The Windows 8.1 update was made live a couple of weeks ago and has probably been downloaded and installed on every single Windows 8 machine in existence. Effectively, this new update is an update to the update last year, we think. Anyway, suffice to say, it does now offer you a few extras beyond the last major update.

Boot to the Desktop

Windows 8.1 users, you remember what the desktop looks like, don't you? Well, now instead of opting to boot directly to the desktop, which the 8.1 update brought you, Windows 8.1 with the new update will automatically detect if you're running the OS on a computer or a tablet and boot you directly either to the desktop or the new UI Start screen.

Obviously you can still opt for one or the other, but the change is a significant one.

Minimize and close Apps

Another element the new update brings is the ability to close and minimize apps that are run directly from the Start screen. The addition of a status bar to Windows 8 apps has apparently gone down a storm with most users, with the familiar 'X' to close an app being far more popular than simply leaving the app in limbo.

Windows Store pinned

As you'll no doubt notice in the new update, the Windows Store is now forever pinned to the Taskbar by default. Forever, unless you remove it of course, which you can quite easily. This means that if you're booting to desktop mode, then there's less of a click-fest to get you into the store.

More Taskbar Pinning

Additional to the Windows Store being pinned to the Taskbar, you can now pin your frequently used and favorite apps to the Taskbar in desktop mode. All you need to do is right-click the app tile via the UI Start screen and select 'Pin to Taskbar' from the menu.

More Start screen Additions

As well as a new menu accessible via the right-click on the Start screen, which allows you to Unpin, Pin, Uninstall, Re-size and toggle Live Tiles as opposed to the options bar along the bottom of the screen - there's also a new power icon in the upper-right corner of the screen.

So to shut down your PC, all you now need do is click the power button and select Shut Down from the menu, which is far quicker than the previous method of going through the side Charms menu. Linux users will no doubt be grinning from ear to ear right about now, since they've had that feature for years.

Pre-emptive IE

Internet Explorer may not be everyone's cup of tea when it comes to the browser wars. However, this new feature may sway one or two in their general direction.

By opening the IE app via the tile, then from the Settings option in the Charms, you can enter the Privacy function, where you can opt to enable 'Flip ahead with Page Protection'. What this effectively does is enable IE to pre-emptively load pages in the background, which should, in theory at least, result in faster browsing.


So Windows 8.1 appears to going in the right direction. Is it enough, though, to make more users install it? That ultimately remains to be seen.

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