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Windows 8.1 will start to roll out to the world tomorrow – are you ready to grab it?

Microsoft’s latest upgrade to their Windows 8 operating system will begin to hit user machines within the next 12 hours – and it is ready to pack a punch.

Are you ready for the upgrade? Do you have a few questions on how to get it?  No worries, check below for a crash course in Windows 8.1 then be sure to tune in as we release our full Windows 8.1 review in the coming week.

How do I get Windows 8.1 onto my machine?

If you are already running Windows 8, then all you need to do is sit back and relax. The update can be picked up free of charge via the Windows Store.

If you aren’t already running Windows 8, you have two options as of now. You can grab a copy of Windows 8 at your favorite retail store and wait for the update to hit shortly, or you can preorder a copy of Windows 8.1 and then receive it October 18th (a day after everyone else). Currently, Amazon.com offers a preorder of Windows 8.1 for $119.99.

How will logging into my machine change?

The only difference you will notice when logging into your Windows 8.1 machine, is that you now have the option to swipe down to quickly access the camera. Besides that – all is the same.

How will my Windows Start screen change?

The biggest change to the Windows Start screen will be the ability to easily resize and organize your tiles. Program tiles now have a various selection of sizes including small, medium, wide, and large. Not all apps support being pinned in “large” mode, but some apps like Microsoft’s Weather app make great use of it. Overall, the small tiles should allow you to create a cleaner Start screen experience.

Microsoft has also introduced more personalization for the Start screen including a collection of new background with two color scheme adjustment and the ability to show your current desktop wallpaper for a less jarring experience when switching between the legacy desktop and the Windows 8.1 Start screen. These settings can be adjusted by opening the charms bar while on the Start screen and selecting “settings”. Users also have the option to display their tiles in large or smaller columns – this setting can also be accessed via the charms bar.

One last addition to the Start screen now includes the ability to swipe up and reveal the list of all currently installed programs on your PC – both Windows 8 and Windows legacy software.

How will my legacy desktop change?

The desktop will stay the same for the most part. Microsoft has returned a Start button to the lower left hand corner of the screen (where it has sat for ages), but it no longer brings up a menu with access to your favorite files and programs. Instead, the Start button now brings users to the Start screen (AKA: Windows 8 mode).

Users now have the option to boot directly to the desktop and bypass seeing the Start screen. The first time Windows 8.1 starts up it will check to see if you have a touchscreen device – if not, you will be asked if you want to bypass the Start screen. If you accidently clicked the wrong box or if you do have a touch screen, but still want to boot directly to the desktop, you can right click the Windows taskbar, select properties, and then make the adjustments you desire.

You also have the ability to have the Start button bring you directly to your list of Installed Software, instead of the Start screen; this adjustment can also be made by right clicking the Windows taskbar and selecting properties.

How will using my Windows 8.1 PC change?

For the most part, your day to day use of your PC will stay the same. Microsoft has included the ability to go beyond snapping two applications 50/50 next to each other, but developers must take advantage of this capability (many already have). This is a great step up and we are excited for those with a need to multitask.

Search has also been enhanced greatly and now features a way to universally search across your PC and the web at the same time. In Windows 8.1, simply start typing on the Start screen and hit “Enter”; you will be immersed in a “deep search” experience that pulls data from every corner of your PC. No more selecting the individual app and then starting your search. And of course, the web search is powered by no other service than Microsoft’s Bing.

One of the last and most important new integrated features is built in SkyDrive. You will now have the option to save your files to your computers own local storage or save to Microsoft’s cloud. We, at Windows Phone Central, love and highly recommend SkyDrive to our readers. I currently pay $50 a year for 57 GB of online storage (you get 7 GB free) and there is no better solution because SkyDrive is tied into Windows at the operating system level. Those of you who have not yet tried SkyDrive should give it a go – those of you already using SkyDrive will welcome the deep integration that Windows 8.1 brings to the table.

Will I get any new applications with my upgrade?

