Skip to main content

8.1 reasons to upgrade to Windows 8.1

8 1 reasons to upgrade windows 2013

If you’re one of the embittered millions who responded to the launch of Windows 8 with furrowed brows and vitriolic online screeds, you can finally relax. The first major update – Windows 8.1 – is here, and it’s specifically tailored to appease the cantankerous masses. We already conceded that Windows 8.1 is still Windows 8 in our preview, but there’s plenty buried within the download to make Windows faster, better looking and easier to use. As that decimal point in the name would suggest, it’s less like the modest “service packs” we’ve come to expect with every version of Windows, and more like a mea culpa from Microsoft. You can almost hear Steve Ballmer shriek “I can change!” and flip over a boardroom table as you start the download. It’s too late for Steve, but not too late for Windows 8 to get a lot more likeable thanks to a number of small but not-inconsequential changes. Here are 8.1 of our favorites.

1. Boot to desktop

Windows 8.1 Boot to Desktop

Can’t stand Microsoft’s colorful, oversized “Modern UI” Start screen? Now you can look at it less by booting directly into the Windows-7-like comfort of the classic desktop. Of course, you’ll still have to make occasional forays into Modern UI for search and other operations, but avoiding it on every boot and login means a lot fewer Live Tiles exploding in your eyes.

Related Videos

2. Better search

Windows 8.1 Search

“Universal search” sounded promising in Windows 8, but after plugging in a term, you had to tell Windows what you were search for: Apps? Files? Settings? No longer. Now search scours them all in one swoop, and searches online if it can’t find what you’re looking for locally. With Bing, of course.

3. Internet Explorer 11


No one except your mom still uses Internet Explorer on the classic desktop, but it’s still your best bet for a big, touch-enabled browser in Modern UI. Fortunately, Microsoft fixes a lot of the biggest annoyances with Internet Explorer 11, which allows folders for your favorites and yes, even opens more than 10 tabs at a time.

4. Better split-screen capability

Windows Split Screen

Want two Modern UI apps open side by side? Windows 8 has always allowed it, but the divider bar always snapped to predetermined points that made it tough to arrange things as you wanted. In Windows 8.1, you can drag it wherever you want and it will stick.

5. Personalization

Windows 8.1 Personalize

Microsoft played up how customizable Windows 8 was the first time around, but in reality, rigid presets constrained your choices and creativity. Want to pair magenta with eye-scorching yellow for your colors? The fashionistas in Redmond wouldn’t allow you. Microsoft eases off the controls this time by letting you choose a custom background for the Start screen, pick whatever color combos you want, and even arrange tiles in more ways.

6. Even faster boot speeds

Windows 8.1 Boot Screen

Get out your stopwatches, YouTube benchmarkers: Windows 8.1 can boot even faster than its already-speedy predecessor. Think of all the Reddit you can browse with a few extra seconds in the morning!

7. Rearranged settings

Windows 8.1 PC Settings

Clicking “Change PC settings” under Windows 8 allowed you to play with some of the operating system’s most interesting knobs, but its arcane layout made it impossible to find some of them. Windows 8.1 organizes them in a more coherent way, and makes more settings accessible without reverting to the classic desktop.

8. An improved Windows Store

Windows 8.1 Store

At launch, Windows 8 didn’t have enough apps. Then, it suddenly had plenty, but a ton of them were garbage. The mountains of awful apps from novice coders haven’t disappeared with 8.1, but the Windows Store now does a better job of hiding them, and it’s easier to navigate, too.

8.1. The Start button is back

Windows 8.1 Start button

The most-advertised feature of Windows 8.1 may also be the most deceptive, which is why it gets the dubious distinction of being the “.1” in our list. While Microsoft has indeed pinned a Start button back onto the classic desktop, it doesn’t work the way it used to. Rather than bringing up a list of your apps, clicking it boots you back to the Windows 8 Start screen. What a cruel trap. Thanks, Microsoft.

Editors' Recommendations

Canva’s new AI tools might replace your video editor
Canva's Magic Edit feature adding flowers to an image.

Canva -- the online design platform used to create logos, presentations, infographics, and more -- announced a new suite of AI tools that can do everything from generate new images to automatically edit videos for you.

The toolset touches nearly every part of Canva's design suite. It starts with Magic Design, which will automatically design a graphic for you based on an uploaded image and selected style. Users are free to edit the design after the fact, and they can automatically translate it with Canva's new AI-powered translate feature that supports more than 100 languages.

Read more
How to use Bing Image Creator to generate AI images for free
Bing Image Creator generated a realistic, yet artistic image of a hand drawing a hand.

Bing search made a giant leap forward in popularity and gained new conversational abilities when Microsoft added OpenAI's GPT-4 technology with the new ChatGPT-based Bing Chat tab. Now. another mode of operation is available with Bing Image Creator, which turns your written description into a picture.

According to Microsoft's blog post, Bing Image Creator uses a more advanced version of OpenAI's Dall-E. That means it can produce high-quality, photorealistic digital pictures, drawings, and paintings for you based on the text prompts you supply.
How to get access to Bing Image Creator
There are two ways to use Bing Image Creator. The simplest is to go to, which brings up Image Creator in preview right in your browser. This is available to everyone, and is a good place to try it out, even on mobile.

Read more
Bing Chat: how to use Microsoft’s own version of ChatGPT
Bing Chat shown on a laptop.

Microsoft has added AI to its Edge browser and Bing search engine, and it's powered by the same advanced technology that OpenAI used to create ChatGPT. It's also available in mobile apps, enabling AI interaction by voice.

Here's how to sign up and use Bing Chat today.
How to get Bing Chat

Read more