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

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

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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.


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.


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:


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:


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:


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:


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 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 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.


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.


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.

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  • jpsakai
    0 Posts

    I love the new update but please remove the Right-click context menu when right-clicking the tile, also I need to press the Ctrl key just to select multiple tiles. Unlike before, you could just right-click the tiles as many as you want without pressing the Ctrl key.

    When I'm playing games which uses the mouse to control objects like Guns 4 Hire, when my cursor suddenly point to the top, the title bar shows which is so very annoying!

    Also, just fix some flaws when I want to see the taskbar when on the Modern apps, sometimes when I point my cursor to the bottom, it does not appear, you just need point your cursor on the middle of the screen then quickly point it to the bottom to show the taskbar.

    My suggestions for the coming update this fall:





  • please Microsoft remove Right-click an app tile to see more options. If you’re using a mouse and you right-click a tile on Start, you’ll see a context menu next to the tile that shows what you can do with the tile...

    I uses mouse and keyboard and I don`t like this feature ...inspite  of this the update is awesome.. keep it up...............

  • Lankus
    0 Posts

    Would be neat to be able to open store-apps like normal programs, to configure this for each app and also depending on how im using the device (Touch/Docked with my workstation/with my TV)

  • Lankus
    0 Posts

    I'd like to allways show the taskbar (even in Start) while my Surface is plugged in to it's docking station.

    Overall It would be smart to have different settings depending on size of current main-screen.

    I want 1 set of setting when i'm plugged in to my TV(32"), 1 set while plugged in to my docking station(24") and while im using the touch/mousepad i want another set of settings. Make my device smarter, cause im lasy.

  • - I am confused on what the issue is you are having? The bar at the top of Windows Store apps will automatically disappear when you move your mouse away. You move your mouse up there to either close or minimize the app but it doesn't persist. Windows Store apps should remain very usable.

  • When are we going to get a direct link to a Windows 8.1 with Windows 8.1 Update .iso on Digital River that accepts both Windows 8.0 and 8.1 product keys and can be used in an OEM and Retail installation?

    The difficultly Microsoft have made in installing Windows 8.1 is remarkable. I have been a Windows enthusiast for some time but there are multiple things about Windows 8.1 in particular Microsoft's lack in providing installation media that makes it very difficult to continue being enthusiastic about Windows and the direction its going.

    My Windows Installation Guides now over 500,000 views contains several workarounds to download the retail Windows 8.1 .iso using a retail Windows 8.0 product key and clean install (146,000 views for this workaround).

    In addition as Microsoft are not allowing users clean installation the Windows installation is corrupt and multiple users hence have issues installing update 1:

    All these issues could be fixed within minutes with a refresh using such a .iso.

  • Viktar, since you say most of the modern apps are unusable, I was wondering just haw many have you purchased to try? For that matter how many of the free apps even have you tried.

  • Viktar
    0 Posts

    I have only one word for this update: WTF?

    Most modern apps are unusable, modern RDP client is totally unusable.

  • To close and terminate an app in Windows 8.1 Update (and maybe just plain old 8.1), drag the screen down to the bottom and hold it for a second or two.  The small screen spins around to its icon and when you release it, the app is TERMINATED, not just closed.  Only just found that out myself! :D

    I love 8.1 and 8.1 with update.  There is nothing that I can find really that bad once you have changed your ways of doing things.  Face it, most of the public (and users I see day in day out) are trying to use new OpSys as if they are old ones.  Find the new way of doing things and you find out how fast and well designed this system is.  Try forcing old habits on it and you will be pining for the start menu to come back (which it is in a later update).  

    I must admit the hardest way to use Windows 8.x is via mouse.  Use the keyboard and all is well again and much faster than any of the other operating systems out there.  You just need to learn (its new you know) :D

  • BTW, it's not that I think the left-edge switcher is a perfect UI or anything - obviously, it has the severe limitation of only showing a small # of app thumbnails, which also means sometimes you end up wasting time scanning the list only to realize the app you want isn't there anymore and you end up having to go to Start. However, its simplicity (and the larger size of each thumbnail) is also a strength.