Windows 8.1 offers a collection of new apps from Microsoft including a Bing cooking application which can easily switch between pages of a recipe by seeing the flick of your hand in the air.

Microsoft is also offering other small pieces of software including an improved calculator, new “Read It Later” app for keeping stories you find on the web, a new alarm app, and a new app to record sound.

On a larger scale, Microsoft has launched and improved upon four new applications: Camera, Photos, Movie Moments, and Fresh Paint. These four applications will allow you to easily manage your media and create new content. For a more detailed look at Microsoft’s reveal of these applications, check out our reporting from earlier today.

Microsoft has also included a new help and support application to get new users more comfortable with using the new operating system (via touch or mouse). This is a welcomed addition that should have been present in the original launch of Windows 8.

Lastly, Skype will be coming preinstalled on Windows 8.1 installs – there is no running away from what Microsoft hopes to be a main stream of communication for the future. That being said, the application works nicely and we are quite happy with it (although, conference call features can be improved upon).

Anything else?

Windows 8.1 will of course include a collection of new drivers, new hardware compatibility, and expanded wireless communication. One feature we all won’t all be able to use, but is present within Windows 8.1, is the operating system’s native ability to print to 3D printers.

We'll keep an eye on things and report any surprises that may come to light with the 8.1 update.  Feel free to visit the Windows 8 forums to chat it up and share your update experiences.

Alright everyone, get to bed and leave your PC on. If you don’t fall asleep, Steve Ballmer won’t be able to come in the middle of the night and install Windows 8.1. Also, don’t forget to leave out cookies and milk.

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Reader comments

Windows 8.1 will start to roll out to the world tomorrow – are you ready to grab it?

396 Comments

I can't wait to grab the final version. The preview has been awesome but I really want to test out the rest of the features like sharing a webpage to Xbox music for auto built playlists!

If memory serves correctly those of us with 8.1 preview will need to format and start over.

... that is a lot of software I need to load all over again. I think I may wait a while before upgrading to the final version.

That's not true. You will be able to upgrade but you have to reinstall all your apps. Your files will remain intact.

I bought a yoga pro 2 and it let me clone my settings from my surface rt witch has the 8.1 preview. So I guess 8.1 will clone any previous set up of windows 8..

Yes, it's an update that will overlap Windows 8. No need to worry. Also, I believe it's coming directly from the store.

You lose your data and/or apps. During the upgrade process you will be presented with less options.
Source, friend and i installed 8.1 RTM

You think so? Guess we just missed it. Windows 7 will be fine two years from now. There's nothing ground breaking in Windows 8. I've been using 8.1 RTM for 6 weeks, not impressed.

Even without a touch-enabled device (in my case - a desktop PC), I think the 8 is still better. If you download a start menu, you get all the benefits with none of the drawbacks

See what you said? If you download a start menu. That is the one feature that makes windows 7 better for desktop environments without touch.
 

The lack of a start menu (which is fixable) doesn't change the fact that Windows 8 runs faster then Windows 7 on the same hardware. Also I kinda prefer the squared off design of all the open windows in desktop

Nothing ground breaking? Its got about 1000 generic drivers inbuilt. Its got tones of beautiful apps, it runs on any shittiest hardware. People need to learn to love a change that is good!

A newer version of an OS is always better.
It's built to better use latest hardware (just one example: Win8 has better support for SSD).
Windows 8 is not just lipstick.
I don't really care about the Metro, I don't use store apps.

I still don't understand the bad rap Vista got. I can understand people didn't like to leave XP because people don't like change. But in the end, Vista is not that different from Windows 7. Why everyone accepted Win 7 then and still hate Vista?
This is one of those concepts that sticks forever, though they don't always have a real basis: "Vista =  sucks". Windows 8 "sucks" too, as Windows Phone. See what I'm aiming at?
The closest thing to reality that happened is that Vista got hate for the changes in interface and use and by the time Win 7 came out everyone was ok with them (Aero, UAC, etc, which are still in Win 7).
 

