Microsoft Windows 8.1 is now available as a free update to Windows 8 platforms.
Windows 8 works well on tablets but some people have found it slightly frustrating to use on a non-touch laptop or PC. Probably the most frustrating feature to most was how to shutdown or reboot the computer. Normally a tablet is not turned off but put into standby or sleep so there is no need for this to be obvious but when the same operating system is used on a laptop or desktop then a combination of mouse waiving and button clicking gets tricky.
By reintroducing a Start button type icon in the bottom left corner of the screen most people should be happy again – even though most people only ever clicked the ‘Start’ button to turn off the PC. Left clicking on the button toggles between tile mode and desktop mode; right clicking the button brings up a number of options including access to the control panel and importantly the shutdown /reboot options.
Some of the other updates are more subtle but they will probably make windows 8 easier for people to use, who are familiar with windows 7, but may not be aware of all the things that happen when you put the cursor at the bottom of the screen or in the corners of the screen.
My test machine has been running windows 8 for a while and has performed much faster than windows 7 on the same hardware. Last night I downloaded the windows 8.1 update directly through the Windows Store on windows 8. Once you start the download that’s it until it asks you to reboot the machine. I have the luxury of an FTTC broadband connection so the download didn’t take too long and the windows 8 laptop is a Lenovo Edge15 core i5 (1st gen) , 4GB RAM and importantly an SSD drive (upgraded from original hard drive). The SSD probably made a big different to the speed of the upgrade process but the whole process took about 1 hour and required probably a couple of reboots for windows to discover hardware again and check settings , apps, etc.
After a few hours of use today I would have to say everything appears to be ok. I notice that some of the plug-ins for Internet Explorer (Java and Lenovo password vault) are disabled and a ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock I use to connect the laptop to a couple of large screens , full keyboard and mouse whilst in the office did not display anything on the screens. Lenovo are usually on the ball with updates and although there was no update available via the system updater I found a link on their support forum to an update for the ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock on another site. After downloading and running the update the two screens sprang back to life.
I found Windows 8 very easy to use and the inconvenience caused by the odd shutdown process was outweighed by the performance, boot times, etc. Windows 8.1 will hopefully make things even better and encourage others to make the change.