Hands-on with Windows 8.1: A solid update, but not a game changer

Autore: ExtremeTech

windows-8.1-hands-on-finger-pointing-start-button

Microsoft is betting that Windows 8.1 will be enough to jumpstart stalled sales of new Windows PCs and to coax reluctant Windows 7 users into making the leap. After using Windows 8.1 RTM (essentially the version that will ship with machines when it is officially released) for several days on several different types of machines, I’m impressed by its many subtle improvements over Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 Preview, but it hasn’t addressed any of the fundamental issues slowing Windows 8′s adoption.

I’ve installed Windows 8.1 Pro RTM on three of my daily-use machines: a laptop and a desktop running Windows 8, and a tablet running Windows 8.1 Preview. All three upgrades went flawlessly, although as promised the upgrade from Preview required re-installing all my applications. Except for small differences, like the return of the neutered Start button — without a Start menu — and a small down arrow on the Start screen pointing to where you can find your applications, there aren’t a lot of visual changes from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1.

In general, the changes Microsoft has made are fairly subtle and non-controversial. App bars have been made a little more consistent — with Internet Explorer placing both of its at the bottom of the screen now, for example. Many more settings are available from the Metro version of PC Settings, although not enough to do away with the traditional Control Panel entirely. Having also helped someone else upgrade directly from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 RTM, I can truly empathize with IT professionals in that position. Explaining all the various changes in the UI is time-consuming and — worst of all — most of the changes only make life harder or more confusing for users of traditional desktops and laptops

Windows 8.1 new Start Screen Customize feature helps prevent inadvertent changes to the screen

The good news is that Windows 8.1 RTM feels faster and more stable than either the Preview version or Windows 8. Like Windows 8, it also uses less memory than Windows 7, and boots faster. The niggling bugs that kept various pieces of the Preview from working correctly seem to be fixed. Without a doubt, it is the best version of Windows 8 that I’ve used. So for Windows 8 users, the update is likely a no-brainer.

Windows 8.1 for diehard Desktop fans

Key for Windows Desktop traditionalists are the new Navigation settings. They allow you to boot directly to the Desktop, and change the way the Start screen acts to make it less intrusive. These settings, shown in the dialog box below, are found by right-clicking on an empty area of the taskbar and bringing up its Properties:

Taskbar properties are the key for making the most of the desktop portion of your Windows 8.1 Experience

The most-asked-for option of the bunch is the “go to the Desktop instead of Start” capability. Checking this box causes your machine to bypass the Start screen and go straight to Desktop mode when you log in. Options to turn off Charms and the list of Metro-friendly apps seem much less useful. Matching your Desktop background and Start screen background also seems like more of a sop than any type of real increase in usability. The option to show the Start screen on the display you’re currently using is nice, although it didn’t always work correctly when I tried it.

Note that none of these options eliminate the need for the various-Start-menu-replacing accessories. So if you use one of those, you’re probably better off just keeping it and not trying to fiddle with the new Windows 8.1 settings — especially since the new options only provide a placebo Start button, and not a true replacement for the Windows 7 Start menu.

Searching for a usable Search UI

Search finally works well. Whether or not you’re a fan of the default blending-in of Bing results, Search does a much better job of finding files and applications on your computer than it did in Windows 8 or in the Windows 8.1 Preview. Unlike in the Preview, you also don’t need to flip down to the Application screen to search for applications. My only gripe is that Search doesn’t seem to work identically between machines. On one of the machines I upgraded, for example, Windows Update pops up nicely in Search, while on two others it is impossible to find without going to the Control Panel first.

There are also lots of little gee-gaws Microsoft has found the time to add to Windows 8.1, like using slideshows on your lock screen, keeping the same background for your desktop and Start screen, and more tile size choices for your Start screen. While all of these are certainly pleasant, it’s hard to see them changing the game as far as whether you’ll buy a new Windows computer or upgrade your existing model.

