Windows 8.1 Update – why you need to upgrade to stay safe online

Windows 8.1 Update is Microsoft’s first major overhaul of Windows 8.1. It brings a raft of new tweaks, mostly interface changes, designed to make the operating system easier to use on desktops and laptops.

The big news here though is Microsoft’s announcement that ‘failure to install this update will prevent Windows Update from patching your system with any future updates’, so meaning that your PC could be left exposed after 13 May.

Oddly though, despite being absolutely essential, the update won’t necessarily install automatically if you have auto-updating switched off, therefore potentially putting your PC at risk.

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Windows 8.1 Update – how do I get it?

Users who fail to update Windows 8.1 beforehand will not receive any security updates after 13 May 2014. If they attempt to install an update, they will receive a message informing them that the update is ‘not applicable’.

If you see this message then you really need to install Windows 8.1 Update. To do so, you can follow these instructions on Microsoft’s official Windows 8.1 website.

If you do have auto-updating enabled and want to check that your PC has successfully installed Windows 8.1 Update, you can tell by hitting the Windows key to head to your Windows 8 Start screen. If you can see a magnifying glass search icon in the top right of the screen (to the left of your profile picture) then you have the update and are protected.

Existing Windows 7 and Vista users will be unaffected by this recent announcement. Though we would also remind anyone still running Windows XP that they should start looking at an alternative operating system, now that the deadline has passed for Microsft’s Windows XP support.

Windows 8.1 Update – what’s new?

8.1 Update is the first version of Windows 8 that automatically adapts to the type of hardware its running on, be that laptop, desktop or tablet. Microsoft has created a handy chart that outlines the differences in default behaviour and settings across all kinds of devices.

Windows8_1_update table

We won’t explain all the changes that are included as it’s easy to get bogged down in the details. But its headline feature is the inclusion of a taskbar that’s now accessible from anywhere by hovering your mouse cursor across the bottom of the screen. The main thing to bear in mind though is it’s worth seeking out the update to help keep your Windows 8 PC secure online.

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13 replies

  1. When I got Windows 8 my 2 printers wouldn’t work with it. After chasing & a long wait, I obtained a new driver for one of them. Now that 8.1 is installed, that printer no longer works and there’s no sign of a new driver!

  2. You may have done this already, but have you Googled to see if anyone out there has a “workaround” for your situation? I have an elderly Epson photo scanner which has no Windows 7 or 8 drivers, but someone was able to point me towards a fix by using a driver for a different scanner, which works perfectly. It might be the same with your non-working printer.

  3. Windows 8 caused so many complaints MS was forced to bring out 8.1. It has now released another update (KB patch) to address further issues. I have experienced every version of Windows and this has to be the most user unfriendly version ever. It is also full of bugs (try creating a local account on 8.1. and you will end up with a US keyboard, the only solution being a registry patch which you need from MS).
    There are other much more serious issues surrounding the way MS provides end user support which I will document in due course.

    1. HI Mike,
      Appreciate any advice you could give me: I’m wanting to buy my mature student daughter a new laptop for summer asssignments and her final year at University….she is used to Windows 7 (not XP) so am concerned, noting your remarks above, that 8 or 8.1 will give her problems.

      Most new laptops are touting one of these. What would you recommend?
      Best wishes, Kirsty

    2. Hi Kirsty, That’s a tough question to answer. The biggest problem is that it is very difficult to buy a new laptop with W7. There is a strong argument to move with ‘the times’ but make sure you buy a new laptop with 8.1 already loaded (rather than 8). Upgrading from 8 to 8.1 and then loading reams of updates is a very long and potentially risky process.

      Moving from W7 to 8.1 can be a shock to the system, but eventually you get used to it, one advantage is that some of her pals will probably have W8/8.1 and talking to them will be by far the best way to find her way round the new OS. As she is likely to be using standard Office products and email, she can probably avoid some of the issues that still exist.

      Give some thought to whether she really needs a touch screen as this can cost you up to £100 more. Although W8.1 is aimed at smartphone users, many users prefer a keyboard/mouse (including MS Support engineers). If you are not concerned about the cost you can go for a touch screen and use both methods which I find much faster.

