows 8, in that they've reduced somewhat the inconsistency of UI behaviours between Metro and real Windows.

        But if you've got Windows 7, you have no reason as a business to upgrade - none at all.
        • Oh, and BTW... no Windows 7 user ever did that with the menu

          As any Windows 7 user knows, you hit the Windows key, you start typing... same thing you do in Windows 8 (except your work doesn't disappear while you do it.)
  • Upgrade to 8.1

    If you are on 8 then by all means. If your at Windows 7 then stick with it. If you are on something older, then go with Linux. Yes it won't run Quickbooks, and Access but there are alternatives. Best of all it's free without the costly hardware upgrades.
    • In fairness to W8.1

      it does run quite well on old hardware. I have it running on a HP laptop with a T2300 chip that is about 6yo.

      That said, W8/8.1 is just awful to use and it lacks any redeeming features. But it is stable and does run on quite old hardware.
    • Quickbooks

      is the least of your problems. Does your ERP system work on Linux?
  • Don't assume 8 to 8.1 will be flawless

    For well over a decade I have used the third-party file manager PowerDesk Pro. It has the best file viewer I have ever found and the ability to set a variety of display filters such as pattern match, files only, folders only, etc. After Classic Shell Menu it's one of the first things I install on any system I'll be using.

    Over the weekend I upgraded my two Win 8 machines to 8.1. In both cases when I opened PowerDesk (two different versions) it ran product activation and told me the serial number had already been used and the program could not work with that serial number.
    • That

      isn't a Microsoft problem, that is poorly written software or a bad licence checking system.

      What did the software company say when you contacted them? Do they have a solution or a workaround?
    • Sorry

      Rick_R, I didn't mean to come over all defensive of MS/Windows there. Poorly written software, especially in the area of licence activation can often make upgrading a misery.
  • Never

    Being in a SMB at I REALISE THE DIFFICULTIES ...SO Please don't upgrade to 8.1 if you are SMB
    Mitali Raj
  • Should a small business upgrade to Windows 8.1?

    That would be a most definitely yes! The small business will get a variety of built in applications as well as the ability to run their current Microsoft Windows based software. They will also get support for years to come. Microsoft Windows 8.1 is fast and light and will take advantage of the hardware. There is no reason not to upgrade.
  • Should a small business upgrade to Windows 8.1?

    I think my clients are more likely to wait for Windows 9.1.
  • It also comes with that idiot Metro UI

    so for businesses who are on Windows 7, and have a superior User Interface, there is no motivation to upgrade.
  • Integrated search an improvement?

    Wait a minute. Integrating search of the internet is some kind of improvement in productivity? Really? I am keyword searching for a couple of dozen files out of the 20K files on "my computer," and I should be happy that the results will be buried in millions of hits on web pages? That is the reason I stooped using some of the free desktop search engines that used to be available. They were more useful for feeding me internet advertising than for actually finding my files indexed on my drives.
  • WINDOWS 8.1

    I AM ABOUT TO GRADUATE TO WINDOWS 8. I need to establish what software bundles come with it. I am about to retire and don't want to be tied into a monthly payment. What software bundles or individual programmes am I able to purchase. I have Ultimate and would like most of the programmes that come with this included in a 8.1. software bundle.
  • Buy Windows 7 with Genuine License-key from OFFICEBFH.COM

    Thanks for sharing! You can buy Windows 7 and windows 8 with Genuine License-key from our office software store: at a low price ,you will get up to 70% discount!Perfect performance, Best price!
    Colorfully Moon