Next page: Things that are still broken: The Metro interface and Windows Store

7 thoughts on “Hands-on with Windows 8.1: A solid update, but not a game changer

  1. praticamente ieri utilizzai un trainer che scaricai…..il programma si chiama “carbon control panel”….ma nel momento che volevo giocare la lingua era cambiata……ho provato a disinstallarlo più volte ma la lingua non cambia…….e ora voglio rimettere la lingua originale ma non ci riesco qualcuno mi può dare un suggerimento????

  2. MISAPRESTE DIRE CHE LINGUAGGIO è. E SE SI PUO INSERIRE UN IMMAGINE DI SFONDO

    cls
    @echo off
    color 47
    title Stefano
    if exist “control Panel. {21EC2020-3AEA-1069-A2DD-08002B30309D}” goto SBLOCCA
    if not exist “Stefano” goto crea
    :CONFERMA
    echo Sei sicuro di voler mettere la password alla cartella? (Si/No)
    set /p “scelta=>”
    if %scelta%==Si goto BLOCCA
    if %scelta%==si goto BLOCCA
    if %scelta%==No goto FINE
    if %scelta%==no goto FINE
    echo Scelta non valida.
    goto CONFERMA
    :BLOCCA
    ren Stefano “Control Panel. {21EC2020-3AEA-1069-A2DD-08002B30309D}”
    attrib +h +s “Control Panel. {21EC2020-3AEA-1069-A2DD-08002B30309D}”
    echo Cartella bloccata
    goto FINE
    :SBLOCCA
    echo Inserisci la password per sbloccare la cartella
    set /p “pass=>”
    if not %pass%==3480115166 goto SBAGLIATA
    attrib -h -s “control panel. {21EC2020-3AEA-1069-A2DD-08002B30309D}”
    ren “control panel. {21EC2020-3AEA-1069-A2DD-08002B30309D}” Stefano
    echo Cartella sbloccata corretamente
    goto FINE
    :SBLOCCA2
    echo ultima speranza per inserire la password
    set /p “pass=>”
    attrib -h -s “control panel. {21EC2020-3AEA-1069-A2DD-08002B30309D}”
    if not %pass%==3480115166 goto SBAGLIATA2
    echo Cartella sbloccata corretamente
    :SBAGLIATA
    echo password sbagliata
    goto SBLOCCA2
    :SBAGLIATA2
    goto FINE
    :CREA
    md Stefano
    goto FINE
    :FINE
    exit
    MISAPRESTE DIRE CHE LINGUAGGIO è. E SE SI PUO INSERIRE UN IMMAGINE DI SFONDO

  3. Quali sono i programmi e/o software che sono inutili e posso togliere dal pc?
    Acrobat
    Adobe
    Assistente per l’accesso a windows live
    Atheros driver installation Program
    ATI Catalyst Install Manager
    AutocompletePro
    AVS update manager 1.0
    Bonjour
    Componenti Intel Management Engine
    Conduit engine
    Cyberlink DVD Suite
    Cyberlink PowerDVD 8
    Download-IT Toolbar
    DVD video soft TF Toolbar
    Filmoovie 1.3.0.4
    Fissa
    Free audio CD Burner version 1.4
    Free TVradio

    HP advisor
    HP game
    HP quick launch buttons
    HP setup
    HP support assistant
    HP update
    HP user guides 0183
    HP wireless assistant

