What Is Windows 8.1 All About?

Windows 8.1 is available as a preview version right now; meaning if you currently have Windows 8, you can install it and get a feel for the new version. Preview or pre-release versions of software are typically not for everyday users, as they can be a bit unpolished in some regards - they are not completely "done" yet. The actual Windows 8.1 update is due in October 2013 or thereabouts. 

So what is it? Well, it's a free update to the the Windows 8 OS, available through the normal Windows Update path. It's been described as "more than a service pack, but less than a new OS", and that seems fair. A Service Pack has traditionally been a collection of previously issued security fixes, and also might include some functionality or appearance changes (Windows XP Service pack 3 was a good example of this). A new OS would be like going to Windows 8 from Windows 7, or to Windows 7 from Windows XP - but this is not that radical. It's more of an OS upgrade in the Apple sense, where you get some new features, some bug fixes and a bit of spit and polish.

A pretty big caveat for those thinking of trying the preview - once the preview is installed you will NOT be able to upgrade to the full 8.1 version when it's available - nor can you uninstall the preview once it's in place. If you do install the preview, then when the final version of 8.1 becomes available, you would need to save your data, reinstall Window 8, then upgrade to 8.1 and restore your data and Desktop apps.

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