Download Windows 8.1 Preview: Start button returns, boot to desktop, better search and more

By on June 26, 2013, 2:00 PM

Microsoft launched today its first ever public release of Windows 8.1, confirming what we already thought we knew: the return of the Start button (although the Start menu remains absent), the ability to boot directly to the desktop, better search and lots of Metro / Modern UI enhancements throughout.

Bleeding-edge users can download Windows 8.1 Preview now, but it's only available via an .msu package which invokes the actual install from the Windows Store. Be prepared to wait a bit: at about 2.5GB, it's a hefty download. ISOs are expected to be released soon, but aren't yet available. We'll have the links posted as soon as they are, though.

Update: ISO files are now live. Download Windows 8.1 Preview here.

The preview includes a myriad of improvements and enhancements, namely a far more configurable Metro Start Screen, better system search, the inclusion of a Start button, IE11, Direct X 11.2, as well as numerous tweaks to Windows' core apps and various Modern UI elements.

Along for the ride are a number of lesser-known enhancements though, like deeper SkyDrive integration, an easily-personalized lock screen, the ability to answer Skype calls without unlocking your device and access to Control Panel's configuration options while in Metro. A lot of app improvements have been made too, including side-by-side app viewing, app updates finally becoming automatic and the lifting of Microsoft's "five device" installation limit.

As with any beta software, there are potential risks involved. Windows RT users, for example, won't be able to use System Restore while running the 8.1 preview. According to Microsoft though, Windows 8.1 Preview Release users will be able to upgrade to the final retail version when it arrives. Before you install it though, you may want to check out Microsoft's Windows 8.1 Preview FAQ and back up your personal files... just in case something goes awry.

The expected arrival date for the final, retail version remains unknown. However, the most recent rumor indicates it could arrive as early as August 1st, or more cleverly put: 8/1. Earlier rumors though suggested an October-ish launch.




User Comments: 66

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8 people like this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I'm watching the video, and still do not have any nagging desires to move from Windows 7. Out of all my years with MS, I have never been so negative with any of their releases.

2 people like this | mevans336 mevans336 said:

I watching the video, and still do not have any nagging desires to move from Windows 7. Out of all my years with MS, I have never been so negative with any of their releases.

I would have to agree. I gave Windows 8 a 6 month try, even going to far as to purchase 3rd party utilities like Start8. I'm back on 7 and very happy.

1 person liked this | EEatGDL said:

I work with Windows 8 and IE 10 everyday in my job (tools exclusively work in IE) and just can't get used to it after a month of forced use; I have tried it since the DP for almost a year in total (DP, CP, retail) to no avail; just got mad when I saw that good third-party applications were charging for bringing back the Windows elements that are truly productive -all these transitions, animations, and gestures are all just a waste of time, a delay to do something in a series of basic keyboard steps.

treeski treeski said:

I work with Windows 8 and IE 10 everyday in my job (tools exclusively work in IE) and just can't get used to it after a month of forced use; I have tried it since the DP for almost a year in total (DP, CP, retail) to no avail; just got mad when I saw that good third-party applications were charging for bringing back the Windows elements that are truly productive -all these transitions, animations, and gestures are all just a waste of time, a delay to do something in a series of basic keyboard steps.

I like Windows 8 quite a lot and enjoy using it, but I agree that the transitions take too long.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

but I agree that the transitions take too long.
Thats really not surprising. You can transition people into just about anything. But to try and force a change over night (especially a drastic one), really is not transitioning them at all. The lack of transitioning within the UI, has been the greatest disappointment of all.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

DirectX 11.2 is a surprise. Should we expect 11.2 video cards any time soon?

treeski treeski said:

Thats really not surprising. You can transition people into just about anything. But to try and force a change over night (especially a drastic one), really is not transitioning them at all. The lack of transitioning within the UI, has been the greatest disappointment of all.

I just meant the animation transitions that occur when going from place to place in Windows 8. You're right though, that Microsoft's biggest issue is simply that they didn't make the transition from what everyone was used to to the "new" way more seamless.

