Breaking from the tradition of releasing service packs for its operating systems, Microsoft have released what appears to be a whole new version of Windows 8, their most current desktop operating system, and labelled it Windows 8.1.
In the past the first service pack usually includes fixes to all the problems that have bugged people to breaking point since the initial release. It’s the time that most companies that want to be on the leading edge, but not perhaps the bleeding edge decide to migrate and it’s also the time that most third party software has finally been developed to support the new operating system. As a rule, from service pack 1, the os will be reliable, usable and fully supported by everyone (The loathed windows Vista is perhaps the exception as that really wasn’t usable till service pack 2!)
I’ve just finished installing it on all 3 of my windows 8 machines, a MacBook Air with bootcamp, an aging HP tablet machine and my custom build 6 screen desktop.
Unlike previous service packs which are delivered via windows update, or a large download exe file from microsoft.com windows 8.1 comes via the Microsoft “Store” which is one of the buttons on the Windows 8 START menu. It’s a big download at over 3GB, and I’ve had to download it 3 times now having failed so far to find a network version I can share. I wonder what corporations wanting to upgrade hundreds of machines are going to do, they surely can’t download 3GB to each machine via the internet.
You can upgrade to it directly from previous versions of windows for a fee, but that has always been the case even with service packs as following release you can only usually buy the OS with the Service Pack included.
Having completed the install which takes an hour at least on even a fast machine, the change is obvious, there is now a windows logo icon in the bottom left of the desktop bar. With windows 8 you had to move the mouse down there to see it, but now it’s always there. This seems a little bit pointless to me, but then I right clicked on it and there is a context sensitive menu ready to take you to nearly anything you would want! This is actually quite useful as even after a year of using windows 8 I still struggle to find some things.
That is worth the upgrade alone, but I also think that it’s a lot snappier than it was before the upgrade, although that might just be in my head.
The other big change is being able to boot to the desktop. You can configure this by right clicking on the start bar and choosing properties and then the navigation tab.
I can’t believe that these two small changes will suddenly make everyone love windows 8, unfortunately upgrading to 8.1 also installs IE 11, which like all other IE releases means loads of web pages don’t work. Our autotask ticketing system doesn’t work, nor I find this evening does blinkbox, however by the looks of it, fixes will appear quicker than they did with IE10. Hopefully, because with XP going end of life in April we really need a stable supported OS to upgrade to!