What you need to know about the Windows 8.1 Preview

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 24, 2013
Updated • May 22, 2018
Windows, Windows 8

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: Read about the major changes in Windows 8.1 and the official release of the new version. Check out my take on the operating system update.

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.


What you need to know about the Windows 8.1 Preview
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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.
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  1. Bob F said on June 28, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    It is not true that “There is no option to create a local account in the release”. I just installed 8.1 preview on a fresh, empty virtual machine (VMware Fusion), and at least if no internet connection is available, the installation will offer to create a local account, which I did.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 28, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      I find it really strange that Microsoft claims otherwise.

  2. Giorgos said on June 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    It turns out that, at least during a fresh install, you can create a local account if your machine does not have Internet connectivity at that time. Why they would claim that you need an MS account when this is not true is beyond me. If this is to gather telemetry data, I don’t see why it cannot be done with an anonymous ID instead of an account.

    I’m disgusted with Windows 8’s installer as it is, it’s designed so that most people will miss the barely visible link to make a local account and instead create an MS account to move on.

  3. Wally said on June 27, 2013 at 4:00 pm
  4. Dave said on June 26, 2013 at 3:16 am

    I really hope the funny square start menu can be disabled …

  5. tuna said on June 25, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    “Start button that links to the start screen.”

    I bet you another new ‘feature’ will go out of it’s way to break all the 3rd party start menu apps, too.

  6. Adam said on June 25, 2013 at 4:20 am

    It’s not a Beta version, it’s a public preview

  7. Rick said on June 24, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Re apps need to reinstalled:

    ZDNet reports that Microsoft won’t do anything to actually hide this from users; once June 26 rolls around, Windows 8 users will be notified via Windows Update of the Windows 8.1 preview. After visiting the Windows Store, users wil be able to read the description (which presumably will notify them about the need to reinstall the apps) and decide whether or not they’ll want to go through with the upgrade.

    1. Rick said on June 24, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      An if you decide to skip the preview, there is no need to reinstall your apps going from Windows 8 to the final 8.1.

  8. fokka said on June 24, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    even the need to list things as “can use desktop wallpaper on start screen!”, or “more rows, new icon sizes!” as features makes my brain cringe. not to say i don’t like win8, i just have to mention it, because i hate all things metro with a passion! <3

    1. Coyote said on June 24, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      I’m just surprised the backlash was so much they had to add broadband tethering. That’s been on the list of promised features since internet-connection-sharing was introduced in dial-up days. Chances are it’ll still require meticulous setup and will only work if the planets align just right, or it’ll require a windows 8 device to even work, I wouldn’t rely on it either way.

  9. Midnight said on June 24, 2013 at 6:44 am

    Nice review of the preview, Martin! Great job, as always!

    I will still wait ’til the Final is released sometime in the Fall, as I don’t want to encounter
    any flaws or bugs in the new (CP) version.
    It took me quite some time to finally get Win8 running properly, with all my programs, without any BSODs, forced reboots and dumb messages on my screen!

    Hopefully, Win8.1 will offer some enhancements and improvements that will persuade users with rightfully, negative feelings about Win8, to eventually upgrade from whatever version of Windows they are currently using!

    One negative point I wish to make is, I’m not totally impressed with the limited features of the restored Start Orb/button, that does not allow users to open their programs and select them from the menu!
    Alternative Start Orbs may/will still be required.

    Also, Microsoft forcing us to sign into an account before doing much of anything, seems somewhat intrusive!
    Well, that’s Microsoft for you, I suppose!

  10. Arxae said on June 24, 2013 at 6:35 am

    Where can i find the update so i can get the preview trough the store?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 24, 2013 at 7:21 am

      It will be offered on the official download page that goes live on June 26

  11. Bill said on June 24, 2013 at 6:31 am

    I really would like to install this on my Surface RT to try out the new features, but I’d hoped to get confirmation on the inability to save any apps I’ve installed on the preview when I upgrade to the Final release version. It’s not a huge deal, just a bit of a pain. Also, your list of what’s new doesn’t mention Outlook RT. Do you know if that will that be part of Win 8.1 or a seperate app download?
    Love your page by the way.

  12. Niks said on June 24, 2013 at 5:42 am

    “While there is no definitely data set for that yet” ??

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 24, 2013 at 7:21 am

      Sorry, meant to say that there is no date set yet for the final release.

      1. MikeFromMarkham said on June 24, 2013 at 9:20 am

        I read very recently (sorry, can’t remember where) that Windows 8.1 will be launched on August 1st … 8/1 = 8.1 … cute marketing trick, if it’s true … I only have Windows 8 on one PC at home and will wait till the official release before updating it … only reason I have it is because my wife thought it would be easier for her to use, but after living with it for a few months, she hates it more than I do, so we only use it( with Classic Menu) in desktop mode and we’re both OK with that …

  13. J.R. said on June 24, 2013 at 5:19 am

    I sure hope I don’t lose access to apps etc when I switch from the preview to the official version.

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