Nobina Nobina said:

They brought back the Start button but it changes nothing since there is no start menu. It is a nice upgrade from Windows 8 but not from Windows 7. IMO don't buy Windows 8, don't upgrade to 8.1 = save money = MS will be forced to give us back the start menu. You did it with Xbox One so it's possible.

1 person liked this | treeski treeski said:

They brought back the Start button but it changes nothing since there is no start menu. It is a nice upgrade from Windows 8 but not from Windows 7. IMO don't buy Windows 8, don't upgrade to 8.1 = save money = MS will be forced to give us back the start menu. You did it with Xbox One so it's possible.

Eh, I don't want the start menu, so I'll keep using Win8

ikesmasher said:

Wow, they added a button but not a menu. Does microsoft really suck that much at listening? For a company that only cares about the $$$$$, you'd think they'd listen in this case.

Maximum Payne Maximum Payne said:

There is also WDDM 1.3 that is only supported by amd 7000 series according to amd drivere preview.

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Eh, I don't want the start menu, so I'll keep using Win8
I've always voted for both, but then we all know what MS answer to that was. MS didn't want to burden us with the prospect of choices. The arrogance of MS thinking they are the only ones capable of making decisions is astonishing. You are insulting you own intelligence by further supporting Microsoft.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Most of the video they hide the cursor, like to make us think it is a tablet or a touch screen. Whoever is trying in MS to force us into their damn tablet SO through our destop SO can go to hell.

What is a tablet interface doing in a damn computer?

2 people like this | Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

DirectX 11.2 is a surprise. Should we expect 11.2 video cards any time soon?

I reckon owners of GTX Titans don't wanna know the answer to that question.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Wow, they added a button but not a menu. Does microsoft really suck that much at listening? For a company that only cares about the $$$$$, you'd think they'd listen in this case.

Or maybe that means they don't really just care about the sales.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

I reckon owners of GTX Titans don't wanna know the answer to that question.

Well, I'm not one of them, I'm one who's been ogling GTX 780, and now having second thoughts because of the news. I thought of starting to buy parts for my new rig for this fall when Windows 8.1 is released, but who would want to pocket out $650 for a card that won't support the latest DirectX. Doesn't sound that exciting anymore.

But then there is another thing, there is no information on the web whatsoever about DirectX 11.2, not even rumors, makes it all even more unexpected a news...

Paul Boland Paul Boland said:

Note update only available us English at the moment it wont work if your in the uk or Ireland and also due to high demand there server has crashed

I would wait a few days for iso files to become available and also UK and Ireland language version become available so you can use windows store to update as at the moment only English version available is for usa only

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

but who would want to pocket out $650 for a card that won't support the latest DirectX.
I doubt there will be much difference to shake a stick at.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

I doubt there will be much difference to shake a stick at.

Until the new games start coming out supporting it, which shouldn't take long. That, plus simply peace of mind, expected in the premium price range...

Wagan8r Wagan8r said:

"The preview includes a myriad of improvements and enhancements"

That's like saying:

"The preview includes a many of improvements and enhancements"

Anyway, I'm looking forward to 8.1.

1 person liked this | ReederOnTheRun ReederOnTheRun said:

So far from the preview, it looks like it has potential, but right now it is having some performance issues. It also took it upon itself to reorganize/rename some things, and it deactivated and disable AVG (for Windows Defender). The search function also doesn't work as well as it should. I think I'll give it a few days and reinstall plain Windows 8 if it doesn't improve. I'm sure the minor issues will be worked out by the official release, but for now I'll be happy with a stable Windows 8.0 :-)

JC713 JC713 said:

DX 11.2? What is new?

JC713 JC713 said:

MS went all out with this product guide: [link]

3 people like this | dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

But then there is another thing, there is no information on the web whatsoever about DirectX 11.2, not even rumors, makes it all even more unexpected a news...

Except this part of the web presumably (Edit: ninja'ed by JC713 )

I'm one who's been ogling GTX 780, and now having second thoughts because of the news. I thought of starting to buy parts for my new rig for this fall when Windows 8.1 is released, but who would want to pocket out $650 for a card that won't support the latest DirectX. Doesn't sound that exciting anymore.

Now? The GTX 780 doesn't support the full DX11.1 specification...

