In October 2013, Microsoft produced Windows 8.1 as an optional update to Windows 8. Unlike normal Windows updates, it isn’t applied automatically but has to be downloaded from the Windows Store. 

Computers running Windows 8.1 will automatically download and install the new update, provided Automatic Updates are enabled. You can check this in the Action Centre by clicking the small white flag in the System Tray in the bottom right hand corner of the Desktop. Click Windows Update and it will tell you whether it is set to install updates automatically. If not, click Settings and change it in the drop down box.

Here are some of the best new features:

Start Screen

  • There are more colours to choose from or you can choose your desktop wallpaper 
  • Instead of just two tile sizes in Windows 8, there are now four – small, medium, wide and large
  • Tiles can now be organised into named groups – right click on the Start Screen and click Name groups
  • The All Apps icon has disappeared. Instead, to see all your apps, there is an arrow to click with the mouse or, with a touchscreen, you can swipe up from the bottom of the Start Screen. Apps can now be viewed by Category, Most used or Date installed instead of just alphabetically as before
  • Viewing two windows side by side – four apps can now be viewed at once, depending on the size of your monitor, and there is a new ‘slider’ for resizing them
  • It is now possible to bypass the Start Screen completely when you log in or close an App 
  • Apps can now be closed by clicking a X. Just place your mouse pointer at the top of the screen and it will appear
  • Apps can be pinned to the Desktop taskbar - right click on a tile and choose Pin to taskbar.

Lock Screen

  • It is now possible to turn your Lock Screen into a photo slideshow using the photos stored in your Picture Library or OneDrive. Just search for Desktop and choose Change Desktop Background to see these options
  • The camera can be used and Skype calls answered without having to log into Windows first.

Windows X

  • This is a useful keyboard shortcut that can be used to shut down the computer from the Desktop or Start Screen.
  • Hold down the Windows key and press X to see a menu that includes Shut Down in a similar way to the Start Menu in previous versions of Windows.

Windows Store and Search 

  • The Store will now update your installed apps automatically as necessary
  • The Search facility has been improved and there is a new Search icon in the top right hand corner of the Start Screen.

File storage

  • SkyDrive has become OneDrive and is now the default location to save files so you can save them and back them up all at the same time.
  • When you open File Explorer you will see your OneDrive folders on the left hand side.