What you need to know about the Windows 8.1 Preview
Microsoft will release a preview of the upcoming Windows 8.1 operating system upgrade on June 26. It is a public beta version of sorts that interested Windows 8 users can install on their system to explore what the new version has to offer.
Update 2: Mainstream supported for Windows 8.1 ended on January 10, 2018. The operating system is now in the extended support phase until 2023.
It makes sense to look at what the Windows 8.1 Preview will bring to the table, and its requirements and changes, before you make a decision whether you should upgrade your system to the preview build right away.
For many users, it may be better to wait until the final version of Windows 8.1 gets released. While there is no definite date set for that yet, it is likely that Microsoft will make it available just a couple of months after the release of the preview version.
The system requirements have not changed at all.
- 1 GHz or faster processor.
- 1 Gigabyte or 2 Gigabyte of RAM depending on whether you are using a 32-bit or 64-bit system.
- 16 Gigabyte or 20 Gigabyte of hard drive space again depending on whether you are using a 32-bit or 64-bit system.
- Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics card.
Windows RT users need to have at least 10 Gigabyte of free storage on their device for the upgrade.
There is one main change though that users need to know about. You need to use a Microsoft account to sign in to PCs that run the preview build of Windows 8.1 There is no option to create a local account in the release, but Microsoft promises that it will be made available when the final version of Windows 8.1 gets released later this year.
The Windows 8.1 preview will be made available in 13 languages: Arabic, English (US), Chinese Simplified and Traditional, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.
Download and Installation
Windows 8.1 Preview will be made available via Windows Store as a direct download and as a Preview ISO image. If you want to download it from Windows Store, you need to install an update first on the system that you get from the Windows 8.1 Preview download page. Next time you start the system after installing the update you receive a notification that you can get Windows 8.1 Preview for free from the store.
An Internet connection is needed to download the app from Store, but once it has been downloaded no Internet connection is required until the update has been successfully installed and the system rebooted.
You can alternatively download the Windows 8.1 Preview ISO from the download page and use it to install the operating system. You will need a product key that Microsoft makes available on the download page. It is likely that this is a generic key that all users who install the preview build share.
Windows 8 Enterprise users and Windows 8 users who do not run one of the supported languages need to use the preview ISO to install Windows 8.1
If you are installing Windows 8.1 Preview in a different language than the one that you have installed on your system, you will not be able to keep your apps or settings, only your files.
Installed language packs will be removed when you install the Windows 8.1 Preview.
What's new in Windows 8.1
- Boot to Desktop
- More rows on start screen and additional tile sizes.
- Improvements for mouse and keyboard users on the desktop and start screen.
- Snap View feature improved, supports now up to three apps.
- Internet Explorer 11.
- Windows Defender with network behavior monitoring.
- Device Lockdown with Assigned Access (RT, Pro and Enterprise) to enable a "single Windows Store application experience on a device".
- Pervasive Device Encryption for all Windows editions. Enabled out of the box and can be configured "with additional BitLocker protection and management capabilities".
- Improved Biometrics including optimization for fingerprint based biometrics.
- Remote Business data removal.
- Support for a wider range of VPN clients and auto-triggered VPN.
- Broadband tethering.
- Windows Store enabled by default for Windows To Go users.
- Bring your own Device enhancements such as work folders, Wi-Fi direct printing, RDS enhancements and web application proxy.
- SkyDrive is integrated natively into Windows 8.1 but does not sync data automatically to the PC. Placeholders are displayed instead.
- You need to sign in to a Microsoft account to use the store.
- All Windows 8 apps will work on Windows 8.1 but not the other way round.
- Apps are automatically updated unless you are connected to a metered Internet connection.
- Desktop background can now be displayed on start screen.
- Lock Screen slideshow of photos.
- Aggregated search powered by Bing.
- Improved stock apps and new apps such as a Calculator, Sound Recorder and new Alarm features.
- PC Settings updated (the start screen control panel) so that it is no longer necessary to switch to the desktop Control Panel.
- Start button that links to the start screen.
You will lose access to apps and programs that you have installed on Windows 8.1 Preview systems when you upgrade to the final RTM version of the operating system.