Bear in mind that the features that aren't supported are mainly Direct2D orientated (16xMSAA and Target-Independent rasterization support in 2D applications) not Direct3D.

I wouldn't be overly worried that it doesn't fully support the feature levels of 11_1 and 11_2. D3DX 11.1 was introduced ten months ago. Number of games using (let alone requiring) 11.1....Nil.

Of course, as a marketing tool it is bound to fire up a new round of graphics card purchases for those with a need for speed bullet points

1 person liked this | spectrenad said:

Eh, I don't want the start menu, so I'll keep using Win8
I've always voted for both, but then we all know what MS answer to that was. MS didn't want to burden us with the prospect of choices. The arrogance of MS thinking they are the only ones capable of making decisions is astonishing. You are insulting you own intelligence by further supporting Microsoft.

Or maybe he simply doesn't care about the start menu. Personally, I pin stuff to the task bar so I don't care about the start menu.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Personally, I pin stuff to the task bar so I don't care about the start menu.
I pin my most common used to the Taskbar as well. And then I pin most other Apps to the Start Menu. And now with Windows 8, this is no longer an option. Hence the lack of choice with the introduction of Start Screen.

This whole Start Menu vs Start Screen kinda ticks me off, when MS could have avoided the entire ordeal with a choice between them. But no MS had to roll up their sleeve and strong arm everyone into using the Start Screen. I could have accepted the Start Screen, if they had implemented Windows Aero. But no they had to remove Windows Aero, making the OS back track a few generations in cosmetics.

ikesmasher said:

Or maybe that means they don't really just care about the sales.

Microsoft cares about the sales. Look at what happened to xbox. They did a cash grab, lost like 80% of their sales, then dropped the cash grab just to get sales back.

One with bad xbox experiences would argue Microsoft rigged the 360 to break so they could get more, you guessed it, sales.

If microsoft didnt care about the sales, why would they make a new OS instead of improving the old one?

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

One with bad xbox experiences would argue Microsoft rigged the 360 to break so they could get more, you guessed it, sales.
Which is precisely, why one should be highly skeptical about device kill switches. If a company has the power to kill a device, they can control how often you spend your money. And trust me on this, they all see eye to eye on this concept.

p51d007 said:

Played around with it when it came out in a VM, just couldn't get use to the tiles. Yeah, you can put the start menu back, but from a functionality standpoint, I couldn't justify the need to upgrade. Yeah, there are security features, new features bla bla bla, but 7 WORKS. Why screw with success?

1 person liked this |
Staff
Rick Rick, TechSpot Staff, said:

"The preview includes a myriad of improvements and enhancements"

That's like saying:

"The preview includes a many of improvements and enhancements"

Nope... ;-)

1 person liked this | GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

Microsoft cares about the sales. Look at what happened to xbox. They did a cash grab, lost like 80% of their sales, then dropped the cash grab just to get sales back.

One with bad xbox experiences would argue Microsoft rigged the 360 to break so they could get more, you guessed it, sales.

If microsoft didnt care about the sales, why would they make a new OS instead of improving the old one?

You do realise that the consoles are sold at a loss to the company right? Console sales are not what they care about ( I mean beyond everyone having one), game sales and accessories are what make them money. I mean at the time the 360 and PS3 were released, for the price, they were some of the best machines money could buy. I mean, people bought the PS3 to use as a super computer I have even seen.

The Xbox 360 and its problems, cost microsoft alot of money, but less then fixing them, hence why they added that 3 year warranty, it was cheaper to fix than to replace the whole machine.

JC713 JC713 said:

Except this part of the web presumably (Edit: ninja'ed by JC713 )

Now? The GTX 780 doesn't support the full DX11.1 specification...

Bear in mind that the features that aren't supported are mainly Direct2D orientated (16xMSAA and Target-Independent rasterization support in 2D applications) not Direct3D.

I wouldn't be overly worried that it doesn't fully support the feature levels of 11_1 and 11_2. D3DX 11.1 was introduced ten months ago. Number of games using (let alone requiring) 11.1....Nil.

