Current Windows 8 users will get the update to Version 8.1 for free — but be forewarned, Win8.1 is not without issues.
Plus: Ongoing problems with recent Windows kernel updates, .NET patches safe to install, and more on nonsecurity updates.
Windows 8.1 downloads stumble at the gate
It’s difficult to decide whether Windows 8.1 is a patch, an update, or a new version of Windows. Whatever it is, the process of distributing the latest edition of Windows isn’t going well. This upgrade is not a case of “install when offered.”
For example, according to a Microsoft Community post, some Microsoft Surface owners have reported having their tablets bricked (made completely unusable) by installing Win8.1. Microsoft temporarily removed the Win8.1 RT update from the Windows Store but has now restored it. To rebuild their tablets, the reportedly small number of afflicted Surface owners have had to follow step-by-step instructions on an MS webpage and apply a special repair image.
Some PCs using standard Windows 8 are also running into problems downloading and installing the 8.1 update. The best practice is, of course, to ensure you have working recovery media and a recent image backup before migrating to Win8.1. For more on Windows 8’s data-backup tools, see Fred Langa’s recent complete series:
- July 11, “Understanding Windows 8’s File History”
- Aug. 15, “A ‘no-reformat reinstall’ for Windows 8,” which discusses Win8’s Refresh command
- Sept. 12, “A clean-slate reinstall for Windows 8,” a description of Win8’s clean-slate tool, Reset
- Oct. 10, “Creating customized recovery images for Win8,” how to refresh Windows 8 and keep you third-party apps installed
As noted in a Windows 8.1 tutorial, you should, at a minimum, set up File History to archive key files to an external hard drive.
Along with the Win8.1 update issues, related updates might also have unexpected effects on your system. For example, installing update KB 2882342 deactivates AV applications from vendors such as McAfee, Trend Micro, Panda, and others. Described by Microsoft as improving “user experience by not migrating the application to Windows 8.1,” the process requires that you reinstall these essential third-party apps after completing the move to 8.1.
Keep in mind that you might not see Windows 8.1 offered at the Windows Store until you have installed all required preparatory updates, as noted in a Windows 8 FAQ.