Microsoft starts rolling out Windows 8.1

Microsoft is beginning the process of making Windows 8.1 generally available worldwide.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

On October 17, at 7 am EST (4 am PST) Microsoft is kicking off the next phase in its Windows 8.1 rollout: General availability (GA)


Starting today, users already running Windows 8 and/or Windows RT will be able to download the free Windows 8.1 update from the Windows Store. As of October 18, Windows 8.1 will be available preloaded on new devices and in boxed software form.

Those not upgrading from Windows 8 will be charged between $119.99 (core) and $199.99 (Pro) for Windows 8.1. Those running a preview version of Windows 8.1 should expect to have to reinstall their apps, while those moving straight from Windows 8 to 8.1 (without installing the preview on their devices) will not.

Though the updated Windows 8.1 Store is only open as of today for updated and new app submissions, there are a few developers who received preferential treatment so that their apps would be ready to download from the Windows Store alongside Windows 8.1. The third-party, Windows Store/"Metro-Style" apps for Windows 8.1 which are launching today include:

  • Facebook (official app from Facebook itself)
  • Hulu Plus; 
  • Evernote; 
  • eBay
  • Netflix; 
  • NOOK; 
  • Adobe Photoshop Express
  • Disney Fairies;
  • Box; 
  • Adobe Reader Touch
  • Microsoft Solitaire (Arkadium)

Microsoft released to manufacturing Windows 8.1 back in August. Initially, company officials planned to make the Windows 8.1 RTM bits available only to its PC partners at that time. After developer and customer outcry, Microsoft softened its stance and allowed various constituencies to get the Windows 8.1 RTM bits via MSDN and TechNet.

Microsoft officials confirmed to some members of the press and select testers that they would be updating the Windows 8.1 RTM bits by the time Windows 8.1 was generally available. The first set of updates were set to include refreshes of the apps that are bundled with Windows 8.1, such as Microsoft's own Bing apps.

The updates also were expected to include fixes and performance improvements to the Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 RT RTM bits. Over the weekend, builds of these updates (KB2894179, KB2883200, and KB2894029) — collectively known as GA Rollup A — leaked to the Web

Microsoft will be delivering the first set of updates during next 24 hours to customers via Windows Update, according to my contacts. When I asked this week if the Rollup A updates were part of today's general-availability release, a Microsoft spokesperson told me: "These updates are a part of Windows 8.1, and a part of the general installation process. We remain committed to quality for our customers.”

Update: These three post-RTM updates are available for download as of October 17. (Thanks, Richard Hay, a k a @WinObs.) The three: A General Availability rollup, a performance update and a fix for Runtimebroker.exe. If you already have the Windows 8.1 RTM bits (thanks to your TechNet or MSDN subscription benefits), all you need to do is apply these three updates on top to be current. You don't need to first reinstall the Windows 8.1 RTM bits that are available for download today.

Windows 8.1 is launching simultaneously in 230 markets and 37 languages. It's a free update to Windows 8.

Windows 8.1 is designed to make Windows more palatable to those who may have been put off by changes instituted as part of Windows 8. It includes a Start Button (but not Start Menu); a boot-straight-to-desktop option; the ability to have up to four Metro-Style apps open side-by-side; an updated version of IE (IE11); and a host of new business-focused features.

Visual Studio 2013 and .Net 4.5.1 also are generally available, as of today. 

A few additional links that might help with the update process:

How to update your devices from Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 RT previews to the RTM bits (follow the links in the post using IE as your browser, as Chrome isn't displaying all links)

Updating your Surfaces from Windows 8.1 preview to 8.1 final

* Download links for Visual Studio 2013 and .Net 4.5.1 final bits


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