How to Upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1

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Microsoft’s new Windows 8.1 operating system is available for download today, and if you’re running Windows 8 currently, it’s certainly worth the upgrade. What isn’t entirely obvious, though, is how to perform said upgrade, especially if you — like me — never use the “Metro” or “Modern” or whatever the heck it is that Microsoft calls its tiled Windows 8 UI these days. You’ll have to visit there at least once today, though, because the upgrade is found within the Microsoft Store. Fire up the Store app and the first thing you see is…

windows store windows 8.1 upgradeClick that link and go ahead and tend to your usual business for a while, because Windows 8 performs the download and much of the upgrade process in the background. When it’s done (which takes quite a while), you’ll be met with a prompt to reboot while the final installation is performed.

windows 8.1 downloading

When you’re done with all of that, you’ll notice that Windows 8.1 looks a heck of a lot like Windows 8, except for the appearance of the returning Start button, which by default is useless. Click it, and it simply transports you to the “Modern” or “Metro” UI. Right click it, and it gives you a list of options strikingly similar to what you’d get by right clicking in the bottom left hand corner of the Windows 8 screen.

Can you tell which is which at a glance?

windows 8 start menu

windows 8.1 default start menu right clickThere is way to return the Start button to much of its former glory, though, as well as render the Metro or Modern or What-the-heck-can-we-agree-to-call-this-damned-thing UI mostly useless. Simply right-click on the  Taskbar at the bottom of the screen and select properties. In addition to allowing you to boot to the desktop (just check the box that reads “Show my desktop background on Start”), you can also check the box that says “Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start.”

What that gives you is a view like this upon clicking the Start button:

Windows 8.1 appsSo not only to you have quicker access to all of your apps — not just the ones on your desktop — but as with the Windows 8 desktop, all you have to do is start typing to find the app you’re looking for. No hunting and pecking. Just hit Start and type, say, “Word,” and the search box automatically appears.

There are oodles of other new enhancements to Windows 8.1, and none of them objectionable, so if you’re already on Win 8, I’d say don’t hesitate to upgrade today. Everything I love about Windows 8 remains — and by that I mean it’s still a lean, mean operating machine, with significant performance increases (for me, at least) over Windows 7. But if you’re still hung up on the entirely old-school Start button and Aero enhancements, you’ll probably want to wait until you have no choice but to upgrade.

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