I think the problem with Vista was that a lot of people who tried it didn't have powerful enough hardware for it. I never really got to experience it though, jumped from XP to 7 and half year later to 8

Exactly, not every pc running XP could make it work. I had the exact same progression in Windows versions as you did.
And I tell you, I used to be more wary of updating the OS version, but with Windows 8 I jumped right in as soon as I saw it.

I used Vista from release (Jan. 2007) and only had one problem... networking with my XP machine. I eventually got it working, but it was a bear. Other than that it was no worse than XP.
I used it until I upgraded that PC to Windows 8 (October 2012). Windows 8 made it even better... until the HD crashed! :)
I think Vista got a bad rap... especially from those who never used it! ;)

I honestly assumed this comment was written by Mike Rowesoft, but I think Dantekai14 was serious...

Please be trolling?

I like that there's, like, one troll on here and he's often more entertainment than nuisance. When you read a stupid comment, you just know its mike.

I read windows 7 and windows 9 where in this article? oh yeah... nowhere in the article says that.
then I wonder why people like you still comment on an article that is obviously not written for you.

then why the fu*k you give shit. Is that necessary if you like if you like it then all world must like it too? This article is saying that "are you aready?" I said I am not. I don't think i was off topic but you are. because I didn't read about articke in your comment.

What kind of cookie do you want? I have a big basket full of different kinds. Pick any you want ... Thanks for sharing.

Preview gets the update too, but it does reset your installed software. Unless you follow the instructions nanoware alluded to.

I've sucessfully downgraded from win8.1 preview to 8. i used an win8 upgrade image i made when moving from 7 to 8 but im pretty sure the original disk will work. it kept everything. the only thing broken is skydrive. the client thinks i am on win8.1 and wont load the desktop app. i hope i get it back tomorrow after updating :p

Im having windows 8 on my pc.I downloaded the small file that is required to upgrade to win 8.1 preview and installed it.....but never upgraded to 8.1 preview. Now will it update to 8.1 or should i install Windows 8 again?

You can upgrade from preview. Need final version install disk iso, and remove a ini file from iso root. Burn. Google mydigitallife forums.

You should get an option in the shop to upgrade too. The only problem is you'll need to reinstall your apps/applications.

My disk allocations are all goofed up and still have dual boot for Win7, that I don't really need anymore. Beer and clean installing Win8 is fun for me ;)

Yeah I know. Wtf Microsoft...to get people on board you need the big apps...facebook should have been done last year with the release of windows 8. Office MX or metro version for all of the office apps should have been ready for tomorrow with 8.1. I love my windows 8.1 pro version I've been using now for well over a month now from my dreamspark account...but it just feels like there is no communication within Microsoft. They make these great apps for 8.1 (food & drink, etc) but they don't exist for wp8? Wtf?

Fail to see the need. Facebook's development team sucks. Website works well, and considering the way the mobile apps are, I expect a web lookalike with a few more touch friendly buttons. Did you NEED a Facebook app on your Windows 7 PC? No? Then why do you NEED one on 8?

Dont you think it would be awesome to just snap your chat messages to one side and have them display perfectly without any zoom in or out process to get the right fit while multitasking?? I dont really care about having an app, but sometimes when I'm working on some sort of project with my friends and communicationg through facebook, it would be nice to have your chat in one side being displayed perfectly and being to work and talk with your friends without having to switch back and forth between programs and blah blah blah... I dont really care about having an official app though, im okay with using a cheap app off the store as long as i can message on it.

8.1 allows half screen snapping so you can work and play perfectly. I'm actually doing half and half right now and it's working a charm. Besides, if folks need an immediate facebook update so badly, go to the website, sign in, check the "keep me signed in" box, and pin the site to your start screen. Boom facebook mobile app.

