Windows 8.1: What enterprise users need to know

Windows 8.1: What enterprise users need to know

Summary: Enterprise users running Windows 8 (or previous versions of Windows): Here's Microsoft's guidance for upgrading to Windows 8.1.


Microsoft made available for download by the public as of October 17 the Windows 8.1 bits, as well as a few post-RTM updates to those bits. But what about enterprise customers?


Microsoft execs said last month that enterprise customers would be able to access the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) to get the Windows 8.1 Enterprise and 8.1 Pro bits, once they were made generally available. They noted at that time that Windows 8.1 (core) would not be available on VLSC.

Those promised Enterprise and Pro bits are available as of today, October 18, in the VLSC, Microsoft officials said. However, I am hearing from some volume license customers that they cannot see any listing for Windows 8.1 in the VLSC and they're being issued trouble tickets.

As Microsoft officials noted in an October 18 Springboard Series blog post, Windows 8.1 Enterprise cannot be updated via the Windows Store; it must be updated via the media from the VLSC.

Customers can opt to do an in-place update of their existing Windows 8 Enterprise installations by using Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2013 or System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager, or by burning the media to a DVD or copy to a USB key.

As a reminder: Anyone upgrading from Windows 8.1 Preview to Windows 8.1 GA should know that all applications — Windows Store and desktop/Win32 — need to be reinstalled as part of the update process.

Microsoft's Springboard blog post includes information on how those interested in moving from earlier versions of Windows and/or non-Enterprise SKUs of Windows 8 can move to Windows 8.1. The post also includes information about how IT pros can update their key-management service servers and keys for activation.

I've had a few users ask whether Microsoft plans to make Media (.ISO) updates available to the general public for Windows 8.1. The answer is no.

A spokesperson noted that the only way to update a retail-activated Windows 8 computer to Windows 8.1 will be to go through the Windows Store and download the updated bits. However, .ISO-based updates will be supported for volume-license installations (as well as for TechNet, MSDN and DreamSpark subscribers).

Why isn't Microsoft making the .ISO files broadly available for Windows 8.1? Another spokesperson told me it's because "8.1 was intended as an update for users with Windows 8 already installed." I know Windows Store downloads have been problematic for a number of users and spotty Internet has made downloading from the Store a challenge for some (especially outside the U.S.). But that's all Microsoft officials are saying right now about .ISOs.

Users asking about how to update their Windows To Go versions of Windows 8: Microsoft officials say you'll have to reimage your existing drives as part of the deployment process.

For those who haven't yet checked out Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise, Microsoft also made free 90-day trials of Windows 8.1 Enterprise .ISOs available today via its TechNet Evaluation Center.

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Tablets, PCs, IT Policies


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Fingers Crossed

    And hope nothing breaks.
    Alan Smithie
    • You and "Said Enough" have the same comment.

    • You and "Said Enough" have the same comment.

      x I'm tc
      • I'm getting

        A sense of deja vu here
        Alan Smithie
        • I'm getting

          A sense of deja vu here
          Alan Smithie
        • It's a glitch

          In the matrix.
  • Really a terrible decision Microsoft

    The Windows 8.1 Answers forums is riddled with error messages. Microsoft needs to realize that Windows 8.1 is not iOS. Its too d**g big.
  • Win 8.1

    Is this a joke? It installs as a new operating system, 2+gig, for just a few minor updates?

    Does little or nothing to fix the problems of using win8 in a desktop environment.

    Flat fullscreen start menu with all apps on one screen all visable at one time.

    Windows 2.1, 3.x with the program manager was better than this. Win8 is so far backwards in it's window, dialog appearance, menu structure it has never been seen before in any operating system.

    Just wipe out any advances in visual, usability convenience and roll us back to even before the atari amiga.

    But you can bring out your pre low end video cards and monochrome monitors again.
    • Go check out Ed Bott's "Metro Hater's Guide"

      On how to make it more palatable. If you set it up properly and pin your commonly used apps to the taskbar, you can get away with almost never seeing the start screen.

      I couldn't live that way, but maybe it's to your liking.
      • The best guide to "Metro Hater's Guide".... installing Windows 7 directly instead of pinninig or buying third party software.
      • The very fact that Ed Bott needed to do that is a warning sign.

        Why on Earth should people need to work at making it merely "palatable"?

