I'd have a hard time coming up with a more ridiculous label than "Windows 8.1 Update." Things would have been far less confusing if Microsoft had simply called this one Windows 8.2.
Regular readers know that I hated Windows 8 from the start. But Windows 8.1's user interface improvements were a step in the right direction. The Windows 8.1 update, which brings several more improvements, is another good step.
But do you have to get this Update? (For clarity's sake, I'll use capital-U Update for this particular one, and lower-case update for updates in general.) If you're running Windows 8.1, you do. This month, Microsoft will stop delivering security patches to Windows 8.1 installations without the Update. That version will cease to be safe.
Oddly, Microsoft will continue to patch Windows 8 (not .1). So if you still use Windows 8, or you're using 8.1 with the Update, you'll remain protected. But if you use Windows 8.1 without the Update, you won't.
But that's okay with me, because I like this update. The jarring differences between traditional Windows programs and Metro/Modern apps are getting smoothed out. The new apps even appear on the desktop's taskbar. And the taskbar itself can appear on the Home screen. Overall, it's a significant improvement.
So how do you get the Update? You might already have it. To find out, check the top-right corner of the Start screen. If you see a magnifying glass icon next to your logon name, you've got the update. (You might also see a power icon, but the magnifying glass will definitely be there.)
If you don't see it, go to the Search charm, type windows update, and select Windows Update. Click the link that tells you that a certain number of important updates are available. Look for "Windows 8.1 Update (KB2919355)." It will probably be unchecked. Check it and start the update.
It will take a little while, but the wait will be worth it. On the inside, Windows 8 is superior to Windows 7 — faster and more reliable. And slowly but surely, Microsoft is fixing the truly dreadful user interface problems — even if the company can't quite figure out how to name these improvements..
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