Windows 8 was released to manufacturing (RTM) on August 1, 2012 for a October 26, 2012 launch. With the 8.1 updates, all of the issues have been corrected.
Windows 8.1 has already seen market share rise to over 10% at the end of 2013. Remember that extended support for Windows XP expired in April 2013. For those who have legacy requirements we suggest using Hyper-V which can host a copy of Windows XP.
Windows 8.1 has corrected all of the issues we identified with Windows 8. Since general availability, Microsoft has released several significant updates.
Microsoft has also now offered all users a free upgrade to Windows 10 which Microsoft has wanted to have all users standardized for security reasons.
Windows 8.1 has the same system requirements as Vista and 7. It will install on a machine with 512 MB of RAM and a 1 GHz processor. Realistically a much better outcome will be seen with 2 GB or more memory and a faster multi-core x64 CPU.
The Windows Store requires 1024×768 or higher and the application snap to requires 1366×768 or higher. . Machines like out old Samsung R540 already have 1366×768 LCD panel. Very old machines like out Toshiba A100 have the older 1280×800 LCD which is enough for Windows 8 but the snap feature will not be available. LCD improvements at the low end of the laptop market have been slow.
We found that Windows 8.1 is about as fast as Windows 8 to install. Windows 8.1 installer is the same as 8. Installing Windows 8.1 takes about 30-40 minutes which has been typical for Windows all the way back to XP.
The M5A99FX was recognized easily so no need for the Asus support disk. Chipsets and network adapters are widely integrated into Windows by vendors so that support costs are minimized. Even the USB 3.0 controller was recognized which is another standardized device.
We have a Wacom pad and it causes Windows to show the onscreen keyboard for the logon screen. The desktop also shows an icon to bring up the touch keyboard. This means the Wacom pad will have to emulate a touch screen completely. The driver supports up to 4 finger gestures so it should be adequate.
Entry level notebook computers with a touch panel LCD have fallen to below $500 making them increasingly popular. Windows tablets are also now more widely available.
We also have the HP Stream 7 tablet which is completely touch screen. These new low cost Windows tablets will expand the installed base for Windows users considerably.
The default start screen is the same as Windows 8. It is now possible to change it to start at desktop. The start button is back using the Windows 8 icon.
Clearly the big change is the new giant tile being used for the weather. This will allow for many apps to present more information. There are also now small icons like the ones for photos and music.
The game pad is suspicious as it looks like Windows 8.1 is another box to flog consoles games that do not work on the PC.
Windows 8.1 will no longer place all of the start menu shortcuts on the Start screen. These can be added later as desired. Groups work properly now too. Games work better with the latest patches.
There is a new background for the logon screen. The rainbow of color looks rather bright with our PA238QR.
The groups are now working as expected and its possible to organize games into groups by release year if desired. Steam and Origin et al games are best launched from their respective clients which will reduce screen clutter.
There is a new wallpaper and more are available from Windows.com.
The white start button is now back. Windows 8.1 can now be configured to be more useful for desktop users while simultaneously supporting mobile users.
The control panel now opens up into separate windows so that its now easier to do different tasks at once. Multicore processors are now widely available with sufficient RAM to support more open windows.
We have seen storage spaces with Windows Server and we strong recommend not using it. Use a single large disk or use 2-3 of them in a RAID 0 setup. Home NAS boxes can be used for a backup target.
The problem with storage spaces, the backup when things go wrong? Use a USB 3.0 disk or a network box for backups.
The April 8, 2014 updates for Windows 8.1 introduced some changes. These changes are deigned to make it easier to use Windows 8.1 with a keyboard and mouse.
Apps now are shown on the taskbar and the Store is also now placed on the taskbar. The touch interface will now show the taskbar when the mouse is move to the bottom. It works the same as the old taskbar when set to hide to make more room available. A second power button has been added to the top right corner making it easier to find. The charms still work as before.
Games work very well with Windows 8.1, with much better performance. Clearly Microsoft worked hard to improve game compatibility.
Windows 8.1 works fine with the old AL1916 panel as easily as the PA238QR. Old classic games like Battlefield 1942 work better with the AL1916. Modern games are designed for 1920×1080 however they have to support a wide range of panel resolutions.
The Windows 7 games folder is still present, to get it to open, go to all programs and right click on one of the games in the folder and select open file location. Then once you have it open, you can pin it to the taskbar where you can open it quickly to launch a game.
Windows 8.1 recognizes more games the Windows 7 so this is a good shortcut for larger collections. Some Steam games are recognized too, offering a second shortcut.
Blacksite Area 51 had a write protect error attempting to install the second DVD. Making a virtual BD master from the original disks allowed the game to install, then using the original disk the DRM was maintained fine.
Visual Studio may enable Hyper-V, this needs to be disabled.
When Windows performance suffers or drivers are making Windows unstable you can now refresh Windows more easily. With Window Vista and up there are Libraries. Document and Photos etc.
When you boot your Windows DVD (or USB stick), you will be able to select repair Windows. The refresh Windows option will preserve libraries but otherwise its a fresh install. This means games have to be installed fresh, so that BD backup, USB disk, server or NAS box earn their keep fast.
If you have moved your iTunes media folder to another location, it is retained as the ITL files in the Music Library are saved.