What I do not like about Windows 8.1

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 17, 2013
Windows, Windows 8

I have been running the Windows 8 operating system on my secondary PC every since it was released by Microsoft as a first beta. I had my gripes with the system but could work around most of the issues so that things went from being a huge nuisance to a tolerable experience.

The moment Windows 8.1 became available I switched to that, and noticed that it was a big step forward in many regards. I recommend it to anyone who is running Windows 8, as it makes life a lot easier.

That said, it is still not the Windows 7 version 2 that we all hoped Windows 8 would be, and it is unlikely that it ever will be.

That does not make it bad right out of the box, but it is certainly different and if I had to choose between Windows 7 and Windows 8, I'd probably pick seven all day long.

Issues in Windows 8.1

The main issue for me is the dual-interface of the operating system. It is highly impracticable even though it works better in symbiosis in Windows 8.1 than in 8. This can be attributed mainly to several changes that Microsoft introduced, such as the ability to use the same desktop background on both interfaces, the option to click on the start button to go to the start screen, or the option to load the desktop by default.

But even if you do not want to use the Modern interface at all, you may land on it eventually. Some file types, images for example, default to the photo app installed on the operating system. You click on a photo in File Explorer, and are taken to the photo app that launches in full screen. This may look lovely if you load photos that are of sufficient resolution, but if you have ever loaded a 400x300 image in the full screen photo viewer, you may have noticed that it does not work that well for lower resolution images.

This can easily be changed on the other hand. Just install a different image viewer and make sure that it is associated with all image types. Problem solved.

The start button that Microsoft added to the operating system is a visual representation of an improved Windows-X menu that was available in Windows 8, and nothing more. You can use it to click to go to the start screen, or access select functionality like the control panel or the shutdown button right from there.

There is a solution for that as well. Install any 8.1 compatible start menu application and you will get your full start menu back. I really like StartIsBack+ for that, but there are certainly a lot of other choices available.

Start Screen

The revamped start screen with its two new app sizes is certainly a step in the right direction. But there are certain issues here that make it impracticable to use. Whoever thought that it is a good idea to move all newly installed apps and programs to a secondary screen from where they need to be added to the start screen, has not really thought it through that much. This may work well for 20 apps or so, but if you have installed hundreds, it gets messy on that screen and the noise on it hinders you from finding newly installed apps fast on it.

Just click on the screenshot below to know what I mean. It is showing only half the installed apps on a 1920x1080 screen.


The solution? Add a section to the beginning that lists newly installed apps and programs. Or add an option to the installation dialog and settings to give users options to change the behavior.

If you install lots of apps, you either have the option to make them all tiny on the screen, which means that you will be able to access them without scrolling but will run into identification issues as there is no text underneath them indicating which app it is you are hovering over, or use the larger tile sets and scroll horizontally for a while depending on which app you want to launch.

While it is also possible to use search to start apps, it is not likely something that most users will do, especially not on touch screens.


The new Store interface may look shiny and all, but it is a nightmare to navigate. You cannot really find out what is new globally anymore. Yes, there is a new & rising listing that is linked from the Store's start page, but that only lists some new apps and not all of them.

The only way to browse all new apps is to jump into each app category, e.g. games, sports, business, or productivity manually, select the All listing there, and switch to the newest filter. Do that for every of the 20 or so categories and you have spend an hour going through all new apps instead of the minutes that it would take you otherwise.

Control Panels

Another gripe that I have are the two control panels that are still there. You get the standard desktop control panel which you can now open from the start button easier, and the Modern control panel that you open when you are on the Start screen. I'm not sure why there are two control panels, as it makes it difficult to configure the operating system. Why not create one control panel for everything, and link from both locations to it instead?

Right now, you have to not only remember the menu that you find specific settings in, but also if you find that menu on the regular desktop control panel or the new one.

Closing Words

To be perfectly honest: I think that without the start screen, Windows 8.1 would be a great successor to Windows 7. I cannot understand why Microsoft did not think about merging the desktop and Start interface, instead of using two different interfaces for different activities.

If I'd use a tablet or notebook with touch, I might have a different opinion on the system. But even then, I cannot really see myself touching the screen all the time for functionality. My arm would get tired really quickly, and I'd likely switch to the mouse anyway for most operations.

To sum it up: Windows 8.1 is a step in the right direction. It addresses several concerns that users had in regards to Windows 8 and is a great update for Windows 8 users regardless of how the computer is being used. If you disliked Windows 8 before, it won't convince you to start liking it now though.


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  1. Dano said on November 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Don’t like the 8.1 version. Switched back to 8 because of the layout. I did not care for version 8 either, but I have become sufficiently good and used to working through all the quirks. Now when I turn on I am being redirected to the store app to upgrade to 8.1. I really do not like being told what to do. Microsoft needs to back off.

  2. Jake the Dog said on October 21, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Funny how all the comments promoting the OS before it came out, dismissing criticism, have all but died out. Has Microsoft stopped paying for bloggers to promote them? Is Win8 really that bad? Hell will freeze over before I go to Apple, but I really don’t want to find too far behind in the MS OS release cycle, and end up worrying when MS will cease support, as with the XP folks.