Agreed. Most apps are dumbed down websites that are more digestible for mobile users. I have tried several apps on win8 and I get so frustrated by their limitations that I just give up and use the web interface. I think that once websites start getting more mobile friendly (and mobile devices get more capable) without loosing features then more and more mobile apps are just going to be glorified web links.
Outside of games I can't think of a single thing that I want or need to take up my full screen... and even most games I play windowed to have a movie or progress bar running in the corner.

Actually I've found that Facebook works like crap with touch... not a need for app necessarily but they definitely need to make it work better for tablets.

Windows 8.1 has been available on Dreamspark since September 18, 2013. I downloaded and installed it on that day. Do a search for Windows 8.1 in the Dreamspark search bar and it should show up. If your institution provided you with Windows 8, you should see Windows 8.1, Windows 8 and Windows 7 still available to download.

What is the problem with using your browser? I don't get this obsession with apps. Why have an app for something you can do perectly well without it.
 

Wow I hope you don't have a smartphone. If you are smart then you would know like anyone else that apps are for fing CONVEINCE!! Most apps lack features that their websites offer but rather then having to open your browser, type in the website, type in your login credentials, and etc. All you have to d us open up the app. Also apps allow for instant notifications...last time I checked if you have a fb open up in the browser and you are playing a game or what not, it won't tell you that someone posted on your wall etc.

huh...save your login? almost all websites has an option to auto-login! and Facebook has this annoying sounds whenever i had notifications, i disabled them all lol but that works to notify you!
and i agree, once websites start evolving to be touch friendly, apps will be nothing more than shortcuts lol

One would think that these big name apps would be coming with the update. There's been absolutely no evidence to indicate that is the case, though. Hopefully they'll say something about those apps (and more!) at the launch event.

Search in my opinion is much worse in 8.1, also what happens of you are running the preview version, will it upgrade for you to the final version of 8.1?

yeah it sucks but you have to deal with it. I liked how fast was to search in apps, now I need to go to apps to get an instant search.
But you can turn Bing off your search and it will be faster, not like 8.0 but faster than 7.... search in 8.1 is close to suck as win7 did (thats why i never used it) but still search in 8.1 is more usable. but I had to turn bing off so it would give me fast searches. because it seems it slows down the search by alot... maybe my internet and this old computer. but without Bing, search is now decent.

Waiting here with a large Ruffles!
Thx Michael for all the great news you bring here!
Guys post your device type
Sent from Acer Aspire R7

Signature should be made part of the app and website, so we don't have to type it every time.
------
Sent from my Lumia 1020

Sent from my 920, but waiting for app optimization to post from my xps12! (can only read articles currently, no comments section to start arguments in ;))

I wonder why people like you wrtie something in a language you dont even know... you actually sound "silly". I understand people trying to speak english here and their mistakes because everyone wants you to speak english, even in forums stupid mods apparently hate you if you speak in other languages... but not many people show their spanish here. at leasy you could have checked if the word was correct or not... you know its not hard to do that.
again, if you didnt understand, "Pantelones" doesnt exist and "mas" as a ´ so its "más". its not even funny what you said, but you can at least spell it right, instead of sounding ignorant.  

Today I learned that Spanish grammar Nazis exist. I thought they were reserved for English posts only. Es muy loco!

Does the Skype app support facebook chat ?? Im sorry for the question but I heard somewhere you can chat with your facebook "friend" through the skype app 
 

Only through the Desktop app. The ModernUI app does not support Facebook chat, only Messenger and Skype. Hopefully they shoot out another update to make the newer Skype app better, like photo sharing...
 

Yeah I miss that option. I was runnning the preview and I thought it was stupid to take that away. My laptop still has it. I really hope they integrate facebook chat in there somehow really soon.

Looking forward to this! I had the preview for while, dual boot with 8.0 and really liked it, but decided to do a clean install of w8 and didn't reinstall. I think the changes they have implemented will change a lot of perception out there, though much of it was petty bitching by people who can't handle change. Tech is change incarnate.

Same here buddy. Quick question does it say "windows 8.1 pro / secureboot isn't configured correctly / build 9600" at the bottom right corner in the desktop?

