Windows 8.1 Update Released, Subtle but Significant

Author by Shannon Fritz

At //build/ 2014 Microsoft announced the release of the anticipated "Windows 8.1 Update" - its official name. It'll be available to the public as part of the next wave of Windows Updates released on Tuesday, April 8th, but as mentioned on the Springboard Series blog, you can get what's new with the "Update" by downloading the installers for Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry AND even Windows 8.1 RT if you have an MSDN account today! You can also download ISO images of Windows with the Update already built-in for Client and Server. Joe Belfiore has a nice overview of many of these features in a 3 minute video, but here's a look at what you'll get next by week. Note: Perhaps it is just coincidence, but April 8th is also the same day that Windows XP is officially no longer supported!  Maybe another reason you should consider making the jump to the new Windows.

An Update by Any Other Name...

First, this release is officially called "Windows 8.1 Update". You might have heard this referred to by many other names, including.
  • Windows 8.1 Update 1
  • Windows 8.1 Service Pack 1 (SP1)
  • Windows 8.1 Update Rollup
  • Windows 8.1.1
  • Windows 8.2
None of those names are corect! It's simply referred to as "Windows 8.1 Update". However, despite the name, the same .msu files also apply to Windows Server 2012 R2, which is great news for Remote Desktop Services deployments.

What's new in Windows 8.1 Update?

The changes introduced improve some of the user experiences with modern interface by making some functionality more discoverable and improves the use of keyboard and mouse vs touch. For the most part, the changes are a bit subtle, but it represents a significant shift in how quickly Microsoft is now able to respond to feedback from users. Remember that only one generation of Windows ago, changes to the operating system like this would not have seen the light of day for YEARS. image For starters, there is now a Power button on the start screen next to your name and photo. image They've also introduced some changes to make mousing with the Modern UI more intuitive, including context menus when right clicking on Tiles and the ability to ctrl+click multiple tiles. image Modern Apps also get dressed up a bit with the addition of a small but familiar Title Bar that allows you to Close or Minimize the apps. It also make it easier to grab and drag the app to close or snap them when you have multiple monitors that happen to be stacked vertically. image When a Modern App is running and minimized, it will now appear on the Task Bar like traditional apps do. You can also Pin modern apps to the task bar which is demonstrated by the Store app being pinned once the Update is installed. image Hovering over a running Modern App shows thumbnails previews now too. image Also new is the ability to "Forget" wireless networks that you have connected to in the past. Previously the only way to remove these were by using netsh commands, but now you just click the Settings charm, then Change PC Settings -> Network -> Connections and click on "Manage known networks". ie11enterprisemode There's also sometihng called "Enterprise Mode" for Internet Explorer 11 that allows you to use Group Policy to configure IE11 to load some web sites in Compatability Mode.  This is availalbe for IE11 on Windows 8.1 and on Windows 7, so I'll cover more on that feature in another post, but you can read more about it on the IEBlog over on MSDN. Did I miss anything?  Let me know if you've found something else that's new.

Installing Windows 8.1 Update

The easiest thing to do will be to wait for the release through Microsoft Update, but if you have access to MSDN or you manually download the updates after April 8th, the recommended installation order is
  1. KB2919442
  2. KB2919355
  3. KB2932046
  4. KB2937592
  5. KB2938439
  6. KB2949621-v2 (no kb article was available at the time of this writing)
After that, you're on the latest and greatest!  N'joy!

Shannon Fritz

Infrastructure Architect & Server Team Lead