Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer announced a few hours ago that Windows 8.1 will be available to download, starting today. This will be an update for Windows 8 users, rather than a full fledged OS as some people may have previously thought.

Microsoft windows 8.1

When Microsoft released Windows 8, many users were not happy with the OS and complained about the way things worked. For example, the biggest annoyance for many of us is the removal of the Start menu which we’ve been used to since the early days of Windows. The charm bars, hot corners and all just added to the frustration. But fast forward to now and it seems that the Redmond company has finally listened to our woes and come out with Windows 8.1 to please all Windows 8 and Windows RT users.

What’s New in Windows 8.1

To begin with, Microsoft has bought back the familiar,  good old Start button to the Taskbar. Apart from this major change, here’s what Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 offers:

  • Option to boot directly to Desktop – no more booting to Start Screen
  • Global search brings you results from your PC, your apps, and the web.
  • Redesigned Windows Store.
  • Set up a slide show on your lock screen.
  • Support for high-density displays on mobile devices.
  • SkyDrive is now the default location for saving documents.
  • Internet Explorer 11 brings you faster load time, and a full screen viewing experience.

System Requirements for Windows 8.1

Microsoft says that Windows 8.1 Preview works great on the same hardware that powers Windows 8.

Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
Free hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

Windows RT 8.1 Preview requires that you have a PC already running Windows RT with 10 GB of free storage space.

Note that in order to use Windows 8.1 Preview you must sign in to your PC with a Microsoft account. The option to create a local account will be made available at the final release of Windows 8.1.

Downloading Windows 8.1 Preview

Coming to the important part, you can download and try out Windows 8.1 right now. Head over to the Windows 8.1 preview page by visiting On this page, go to the ‘Download’ page. You’ll have two options for downloading Windows 8.1.

Method 1: Direct update from Windows Store
Method 2: Standalone ISO for clean installation

At the time of this writing, ISO’s are not yet available but as per the instructions on the page, ISO will be available starting from tomorrow.

To download Windows 8.1 from Windows Store, follow these steps:

  1. Download the required update package from official Windows 8.1 Preview page (direct link).
  2. Install the update and restart your system.
  3. After the reboot, you’ll get a notification to update to Windows 8.1 Preview. Click on the “Go to the Store” to visit download page in Windows Store.
  4. Click on the “Download” button and then once download is complete, install the brand new Windows 8.1 Preview on your PC.

Note that you don’t need any product key if you’re updating to Windows 8.1 via Windows Store.

What are your thoughts on Microsoft’s new Windows 8.1? Let us know in the comments section.