Some tips and tricks for using the Windows 8.1 Update [UPDATED!]

Last week at Build, we announced Windows 8.1 Update. This update is a collection of refinements that makes Windows 8.1 feel more familiar and convenient with a mouse and keyboard as well as touch. Yesterday, we began rolling out the update to people via Windows Update. If you haven’t seen the update yet, don’t worry. As you can imagine, we’ve got a lot of Windows Update servers all over the world – so it takes some time for updates to roll out to everyone. Those who wish to install the update ahead of getting it automatically may do so by manually checking for new updates via the Windows Update Control Panel. You can also obtain the standalone update package through the Microsoft Download Center here. Be sure to check this KB article for details including necessary prerequisites needed prior to installing the update. For everything you need to know about getting the update, click here. [UPDATE 4/11 – See below for more information about getting the update from Windows Update.]

For those of you who have the update, I’ve got some tips and tricks for you to check out.

Making Windows 8.1 behave the way you want it to:

After the Windows 8.1 Update is installed, some of the default behaviors are changed in Windows 8.1 based on the type of device you are on. You won’t see much of a change on a tablet running Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1. But on a non-tablet device that might not have touch like a laptop or desktop PC, you might notice some changes:

BEFORE the update: Non-tablet devices would boot to the Start screen. Closing Windows Store apps would take you back to the Start screen. And pictures, music, and video files would open in Windows Store (modern) apps.

AFFER the update: Non-tablet devices will now boot to the desktop. Closing a Windows Store app now takes you back to the previously used app. If you close all apps, it takes your back to the desktop. And pictures, music, and video files now open with associated desktop apps (like Windows Photo Viewer, Windows Media Player, etc.).

You can change many of these settings to make Windows behave the way you want.

You can choose the apps Windows uses by default for example – either Windows Store apps or desktop apps.

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By going to your desktop and right-clicking on the taskbar and choosing “Properties”, you can also change the taskbar and navigation properties. This includes changing whether your device boots straight to the Start screen or the desktop or showing the Apps view when you go to Start. See this article for more details on the taskbar in Windows 8.1.

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TIP: After installing the update and you are using a device with a mouse and don’t see the taskbar coming up when you move your mouse to the bottom of a Windows Store app or see the Minimize button at the top right, make sure under “Taskbar and Navigation properties” that “Show Windows Store apps on the taskbar” is checked. You can also find this setting under PC settings then “PC and devices” and “Corners and edges”.

Power and Search buttons on the Start screen:

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We mentioned previously we added these buttons to the Start screen in the Windows 8.1 Update making it super easy to shut down your device and do a search. However, on some devices you may not see the Power button. On devices that are not tablets like laptops, desktop PCs and All-in-Ones, the Power button should appear on the Start screen after installing the update. On most tablets you will not see the Power button on the Start screen as they have connected standby and a physical power button that lets you quickly shut down or put the device to sleep. However, on tablets larger than 8.5-inches without connected standby, you will see the Power button on the Start screen. I don’t see the Power button on my Dell Venue 8 Pro for example, or my Nokia Lumia 2520 tablet or Surface 2 but I see it on my Dell XPS 27 AIO.

Pressing the Search button right from the Start screen brings out the Search charm where you can initiate Bing Smart Search awesomeness.

Manage disk space on your device:

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With the Windows 8.1 Update, we’ve made it easier to check the disk space on your device. Go to PC settings, then “PC and devices” and “Disk space” to see a view of how much storage is being used on your device. You can see how much storage all your installed Windows Store apps are using (if you tap or click on “See my app sizes”, you can uninstall big Windows Store apps to free up space) as well as media and files. You can quickly empty your Recycle Bin here too. I find having this super helpful on my Dell Venue 8 Pro.

Network context menus:

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You can now open the Settings charm, go to “Networks”, and right-click on any of your networks to get a context menu that lets you quickly set a network as a metered connection (great for things like pay-as-you-go networks you might be connected to when traveling) or show estimated data usage. You can also “forget” certain networks as well.

Playing Xbox Music right from the taskbar:

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If you, like me, are a huge Xbox Music listener then check this out: pin the Xbox Music app to your taskbar and use your mouse to mouse-over the tile and get media playback controls that lets you play/pause and bounce between songs! I love this!

UPDATE 4/11 – Answering questions about getting the Windows 8.1 Update

I wanted to provide some additional information to help people understand the experience for installing the Windows 8.1 Update on their devices.

We have seen some questions about why the Windows 8.1 Update is shown as “Important” in Windows Update and being unchecked by default as an update to install. Right now, all customers will see this experience in Windows Update. Over the course of the next few weeks, Windows Update will gradually install the update on existing Windows 8.1 devices for people who have Automatic Update turned on. The vast majority of customers with Windows 8.1 devices today have Automatic Update turned on. These customers will not need to take any action to install the update, aside from rebooting their device. The installation will happen for them in the background. If customers would like to install the update sooner, rather than waiting for it to be installed automatically over the coming month, they can visit this page from Windows.com that explains how they can get the update.

The Windows 8.1 Update will not install automatically for customers on metered networks. Customers with Automatic Update turned on in regions with metered networks will receive the below notification over the coming weeks alerting them to go to Windows Update and manually install. Again, this page from Windows.com explains how to manually install the update from Windows Update. Our recommendation is for customers to connect to an un-metered connection or public Wi-Fi connection to install the update.

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The small remaining percentage of customers who do not have Automatic Update turned on and manage keeping their device current with updates themselves will need to go to Windows Update and check for the update manually. See this page for details.

The Windows 8.1 Update is a required update to keep Windows 8.1 devices current. It will need to be installed to receive new updates from Windows Update starting on May 13th. Customers who have Automatic Update turned on don’t need to be concerned because the update will be installed for them automatically prior to May 13th. For customers managing updates on their devices manually and haven’t installed the Windows 8.1 Update prior to May 13th, they will only see the option to install the Windows 8.1 Update in Windows Update. No new updates will be visible to them until they install the Windows 8.1 Update. For customers on metered networks, they will get the same experience until they install the Windows 8.1 Update.

For enterprise customers and IT Pros, check out this blog post on the Springboard Series Blog on everything you need to know about the Windows 8.1 Update and deploying it in your organization.

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Hope you found some of this info helpful! Enjoy the update. If you are still on Windows 8, the Windows 8.1 Update is available for free to you through the Windows Store.

Remember, if you run into any issues – head on over to our Windows community forums where we have support folks who can help you troubleshoot your issues.