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When Microsoft launched Windows 8 almost a year ago reactions ranged from enthusiasm to cautious interest to total confusion. Probably not what Microsoft wanted to hear after the release of their flagship OS, expected to change the tablet and desktop market forever.

Fast forward almost a year, and Microsoft has released Windows 8.1. And with Windows 8.1 Microsoft is addressing a lot of the issues while maintaining the components that made people happy. The results …….. well, they’re not too bad, on the whole. We dig in to take a deeper look at Windows 8.1, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 Start Buttons
The biggest gripe in Windows 8 was the lack of a START button. Yes, the desktop now has a Start button. But it does NOT have the Start menu as it used to be in Windows 7 and earlier. Instead, if you click the button, it brings you back to the Windows 8.1 Start screen, and if you right-click it (or touch and hold on a tablet), you get a menu that quickly gets you to File Explorer, Control Panel, the command prompt, and various management functions. But if you think you’ll find a menu item for Calculator, dream on – the best you can do is choose Search and let Windows hunt the program down for you. And then pin it to the Taskbar if you need it a lot.

Boot to Desktop
For those that just can’t handle not seeing a desktop when a Windows computer boots up, don’t fear – Windows 8.1 has reintroduced the desktop upon boot, so you can now boot straight into a desktop view, rather than the tiles view of Windows 8.

Windows 8.1 vastly improves the search functionality, combining a full system search with Web results.

Upgrading is Easy. And Free!
If you’re already a Windows 8 user, you can upgrade to Windows 8.1 for free through the Windows Store. You may need to install some Windows updates first on your Windows 8 computer in order to access the store, however once complete you’ll be able to download the update. The setup is easy, although we recommend not to do the Express Settings. There are some privacy settings in there you may want to disable, such as Ad Tracking.

So what’s wrong with it?
The reality is, Windows 8.1 is still awkward to control with traditional keyboards and mice. It’s still clearly designed as a tablet OS, so if you’re using this in a business environment (and you’re used to traditional Microsoft OS’s), chanced are, you’re going to get frustrated.  For home use, and on  a tablet, you’ll probably have some more patience with it – however, it should be noted that there’s still a lack of Windows 8-style apps, and that all of the apps are full screen, therefore not allowing any kind of true windowing, which is something we’ve all become accustomed to with Windows versions gone by.

Bottom line
Lot’s of improvements, but hopefully there’s still more to come. We’re still steering our clients to Windows 7 Professional while it’s still available as OEM or at retail level.