Users who weren’t fond of the original release of Windows 8 last fall, or who are excited about the prospects of a more enhanced Start Screen and Metro environment, should find the download to be worth their while.
Those interested will either need to apply for entry into the preview program and perform the upgrade from the Windows Store, or download what’s called an ISO (or disk image) file from Microsoft’s servers and complete the installation themselves. That is if they don’t wish to upgrade from Windows 8 and instead just want to try 8.1.
Starting with Windows 8.1 users will be able to boot directly to the Desktop environment should they choose, and they’ll also have the ability to disable the Hot Corners that get them access to the Start Screen and Charms Bar. These users won’t be able to avoid the Start Screen entirely, as Microsoft didn’t restore the Start Menu itself: users who would like to quickly launch applications that don’t have shortcuts on the Desktop or the Taskbar will still need to do so from there.
Users who like Start Screen will find that the environment is much more personable than it was with Windows 8. There are two more Live Tile sizes to choose from and the Desktop background can now be used as a Start Screen background. That’s something that even Windows 8 enthusiasts clamored for after last year’s initial release. The Search Charm has been overhauled for the most part and now features built-in support for Microsoft’s Bing search engine. With this new Search functionality web results will be presented in-line with the results from the user’s Windows Device.
Microsoft hasn’t detailed exactly when a final release of Windows 8.1 will make its way to consumers, however the company has publicly said that it plans to offer it as a free upgrade to consumers directly from the Windows Store sometime later this year.