Of course, as a marketing tool it is bound to fire up a new round of graphics card purchases for those with a need for speed bullet points

DirectX 11.2 is basically a bug fix and optimization of DX11 and 11.1 right?

coppersloane coppersloane said:

Fantastic changes. Using it right now on my Surface. I really wonder about people who have such a hard time getting used to these changes. I pick them up within minutes. Read a book, maybe? Or visit that Lumosity site to develop your IQ?

Just trying to help.

1 person liked this | dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

DirectX 11.2 is basically a bug fix and optimization of DX11 and 11.1 right?

The GPU overlay (2D) is new, and the bulk of the 11.2 spec looks like further optimization and streamlined resource usage. The MSDN keynote presentation had a demo of the "Tiled Resources" running on a GTX 770 (touched on briefly in this TS article), so at least the first tier is compatible with Kepler. As for a full explanation of DX11.2 check the link in my previous post - I thought you'd linked to the same info, but your link was to the 8.1 info instead.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Or visit that Lumosity site to develop your IQ?
Just so we are clear, total disregard has nothing to do with operational IQ level. However since MS decided consumers shouldn't be burdened by making choices for themselves, one could argue this as a lack in consumer IQ. I'm just saying, don't know for sure. But since you brought up IQ, I thought I would give it mention.

P.S.

I'll be waiting for your next IQ BS statement!

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

Well, I'm not one of them, I'm one who's been ogling GTX 780, and now having second thoughts because of the news. I thought of starting to buy parts for my new rig for this fall when Windows 8.1 is released, but who would want to pocket out $650 for a card that won't support the latest DirectX. Doesn't sound that exciting anymore.

But then there is another thing, there is no information on the web whatsoever about DirectX 11.2, not even rumors, makes it all even more unexpected a news...

Maybe AMD will slip it in in their next gen cards but for now I don't think current owners of DX 11.1 cards need to overstress themselves about it because it'll probably be a while before we see it incorporated in PC games. The new consoles don't support it and that's where they say the moolah lies.

1 person liked this | Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

Until the new games start coming out supporting it, which shouldn't take long. That, plus simply peace of mind, expected in the premium price range...

There's no such thing as peace of mind in the hi-tech game.

ikesmasher said:

You do realise that the consoles are sold at a loss to the company right? Console sales are not what they care about ( I mean beyond everyone having one), game sales and accessories are what make them money. I mean at the time the 360 and PS3 were released, for the price, they were some of the best machines money could buy. I mean, people bought the PS3 to use as a super computer I have even seen.

The Xbox 360 and its problems, cost microsoft alot of money, but less then fixing them, hence why they added that 3 year warranty, it was cheaper to fix than to replace the whole machine.

Actually no, at the time they were released, they were based on fairly mediocre hardware. The PS3 better than the xbox.

Lionvibez said:

DirectX 11.2 is basically a bug fix and optimization of DX11 and 11.1 right?

The other guy worrying about it is just making a big deal over nothing.

how many games are out now that are direct X 11 vs 11.1?

By the time you see a ton of games using 11.2 there will already be faster cards out than the 780.

If you were talking DX11 VS DX12 then maybe but the sub version changes are small and shouldn't stop someone from buying a videocard.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Actually no, at the time they were released, they were based on fairly mediocre hardware. The PS3 better than the xbox.

I'm not going to waste my time looking up the exact stats, but the estimated prices of building a Xbox or PS3 from scratch was almost exactly or just a little over what they were charging. And that's excluding the blu-ray player. When the PS3 came out stand alone Blu-Rays were $200. Sony put Blu-Rays in the PS3 and sold them at a loss in order to beat out HD-DVDs. The PS3 was so cheap for what you got that people were buying them JUST for the blu-ray player.

It was not mediocre hardware. You can argue it wasn't state-of-the-art, but no console will ever have that because the hardware must be decided upon, ordered and built months in advance in order to built a few million units for release.

1 person liked this | JC713 JC713 said:

The other guy worrying about it is just making a big deal over nothing.

how many games are out now that are direct X 11 vs 11.1?

By the time you see a ton of games using 11.2 there will already be faster cards out than the 780.

If you were talking DX11 VS DX12 then maybe but the sub version changes are small and shouldn't stop someone from buying a videocard.

If you are a game developer, upgrading your engine from 11 to 11.1/11.2 will take a bunch of developers, and hence, more money out of their pockets. So yeah, it is not worth moving unless it is a major revision.

