Update overload: Setting up my new notebook

A sub-notebook system at a good price means I just can't resist. First step: Windows 8 to 8.1 to 8.1 Update.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

Well, I've gone and done it again. I saw this Acer Aspire V5 at a very good price (CHF 299 / €245 / £200 / $340), and I have been thinking about trying a netbook/sub-notebook with a different CPU, so this fit the bill. It looks very similar to my Acer Aspire One 725, but the technical specs are rather different:

  • Intel Celeron 1017U CPU, 1.6GHz
  • 2GB DDR3 memory
  • 320GB SATA disk
  • Intel HD Graphics
  • 11.6-inch 1366x768 display
  • Atheros 802.11b/g/n wi-fi
  • Broadcom Gigabit wired network
  • SD/MMC Card Reader
  • 3x USB 2.0 Ports
  • VGA and HDMI Ports

It came preloaded with Windows 8, so the first series of steps were setting up Windows, then upgrading to Windows 8.1 Update. I thought this was a useful case study to relay after my previous confusion with Windows 8.1 Update. In a linked post I'll talk through my experimentation with some Linux flavours.

The first part of that was routine enough, just walking through the initial configuration sequence, selecting language, locale, keyboard, and such.

Once it was up with Windows 8, I figured I would go right for the throat and start the 8.1 update. Unfortunately, that didn't work: the Windows Store informed me that I had to install the outstanding updates for Windows 8 before I could upgrade — back to Windows Update, where I found 86 updates waiting to be installed. That took an hour or so to download and install, then reboot.

Back to the Windows Store: this time it let me click on the "Upgrade to Windows 8.1 for Free" selection, and it thrashed around for a few minutes — then informed me that the installation had failed. In desperation I went back to Windows Update, and found that there were three more updates to install: why these couldn't be installed along with the other 86 beats me; they weren't even listed with that first batch, I clearly recall that there was only one "Important" update that wasn't selected, and it was an Internet Explorer 10 update so it is obvious why that one didn't get installed.

I didn't have any better ideas to get Windows 8.1 to install, so I just let it go ahead and install those three, and then reboot. When it came back up again everything looked the same, but this time it let me install the 8.1 update

No, I don't want to use Bing for anything, no, I don't want Microsoft to use my name or picture for anything, No, I don't want to share any other information with Microsoft. Although to be honest, this is pretty well organised and executed — if you don't mind using and sharing with Microsoft, you can just take the "Express" option and everything is done; I'm sure that's a convenient choice for a lot of Windows users.

But if you take the long road rather than the express option, you really get to choose what you do and don't want to use and share, and the defaults are not simply the "Express" answers shifted into individual questions. You still need to read and think, of course, but overall it seems ok.

But finally, once again, the struggle over the "Microsoft Account":  I don't have one, I don't want one, I don't need one. But on the first page that comes up, the only options are "Login with your Microsoft Account" and "Create a Microsoft Account". That's it: no option for "skip this, I don't need or want a Microsoft Account, please just let me login to Windows as I always have". I tried everything to get past this screen, with no success.

I finally chose "Create a Microsoft Account". That brought up a "create a new account" screen, and in fine print at the bottom there was an option to "continue with my existing account". It turns out that this is actually the secret escape door — it brings up the normal login screen, and I was able to login using the normal Windows account that I had created an hour ago when I first started up this system.

So, now my new Aspire V5 is running Windows 8.1. I could confirm that on the "PC Info" screen (also known as "Control Panel / System and Security / System"), but of course that only says "Windows 8.1", it doesn't say whether it is really "8.1 Update" or not.

Time to check the 'secret signals', there is a magnifying glass on the Start screen (also known as Windows Phone screen), that wasn't there before. But my experience is that this is not definitive. Ah, there in the middle of the task bar I see a new icon, for the Windows Store, I think that is the definite indication that 8.1 Update is really installed.

Aspire V5 Windows 8.1 Update
Acer Aspire V5 Windows 8.1 Update Desktop

One last thing — to check for updates. Four "Important Updates" are available. And none of them says that it is "Windows 8.1 Update", so I'm reasonably confident that it really has completely installed that version (but wouldn't it be so much easier if it would just say that on the "PC Info" screen?)

The last four updates only take a few minutes to download and install, and then of course the mandatory reboot, but this time when it comes back up I'm almost done. All that remains is removing the crapware that is preloaded on the system. And another reboot required.

I just have to go back to the Windows Update screen one more time to be sure — and one Important Update waiting to be installed! One that couldn't be installed along with any of the series of upgrade/update sequences that I just went through? Not with the first 86, or the next three, or the four after that?

One more thing: I need to disable "Fast Startup", so that when I tell Windows to shut down, it really does that rather than tricking me by just going into hibernate. If I don't do this, it's going to make life more difficult when I set up multi-boot with Linux. 

So I go to "Power Options" (either right-click on the battery icon in the task bar, or go to Settings / Control Panel / Power Options), then choose "Change what the power buttons do". 

In that screen, click "Change settings that are currently unavailable" and a new group of check-blocks will be added to the bottom of the screen. Clear the one for "Turn on fast startup". Done. Finally, I think. And this time it didn't even require a reboot after the change.

With all of that done, I can finally start to prepare the system for Linux installation. The first step of that is to go to Control Panel / System and Security / Create and Format hard disk partitions

Select the C: drive, and then on the menu bar select Action / All Tasks / Shrink Volume.  I always accept the maximum amount it will shrink, in this case that is about 140GB, which is about half of the total size of the C: partition.

In the next post (which actually turned out to be the previous post, mostly) I will complete the preparations for setting up Linux multi-boot, then I'll run through my usual list of Linux distributions and see how they work. I'm looking forward to that, because other than the Windows Update struggles, my overall impression of this system has been very good.

One last thought and comment. Because this system came preloaded with Windows 8, rather than 8.1, I thought it might have been in the distribution chain for a while. But when I checked Acer Support for a BIOS update, I found that the most recent was released on 7 April, and that version is already installed in this system.

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