      I think the fact she will have mates familiar with W8/8.1 means that will be the best solution for your daughter.

      Regards, Mike.

  4. I’d also appreciate advice, please, from anyone qualified to give it: my old laptop died without warning last July, so I was forced to replace it with a new model running Windows 8 – terrible timing. Being used to Vista and unused to touchscreen devices, I paid an IT professional to install my existing software, link the new laptop to our printer and change Windows 8 to the “Classic Shell”. Over the last few months I have received prompts to “Upgrade now to Windows 8.1”, which of course I ignored, as I feared they would make the printer unworkable and cause my laptop to revert to the dreaded touchscreen format. Now however, having read about the need to install the Windows 8.1 update by 13 May, I see I have no choice but to switch to Windows 8.1 and install the update, but presumably that means I will have to deal with the interface and printer issues?

    1. Ms Thrifty,

      MS have said they were not going to provide security updates for W8 after 13th May but I understand they have now extended this deadline until August, so you have more time to think about the implications. I am not sure what your IT guy means by “classic shell” but I suspect it is similar to the W7 user interface.

      On the subject of hardware issues, I suspect your printer will have no problem with 8.1 if it works with W8. As for touchscreen, MS designed W8 primarily for devices with touch screens but you can still work quite easily using mouse and keyboard. In fact I recently bought a new laptop with W8 and upgraded it straight to 8.1. Although it has a touchscreen (which incidentally adds about £80 to the cost), I use the keyboard and mouse most of the time.

      Now, with regard to your “classic shell”, if is indeed a W7 look-alike, you will find getting used to the ‘real’ Windows 8.1 a bit of a challenge. Having said that, 8.1 is a considerable improvement over W8. Although in Windows 8/8.1 it is more difficult to navigate to specific functions (like control panel), it has a powerful search feature which will take you straight to any local function as well as to websites with additional information. This is in many respects an improvement on W7 or Vista, as you could never remember where every function was located (like Device Manager for example).

      Probably, the biggest difference is that ‘programs’ are called ‘apps’ in 8.1 and represented by icons in the apps list. I had to learn how to use W8.1 without outside help (no-one I know has W8 or 8.1), but I found you could easily “ask google” if you got stuck with something as at least ten thousand other users will have already asked the same question.

      So the bottom line is, when you are ready download 8.1 and go for it and you will find that after emerging from the cursing phase, you will eventually embrace it. Good luck!


  5. I’ve come all the way from Windows 2 in the late 80s & liked Windows 7 best – solid as a rock. The move to Windows 8 was a shock but after a few months, I’m used to its ways. It’s just a different interface; once you’re in the programmes like Outlook, Word, etc. everything’s much the same.

    I like being able to use mouse or finger at will.

  6. I was looking forward to 8.1 Update 1 and having the ‘Power’ icon reinstated so that I would have something substantial to click on to shut down the system.

    Ludicrously, it now requires three mouse clicks to shut down with the new button, where it only needed two the old way.

    So I’m now back to the old clunky way of shutting down rather than using the new streamlined method!

    1. If you right click the window icon in the bottom left hand corner of the screen it willgive you a one click shutdown (or other options) – dead easy!

  7. I bought a new PC with 8.1 pre-installed to replace one running XP. All was fine until the latest 8.1 update (KB2939087) was released by MS. This has constantly failed with a Windows Update error 0X80073712 and it is an enormous update so takes a long time. I suggest you view the MS forum website for this error (some 80 odd pages of problems and numerous fixes as provided by MS techs. I have tried a few of the suggestions and have now after about 8 attempts to turn off automatic updates and wait for MS to reissue the update with the fixes to make it work. I notice yesterday that MS have issued a security update with a description of (Pre KB2939087) in the updates title and this I installed with no problems. I believe MS are fully aware of the problem so will wait until they resolve the issues and re-release the 8.1 Update1. Be warned out there…….

  8. Apologies to all – In my confusion I specified the incorrect number for the 8.1 Update 1. It should have been KB2919355 as the one causing all the problems……….

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