JC713 JC713 said:

(Edit: ninja'ed by JC713 )

I'll work on that xD!

ikesmasher said:

I'm not going to waste my time looking up the exact stats, but the estimated prices of building a Xbox or PS3 from scratch was almost exactly or just a little over what they were charging. And that's excluding the blu-ray player. When the PS3 came out stand alone Blu-Rays were $200. Sony put Blu-Rays in the PS3 and sold them at a loss in order to beat out HD-DVDs. The PS3 was so cheap for what you got that people were buying them JUST for the blu-ray player.

It was not mediocre hardware. You can argue it wasn't state-of-the-art, but no console will ever have that because the hardware must be decided upon, ordered and built months in advance in order to built a few million units for release.

The hardware being put in them now is mediocre. they are of average quality. same with the old ones. a blue ray drive could be added to PS3s when they first came out for likely around 150. the rest of the hardware didnt cost 450.

EDIT; it would appear the PS3 was indeed originally sold at a loss. but PS3 then cut build costs by 70% later on

Arris Arris said:

So they brought back a start button, not the start menu. I doubt this is really what people wanted.

2 people like this | MrBungle said:

DirectX 11.2 is a surprise. Should we expect 11.2 video cards any time soon?

Doubtful, anything above 11.0 is Win 8 and frankly Win 8 doesn't have enough market share to be relevant... Come to think about it, NOTHING with the metro UI on it has ever gained enough market share to be relevant... I wonder how long it will be until MS figures this out?

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Doubtful, anything above 11.0 is Win 8
I came real close to misinterpreting "above 11.0", and was fixing to inform Windows 7 was 11. Fortunately I came to my senses (what little I have) and realized you were correct. lol

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

The hardware being put in them now is mediocre. they are of average quality. same with the old ones. a blue ray drive could be added to PS3s when they first came out for likely around 150. the rest of the hardware didnt cost 450.

EDIT; it would appear the PS3 was indeed originally sold at a loss. but PS3 then cut build costs by 70% later on

The consoles came out November 2006 for the ps3 and November 2005 for the Xbox 360. The components put inside each console was higher than any normal consumer could have picked up for years and actually built (including the ridiculous price for just a Blu-ray player). As time went on, the component a became cheaper of course and at this point they are probably breaking about even, but even this generation, Sony (at least) will be taking a loss on each console sold and so will Microsoft. You can say the hardware is "mediocre" all you want but the fact is these machines are selling for 400 and 500 respectively.

Yes the companies obviously get the hardware for cheaper than a normal consumer would, but these machines still contain nice new components that while may not be an i7 or a fx 8350, but it's still a fancy processor with good video specs, wireless built in, Blu-ray drives. They may get close to even, but they certainly are not making profits from consoles, the money comes from game sales.

Guest said:

Just right click on the Start icon to invoke the menu.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Just right click on the Start icon to invoke the menu.

Shhh... you're gonna mess with everyone's complaining....

MrBungle said:

The consoles came out November 2006 for the ps3 and November 2005 for the Xbox 360. The components put inside each console was higher than any normal consumer could have picked up for years and actually built (including the ridiculous price for just a Blu-ray player).

That's not true, PS3 and 360 were roughly as powerful as a mid-range PC at the time they launched... this was back when the leap from one generation to the next was 45%+ in performance gains... Had they been PCs they would have been mid-range the launch year, slow the year after, irrelevant the year after and by 2010 borderline useless. (the GPU in an XBox 360 is roughly as fast as a nVidia 7800GT)

Yes the companies obviously get the hardware for cheaper than a normal consumer would, but these machines still contain nice new components that while may not be an i7 or a fx 8350, but it's still a fancy processor with good video specs, wireless built in, Blu-ray drives. They may get close to even, but they certainly are not making profits from consoles, the money comes from game sales.

The CPU in the new consoles is horrible... yes it has 8 cores but we're talking about the pile driver architecture as featured in one of AMD's APUs. They are slow at 3-4GHz and the chip in the consoles is sub 2GHz. The single threaded performance of these systems is going to lie somewhere between pathetic and laughably bad.

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