        To paraphrase:
        Metro Hater: "It stinks!"
        Flydog57: "Then go and read Ed Bott's detailed guide on the correct way to hold your nose."
        • Works for me

          It's actually quite more than palatable to me, especially with the 8.1 upgrade. In all honesty the only difference between the Win7 and Win8 desktop is I'm missing 2 or 3 features from the start menu. I don't have a list of recently open applications and documents, and I have to be in Metro to access the search box. Other than that, it's the same interface. The majority of PC users whether business or personal were using most functions of the full start menu less and less each year anyway, at least the ones on Windows 7. People still running XP probably still used it more heavily. Most of people's issues with Metro, when you have the option of using desktop, are not as major as they make it out to be. When you read or listen to most people's complaints, most of them are minor issues of preference instead of major problems or malfunctions with the OS. For me I didn't like Metro IE until I realize there was a setting to keep address bar and tabs open at all times. I don't like the fact that I have to go to a charm to get shut down options. I'm used to it now, but I never would have thought to click on my name to log off at first. Both of those options should be in the same place and should have been in a tile from day 1. But the new start button does fix some of those problems. The only other thing that a lot of people I've come in contact with have had a hard time getting used to is that the desktop seems always behind whatever you have open, or you always see it when a Window is not full screen. Some don't like the fact that Metro feels like you have to close out to get back to where you were. Many complain about Metro taking up the whole screen, but if you look at the average person's PC. Their desktop and taskbar is a screen full of shortcuts and documents anyway. More and more average users have formed of habit of putting way more on the desktop than they should.
        • A point about haters

          A point I left out of my earlier comment about "Microsoft Haters," what help is it to only say "it sucks" or "it stinks?" How does that help anyone? Tell us why "it sucks" for you. If I play two sports, and I ask you how can I improve in one, you telling me "just stick to your first sport" doesn't help me. If I ask you for help with a project, telling me "just do something like the last few projects" doesn't help when I need to know how I can improve on the concept I have now. If I have to re-design or re-model a series of stores, it doesn't help for you to tell me "just keep the old design." Too many people sound like kids throwing a tantrum. Is it so hard to say "this is what I like, but this is what I don't like, and maybe this would be a way to improve it." Just constantly yelling "go back to the old way" really doesn't help when you know there is no way they're going back to the old way. 8.1 was an improvement. It could have been a much bigger improvement if more people in the early days of Windows 8 would have given quality feedback instead of every blogger and blog member just yelling and screaming about how much it sucks. And let's not forget we are basically in version 1.1 of a new OS. This is almost like the Win95sp1. Metro or whatever it will be called will evolve and improve over time. It probably won't take 12+ years, but there was a long way between Win95 and Win7. There was a lot of things that weren't perfect or ideal about Win95.
        • Only for metro haters but not all of us are metro haters.

          His article was in the context of metro haters. Not everyone is a metro hater. Some of us liked it in Win8 and like it better in Win8.1
          • Sure, although which camp are the majority of PC users in?

            The PC sales figures suggest that ordinary users are not in love with Win 8.x.
          • Mac sales are down %11...

            Everyone hats OSX! Spread the word!

            Or... PC sales are down in general and you are a hater of the worst kind. Yeah... probably that.
          • *hates*

    • What problem with desktop

      The desktop is identical to the win 7 desktop. The only thing that changed is the start menu. The start screen is your location to pin your favorite apps. If you set it up to your liking, you will use this 90% to launch your apps. The All Apps list is equivalent to All Programs. You don't like the flat list? I didn't like digging through nested folders. If you use the semantic zoom in the All apps list (either the ctrl-mouse scroll wheel or the button on the lower right corner) you will see a view with letters that correspond to metro app names and program groups that are pretty much equivalent to folders. All the exe files associated with the program will be in that group. These are setup automatically when you install a desktop app. Really the best way to open a program is to just use search. However, I doubt you really even gave win 8 a shot before you decided it was different and you didn't like it. Those of us who gave it a real shot and spent a couple of days to learn the features are easily using it with a keyboard and mouse.
      • From a Developers View

        Actually XP was better than 7. W8 is actually closer to XP. With W7 Microsoft became enamored with color gradients or smooth changes in color. While they worked on some monitors, on many they were not smooth transitions but turned into colored lines. Lighting conditions could also change how the gradients looked.

        Analog VGA monitors sometimes really had a problem. Please remember that with VGA you are going from digital on the computer to analog for transmission and back to digital in the monitor. Things could get lost in all this conversion. It was amazing to look 2 identical monitors on the same computer, one with a VGA cable and one with an HDMI cable. The all digital HDMI made the gradients look so much better.

        You can imagine the customer complaints the gradients caused. Trying to turn off this feature was a real pain. Now with Windows 8 things are back to the solid color fields.
        • Interesting desscription...

          and your description of what happens electrically is correct, BUT I have never, in working upon hundreds, if not thousands, of machines observed what you describe.

          Perhaps I have only seen Aero with correctly working video cards, but, in every case, from older slower cards, barely able to support Aero, to the fastest things from ATi and nVidia, there were never any lines drawn without some sort of purposeful blur, making the display look better.

          Removing Aero is just more stupidity from Microsoft, again thinking they know how we wish to use the hardware, and never failing to substitute the poor judgement from inside the walls of Richmond for choice of an individual. Companies with less lazy programmers would have kept Aero, and allowed customer choice - at least at initial installation.