No, Windows 8.1 will never come to Windows Phone. It is a a PC and Tablet OS. Next year, Windows Phone will get the next Windows Phone version, currently assumed to be WP 8.1. They are not the same thing, just as your phone and your computer are not the same thing.

Lots of updating tomorrow at work for me. I only have a little netbook now with windows 8.1 preview on it. It's been great for me. I will enjoy playing with the final version.

Good to hear. I get the feeling that they stop updating their previews about halfway through, and leave it with a few unfixed bugs. But they always fix it all and usually provide some extra bits for RTM.

Ok, the only US Microsoft Store says October 17th. However, ALL other places (inclusing the US Microsoft page) say October 18th...which is it, after all?

Here in Europe it's already October 17th. No sign of 8.1.
 
So my guess is: it will be released on October 18th in Europe but at a time when in the USA it's still the 17th.
 
Anyway...my Surface RT is ready. My PC isn't. I'm holding to W7 until I fully test W8.1 on the Surface and decide if it's a worthy update to W7 or if I should just wait for W9.

In the US you have two dates announced. 17th on the Store, 18th on Microsoft's page. In the same country. Over here, on the other hand, they have announced only October 18th. From here to Germany there's only 1 hour apart. So either it's not a true global release or someone messed up the dates

It's not that hard. It launches 12am on the 18th at the dateline. New Zealand is on the dateline, GMT+12, the first country to reach October 18th. Obviously this is some time on October 17th for the rest of the world.

And? I don't own a Surface Pro 2 and I have no intentions of buying one at those prices. Why should I care what ships with it?
I have a feeling you answered the wrong comment, mate ;)

Hahaha! Exactly what happened. Sorry, I replied that to a guy under your post. I'm gonna blame the tiny icons in WPCentral's WP8 app for this one :p

I'll check here tomorrow to learn the mechanics for upgrading from Windows 8. I don't want to lose anything.

Didnt they something about getting it through the store? Now WPCentral says via Windows Update? Im confused. I dont want to wait till a popup tells me I have an update, I want to force it.

With the preview, you installed an update that enabled the store to download the preview. I assume its the same for the release. Just click "check for updates" in windows updates tomorrow, as well as check the store.

on 8, after the preview windows update from the windows update package, there was a gargantuan tile in the store that said "Get the preview" with an image of a computer running 8.1. i assume the same will apply to the release.

This is an interesting point, you know. I was thinking of this earlier today.
I don't think it will be a huge update size wise, but still. Not that I use my Surface to store a lot of files, on the contrary. But I'm thinking that each update will add to the used space.

All we need now is Microsoft to start incentivising companies to start making their Win 8/Metro apps. That will turn my Surface 2 into a fantastic tablet, from a great tablet with no decent apps

I'm ready, I Nuked my Samsung windows 8 tabet that I put the preview of 8.1 on.....just running old Windows 8....waiting for the final 8.1...not sure if i could make it till midnight, so i will bring my tablet to work with me...

Pumped! =D Didn't install the preview since id have to reinstall everything, been waiting for the final for like ever it seems lol.

I'm curious. I left Windows 7 on my PC as a dual boot option. Will the update affect that partition at all? I can't imagine it would.

Absolutely ready! But yea from 8.1 preview to 8.1 it will wipe out everything, including desktop apps and..everything, right?

Just apps (which should re-download from the store as usual) and installed software (if it's anything like Windows 8, it will leave you an HTML file on your desktop with a list of the software you had and download links for any it can find sources for).

Did you forget about the new Mail app?  Or maybe it's called Outlook now?  It is supposed to not suck like the current Mail app in Windows 8.  I'm really looking forward to this, as the Mail app was/is horrifyingly bad in Windows 8.

i dont see how it was stripped down (Exchange Support, Multiple Accounts, etc....) but eh, ive never really looked through Outlook in office to see the difference

One huge advantage the mail app has over Outlook: supports connection to works Exchange Server via ActiveSync. If only Outlook could do that. :/

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