What you should know about Windows 8.1 Update

Woody Leonhard

The soon-to-be-released Windows 8.1 Update brings minor improvements that favor those using a mouse — in other words, most Win8 users.

Anyone currently on Windows 8.1 will want the update; those who still haven’t made the Modern plunge won’t be impressed.

Microsoft gives Windows 8 another “tweak”

I know it’s hard to believe, but Microsoft released Windows 8.1 just this past October. At the time, that version seemed like a desperate attempt to placate traditional mouse users — essentially every Windows user without a touch screen — who balked at the full-screen–centric, tile-based, “Modern” UI. (For more on Win8.1’s key features, see the Sept. 19, 2013, Top Story, “Touring through the final Windows 8.1.”)

Some of the folks in Redmond genuinely felt that Version 8.1 would compel the hordes of recalcitrant Windows 7 users to download the new OS — and live happily ever after in the new Windows paradigm. That mass migration to Windows 8 never happened; customers had something to say about the update — and, for the most part, the words weren’t kind.

How, you might ask, could Microsoft expect to pull the flaming Windows 8 experience out of the fire just five months after releasing its best attempt at mouse mollification? The answer’s quite simple: it doesn’t. I think Windows 8.1 Update is a stopgap measure designed to help slow the unprecedented decline in PC sales. While the ‘Softies might be hopeful, they aren’t naive. They’re banking on something better in Windows 9 — and so should we.

An important — and quite trivial — change

There’s only one — just one — really valuable change in Windows 8.1 Update. Install it on top of a fresh Windows 8.1 machine that doesn’t have a touch screen, and Win8.1 Update sets Windows to boot to the classic Desktop automatically. (New Windows 8 PCs that ship without touchscreens should boot straight to the Desktop, too.)

It might sound cynical, but that one change alone should save Microsoft millions of dollars on tech support calls. I know it’ll save me from repeating endlessly that you can set Windows 8.1 to boot to the Desktop in just a few seconds. (For those of you who didn’t get the memo: right-click the Desktop taskbar, click Properties, select the Navigation tab, and then check the box marked “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start.”)

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2014-04-03:

Woody Leonhard

About Woody Leonhard

Woody Leonhard is a Windows Secrets senior editor and a senior contributing editor at InfoWorld. His latest book, the comprehensive 1,080-page Windows 8 All-In-One For Dummies, delves into all the Win8 nooks and crannies. His many writings tell it like it is — whether Microsoft likes it or not.