Should I Upgrade to Windows 8.1?

Question

What will I get if I upgrade to Windows 8.1 or should I wait?

- Jonathan

Answer

This question was answered on October 17, 2013. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Whenever Microsoft comes out with a new operating system, they hear complaints about what was changed, but Windows 8 was such a major departure from previous Windows versions that the complaints were much louder.

This latest update (8.1) to the much maligned operating system  focuses on features and tweaks to address a lot of the complaints they heard from users.

In the past, Microsoft released large updates to Windows via ‘Service Packs’ which typically focused on bug fixes and security patches. By calling it Windows 8.1, Microsoft is signaling a change that focuses on creating compelling upgrades that users will want, instead of boring security updates.

The compilation of the updates on paper doesn’t look that significant, but they are actually pretty handy once you start using them. I’ll address whether you should upgrade now or wait after I explain what the differences are in the update.

The Start button is Back! (well sort of)
The single biggest complaint from Windows 8 users was that the Start button was gone, which was the main way that users of older Windows versions navigated the operating system.

The tiled Start screen (which is what Windows 8 boots to) was intended to eliminate the need for a Start button, because all your programs were available via the tiles.  Windows 8.1 reintroduces a modified version of the Start button that looks like the icon that represents the Start screen.

If you left-click the icon, it will take you back to the tiled Start screen, but if you right-click the icon, you will get the ‘power user settings’ for things like the Control Panel, Task Manager and Device Manager.

If you really want the old-school start button in Windows 8, I recommend that you install the free Classic Shell program which very closely replicates the Start menus that you were used to seeing in older Windows versions.

Snap View expands
The Snap View option in Windows 8 allowed you to display two different apps at the same time on the screen, but one of the apps would always take most of the screen. 8.1 allows you to have up to 4 apps displayed side-by-side (as long as your display resolution is high enough) and you can now have two apps in a 50-50 view, like in Windows 7.

Global Search
When you use the Search charm in Windows 8.1, you will now get global search results from across your computer and the web. If you search for a musician for instance, you will now get the songs or videos on your computer as well as Bing web results with photos, bios and more information about the artist.

Other updates include better integration of Microsoft’s Skydrive cloud storage throughout the system, updated photo editing functions, a revamped app store and Xbox music, new live tiles that can be grouped and lots of personalization colors and backgrounds.

The question of whether you should update or wait depends mainly on how your system is functioning right now. If you’re having any type of performance or reliability issues with your system, the worst thing you can do is add more complexity to the situation by updating the OS. Get your problems resolved first (and make sure you have a verified backup!)

Unless you just have to have the new features immediately, it’s always a good idea to wait for a couple of weeks to see if any nagging issues pop up.

You will want to make sure you have all of the previous Windows 8 updates installed before you take the plunge. You should see the free Windows 8.1 update when you click on the Windows Store tile, but if you don’t, you can manually go there by putting this line in your browser:
ms-windows-store:WindowsUpgrade

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on October 17, 2013