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The Windows 8.1 Update finally makes Microsoft's Metro future PC-friendly

Brad Chacos | April 9, 2014
With today's free spring update for Windows 8.1, Microsoft is pushing out more than mere tweaks and bug fixes. It's pushing out a message: "We're listening," Microsoft is whispering. "PC users, we want you back."

Like I said: With the Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft's letting a tablet be a tablet and a PC be a PC. Finally

Compromise, but the good kind

In case it's not clear, while Microsoft is willing to compromise on its vision for the future of Windows in order to appease disgruntled PC users, apps and the Modern/Metro/whatever interface are here to stay, and doubly so with the advent of Microsoft's audacious universal app endeavor. Fortunately, the changes in this update hide them elegantly enough that keyboard-and-mouse users no longer need to fuss over them.

In the Windows 8.1 Update, it no longer feels like your PC is fighting against you. In Windows 8.1 Update, there are no complicated hoops to jump through before you can use your PC with minimal frustration. Heck, in the Windows 8.1 Update, those little-used Modern apps are finally worth firing up from time to time — and Microsoft placed them front-and-center by pinning the Windows Store app to the Windows 8.1 Update's desktop taskbar. (Tellingly, I haven't unpinned it yet.)

Oh, and the last two things PC purists can complain about, the last little tidbits holding the Windows 8.1 Update back from being what Windows 8 should have been? Microsoft's working on it. Yes, the Start menu and the ability to run Modern apps in desktop windows are coming back to Windows... someday.

Until then, you might consider picking up a Start menu replacement tool and the superb Modern Mix software to ape those features — but don't let fear of Windows 8's drastic overhaul scare you away any longer. The tweaks in the Windows 8.1 update may be minor individually, but collectively they return Windows to its roots and transform it into a truly PC-friendly operating system once again, especially paired with Windows 8's superior under-the-hood chops.

It's finally safe to upgrade to Windows 8, though the operating system still offers few compelling reasons for happy Windows 7 owners to actively make the switch. If you already have the new OS, now's the time to download Windows 8.1 (via the Windows Store) and this stellar update (which will be pushed using traditional Windows Update methods). You'll be glad you did.


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