Microsoft launched today its first ever public release of Windows 8.1,
confirming what we already thought we knew: the return of the Start
button (although the Start menu remains absent), the ability to boot
directly to the desktop, better search and lots of Metro / Modern UI
Bleeding-edge users can download Windows 8.1 Preview
but it’s only available via an .msu package which invokes the actual
install from the Windows Store. Be prepared to wait a bit: at about
2.5GB, it’s a hefty download. ISOs are expected to be released soon, but
aren’t yet available. We’ll have the links posted as soon as they are,
The preview includes a myriad of improvements and enhancements, namely a
far more configurable Metro Start Screen, better system search, the
inclusion of a Start button, IE11, Direct X 11.2, as well as numerous
tweaks to Windows’ core apps and various Modern UI elements.
Along for the ride are a number of lesser-known enhancements though,
like deeper SkyDrive integration, an easily-personalized lock screen,
the ability to answer Skype calls without unlocking your device and
access to Control Panel’s configuration options while in Metro. A lot of
app improvements have been made too, including side-by-side app
viewing, app updates finally becoming automatic and the lifting of Microsoft’s “five device” installation limit.
As with any beta software, there are potential risks involved. Windows
RT users, for example, won’t be able to use System Restore while running
the 8.1 preview. According to Microsoft though, Windows 8.1 Preview
Release users will be able to upgrade to the final retail version when
it arrives. Before you install it though, you may want to check out
Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 Preview FAQ
and back up your personal files… just in case something goes awry.
The expected arrival date for the final, retail version remains unknown. However, the most recent rumor indicates it could arrive as early as August 1st, or more cleverly put: 8/1. Earlier rumors though suggested an October-ish launch.