  • I find one thing about this update INCREDIBLY frustrating - how hard it makes getting the left-edge thumbnail switcher to appear. In previous releases I'd gotten a "swing around the corner" mouse motion ingrained in my muscle memory, so I could (and habitually did) pull out the switcher and then drag out an app in one fluid and satisfying motion. With this update, that only seems to work about half the time and when it doesn't and I have to repeat it two or three times to get the switcher to appear, it makes me feel like throwing my mouse against the wall.  :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( Seriously, just this one issue is making my computer usage a lot more not-fun.

    Maybe the idea is mouse users are more likely to just use the taskbar now. The taskbar is a much more versatile/powerful tool than the left-edge switcher and I do find having it available useful sometimes, especially when I have multiple windows for a single app or want to switch directly to a desktop app, but it's not entirely satisfactory:

    1. I can't drag an app directly out to split the screen or position it

    2. The push-down action doesn't feel as smooth as the swing-around-the-corner motion

    3. The small size, greater complexity, smaller icons, and use of thumbnails  makes the taskbar somewhat more awkward to use when it's not always visible. I feel like I take a moment to adjust to everything on it, and then I tense up while using it because I have to keep my mouse within a very small area or it will hide itself again. Very different feeling than the fluid motion of pulling an app from the switcher.

    4. When I use a lot of apps without closing them (which for immersive apps I'm used to being able to do) the taskbar quickly fills up and even spills over to a second line, rendering it basically unusable.

    Also, swinging up from the bottom corner with Start works reliably, and maybe I should just adjust to do that, but it's somewhat more awkward because you want to start from the most recent app and move backwards, not the other way around.

  • Would love to remove the word "Start" from the top left hand corner on the Start screen and replace it with a clock.  Having the word "Start" there is a huge waste of real estate.  But even if it can't be replaced with something useful, like a clock, IMO the screen would look a 1000% better without it.  Anyway to remove it?

  • Mike W.
    4 Posts

    @Cubkyle - have you ever seen Windows kill one of the metro apps for memory?  I've pushed my system's RAM to the limits to see what it would do and it just got slow but never killed any of the metro apps running.  It makes zero sense that they would purposely leave an app taking up memory when the user wanted to close it.  I've removed all metro apps and will avoid that whole environment as long as I can.

  • Mike W.
    4 Posts

    @DanRodier - this should do the trick:

  • There are two tweaks that would, to my view, considerably improve the Power button.

    (1) Please give us the option to manually enable the Power button even in tablet mode. I'd like to have it on my Surface's Start screen as well.

    (2) When one sets its device so that clicking on the Windows button shows the Apps view instead of the Start screen, the Power button (along with the User account menu) isn't showing. In fact, from the Apps view, getting to lock the account is anything but user-friendly. Please let the User account menu and the Power button appear on the apps list as well.

    Thanks for listening.

  • nelmlb
    0 Posts

    They can relocate transparency and width at top of the window as it was in windows 7. So as this now seems windows vista, just change it to black or dark will maximize the windows in windows vista.

    They could add the option to use a start menu as before or use the Home screen to enhance the experience for most users.

    Transparency was really something nice to look at.

    Please if you can consider.

  • well due to your myopic upgrade procedures (including a lack of .iso for us plebs) my PCs will be staying with Windows 7. Good thing I only paid $40 for my win 8 keys because I dont feel so bad for wasting that money.

  • Cubkyle
    0 Posts

    Mike W., they aren't exactly running. They're suspended, which means they still exist in RAM. Windows will toss them if system resources are needed, and you needn't worry about them being there in the meantime. If you're trying to close them because you need to restart the app, grab the program at the top of the screen and drag it down to the bottom. When it shrinks, hold it there for a moment, and the image of it will flip to its loading screen. That will restart the program.

    In short, no, the X button doesn't close modern apps and it works differently now.

    And it totally drives OCD me nuts. I sometimes end up killing them in Task Manager even though I really don't have to.

  • Mike W.
    4 Posts

    Thanks for the tips.  Is there a setting anywhere that makes the new X button on metro apps actually CLOSE them?  If I open Task Manager, I can confirm that even though I click the X to close them, they remain running in the background.  The X button has worked the same way since Windows 95 -- why change it now?