Microsoft is officially doing a "do-over" on Windows 8, their new operating system that you love to hate. Starting in the early morning wee hours of Thursday, October 17, you can download Windows 8.1, the refurbished version of Windows 8 that offers the long-lost Start button again, lets you set favorites like iTunes and Firefox as default programs, allows you to bypass that aggravatingly useless Start screen, and lets you power down your computer by command instead of just holding down the On/Off button and hoping for the best.
This is great for me. I've had Windows 8 for about nine months, and I'm not sure I have ever once properly turned my computer off.
Best of all, Windows 8.1 is free to anyone who already has Windows 8 on their system. You can download Windows 8.1 operating system on Thursday by visiting the Windows Store, where Windows 8.1 will begin a staggered release at 7 a.m. EDT / 4 a.m. PDT the morning of Thursday, October 17.
(If you're on a Windows 8 PC, you can access the Windows Store by clicking on the green "shopping bag tile" on your aggravatingly useless Start screen.)
Windows 8 was an attempt to bridge the habits of both tablet and PC users, but ended up pissing off both sides. Sales of both Windows 8 machines and Microsoft Surface tablets (running Windows 8) have been disappointing. So Microsoft is addressing the disappointment with Windows 8.1, which attempts to bring back the aspects of Windows you like and minimize the aspects consumers have disliked.
Microsoft has produced a Windows 8.1 preview video that shows off several new features of the Windows 8.1 upgrade. The video shows off Windows 8.1's new features, but edits between them so quickly that you might get motion sickness by watching it.
In Windows 8.1, you'll be able to bypass the unpopular Start screen and boot your computer directly to the traditional Desktop mode. CNET has a set of instructions for how to bypass the Start screen in Windows 8.1.
Or if you're a fan of the Start screen, you'll finally be able to customize the Start screen background image (whoa, novel idea!), plus move tiles and apps around more easily.
And yes, you will have the option of getting the Start button back. But it won't be like old times -- the new Start button will just bring up the Windows 8 Start screen, which you may not be super fond of.
But hey, at least it's a Start.