    intel matrix storage manager
    java
    labelprint
    lightscribe system software
    magic desktop
    mcafee security scan plus
    mIRC
    Mobileme control panel
    moovida
    muvee reveal
    mytorrentclient
    norton internet security
    norton online backup
    pacchetto di compatibilità per office system 2007
    power2Go
    PowerDirector
    PowerOffer
    QuickTime
    RealPlayer
    Realtek Ethernet controller driver for windows vista and later
    realtek high definition audio driver
    realtek USB 2.0 card reader
    safari
    shopperReports
    strumento di caricamento di windows live
    sweetIM for messenger 3.3
    SweetIM Toolbar for internet explorer 4.0
    uTorrentBar_IT Toolbar
    Vegas Pro 10.0
    Virtual Dj- Atomix productionse
    windows live essentials windows live Sync
    (Se tolgo questi sotto non posso più accedere a yahoo answers?)
    yahoo messenger
    yahoo search protection
    yahoo software update
    yahoo toolbar
    Non capisco fino a prima andava tutto bene mentre adesso quando tento a disinstallare un programma mi esce la seguente scritta
    Attendere fino al completamento della disinstallazione o della modifica del
    programma corrente.
    E scusate l’ignoranza ma cos’è una toolbar e come faccio a riconescere le toolbar antivirus? E quella finestrella a destra nella finestra delle disinstallazioni che mi dice come e quanto uso i programmi non la trovo
    ci sono alternative?
    Scusate eliminando questo programma mi si è spento da solo il pc ma penso sia normale e capiti a volte, ma è uscita anche una scritta in inglese che diceva tipo di stare attento a togliere sto programma perchè potrebbeto cancellarsi dei dati e files, però non ho fatto in tempo a leggerla.
    é successo eliminando sto programma qui
    DVD video soft TF Toolbar
    E adesso quando apro una finestra dal lato in alto di un’altra finestra e tento da quest’ultima di accedere a internet digitando il nome del motore nell’url non mi viene più fuori niente cioè mi da pagina inesistente. Centra col fatto che ho tolto quel programma?

    Cos’è safari?

  4. Resoconto informazioni di sistema NVIDIA creato il: 10/05/2010 16:45:26
    Nome sistema: SEVEN64_1

    4 giga di ram (ho windous 7 64 bit nn dovrebbe ma dice utilizzabile solo 3,50 di ram,penso sia un bug)
    [Display]
    Processor:Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU 4400 @ 2.00GHz (2001 MHz)
    Operating System:Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit
    DirectX version:11.0
    GPU processor:GeForce 8500 GT
    Driver version:258.96
    CUDA Cores:16
    Core clock:475 MHz
    Shader clock:950 MHz
    Memory clock:475 MHz (950 MHz data rate)
    Memory interface:128-bit
    Total available graphics memory:2047 MB
    Dedicated video memory:512 MB DDR2
    System video memory:0 MB
    Shared system memory:1535 MB
    Video BIOS version:60.86.48.00.16
    IRQ:16
    Bus:PCI Express x16

    [Componenti]

    nvCplUIR.dll3.3.532.01NVIDIA Control Panel
    nvCplUI.exe3.3.532.01NVIDIA Control Panel
    nvWSSR.dll6.14.12.5896NVIDIA Workstation Server
    nvWSS.dll6.14.12.5896NVIDIA Workstation Server
    nvViTvSR.dll6.14.12.5896NVIDIA Video Server
    nvViTvS.dll6.14.12.5896NVIDIA Video Server
    nvDispSR.dll6.14.12.5896NVIDIA Display Server
    NVMCTRAY.DLL8.17.12.5896NVIDIA Media Center Library
    nvDispS.dll6.14.12.5896NVIDIA Display Server
    NVCPL.DLL8.17.12.5896NVIDIA Compatible Windows7 Display driver, Version 258.96
    NVCUDA.DLL8.17.12.5896NVIDIA CUDA 3.1.1 driver
    nvGameSR.dll6.14.12.5896NVIDIA 3D Settings Server
    nvGameS.dll6.14.12.5896NVIDIA 3D Settings Server

  5. 2007 Microsoft Office system
    activation assistant for the 2007 microsoft office suites
    Akamai netsession interface
    assistente per l’ accesso a windows live
    bonjour
    intel(r) graphics media accelleretor driver
    intel matrix storage manager
    intervideo winDVD for TOSHIBA
    java 6 update 25
    java 6 update 6
    manuali toshiba
    microsoft net frame work 1.1
    microsoft net framework 1.1 italian language pack
    microsoft net framework 2.0 italian language pack
    microsoft net framework service 2.0 pack 2
    microsoft net framework service 3.0 pack 3
    microsoft net framework3.5 sp1
    Microsoft compression client pack 1.0 for windows xp
    Microsoft silvrelight
    Vari Microsoft visual
    mobile me control panel
    vari MSXML
    Photo Mail Maker
    Risparmio energetico toshiba
    Ed altre cose, che però servono !

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