  3. kris said on October 21, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    +1 review. The only thing this update did for me was to satisfy my near psychotic desire to have the latest OS available. It loads faster and WIN8.1’s problem-solving and recovery algorithms appear much more complete than any OS before this one. The downside is that I still prefer Win7’s UI. Right On Martin…kris

  4. Yeshu said on October 19, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Hi, is there any way the photo app can be uninstalled from Windows 8.1? Thanks in advance

    1. smaragdus said on October 21, 2013 at 2:03 am

      Every terrible modern app can be uninstalled.

  5. Shai said on October 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Martin, you summed it up very well.
    The key issue with Windows 8 is the dual interface. I don’t mean the graphic design, this is a matter of taste, I mean the confusion and illogical workflows that result from the dual interface paradigm.

    The Modern interface is very efficient in Tablet, small screen devices and HTPCs (for those it is quite brilliant actually), but on them the classic desktop is useless and not optimized for their input method (largely touch). Conversely, the Modern interface is just as ineffective on a desktop/classic laptop computer.
    It is beyond me why MS insists on this UX schizophrenia, except for knowing that people will eventually get used to it – especially new generations of users – regardless of how much it is awkward and inefficient.

    To me the solution is simple, let the user choose the desired interface upon installation and/or default to the most appropriate one considering the screen size and hardware, while offering a menu option to let the user switch between interfaces as needed.

  6. Rodalpho said on October 19, 2013 at 4:11 am

    I don’t mind the start screen at all; I like it, actually. I just wish there was some way to keep the taskbar visible on the start screen without replacing it with a win7-style start menu. Startisback+ almost does that, but unfortunately it doesn’t allow me to designate CTRL-ESC as the start screen, reserving it for the startisback+ start menu. So close to what I want.

  7. yronnen said on October 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Nicely written piece,

    I’d also add that one of the most annoying things in 8.1 is how aggressively the user is being pushed toward using the Microsoft account (instead of local account). When you install 8.1 it looks like there is no more local account, and you have to go through hidden links or baffling labels to find your way back to local account.

    1. JohnMWhite said on October 18, 2013 at 8:48 pm

      I noticed that as well. I was quite aggrieved to get through the tortuously sluggish install process to find myself with a screen essentially demanding that I use a Live account to complete the set-up. The only way I could get through it was to type in a fake email address and then be told the password wasn’t recognised so for now I would be granted the opportunity to use a local account. Microsoft continues to refuse to take no for an answer, a new corporate culture that is turning me off to many companies these days.

      1. Daffyd K Jones said on October 19, 2013 at 12:28 am

        The official way to bypass the request for a Microsoft Account is to click the “Create Account” link and then select “Continue using my existing account”
        This is completely unintuitive and sneaky of Microsoft to hide the option away

  8. GK said on October 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Classic Shell neatly separates apps from programs and also highlights newly installed ones prominently. Is really easy to spot newly installed ones even if you have got dozens of apps.

  9. XenoSilvano said on October 18, 2013 at 5:35 am

    One aspect that I like about Windows 8.1 is that I have not experienced a single Blue Screen of Death (euphemistically known as ‘The Repair Screen’ as though you have a chance in hell, I kid) which is occurrence that I went through on several occasions during this year with Windows 8, if you have ever had to completely reinstall a failed OS, you will know what a complete nightmare it can be trying to find a way to un#### your machine without resorting to a clean install (backing up a whole system isn’t exactly the simplest thing to do), so that is one aspect that I’m happy about.

    I thought that the small tiles would have made the navigation of the start screen more manageable but it really makes things worse in a way, say you introduce a bigger tile into a group of smaller tiles, then make that bigger tile into a smaller tile, the conversion not only causes a void among your other smaller tiles but it also causes them to get set out of place, meaning that you will now have to rearrange them all into their respective places while having to hover over those small titles just to distinguish which feature you are dealing which is another added hassle. I finally resorted to installing StartisBack+ today because I had it with that start screen, I can’t tolerate that thing any more, it is more of a hassle for desktop users than it is useful.

    1. anon said on October 19, 2013 at 6:49 am

      Barring the time that I tinker the cpu clock or did stupid things with GPU driver I’ve never got BSOD on 7, ever.

      1. XenoSilvano said on October 19, 2013 at 7:08 am

        I’ve noticed that as well, I think Microsoft placed quite a number of protections in Windows 8,
        any major tweak to hardware or OS files may result in a BSOD, the repair screen doesn’t do much to help.

  10. Karl J. Gephart said on October 18, 2013 at 5:02 am

    I have to agree, Martin, the Start Page is absolutely unnecessary. The ugly flat tiles are bad enough, but at least MS should’ve maintained one desktop and Start Menu with the tiles acting as shortcuts. The OS is enough to make me throw myself into Ubuntu, and probably will.

    1. InterestedBystander said on October 18, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      Ubuntu: As you probably know, the user base for that distro registered consternation when Canonical adopted the Unity interface. The reasons for both the interface change and the consternation were very similar to those in Windows 8: Unity is a move toward a united small-screen (phone and tablet) and full-screen (laptop and desktop) interface. Users shouted foul because (surprise!) the interface didn’t feel all that great for full-screen use. It’s a better desktop design than Win 8, IMHO — no screen full of dumb tiles. And of course there are traditional hierarchical application menus available, and Mac-style app docs as well. But it’s ironic that Canonical preceded Microsoft into one-OS-to-rule-all-devices territory, with similar reactions from the community.

  11. WP7Mango said on October 18, 2013 at 3:01 am

    If you want to see all your newly installed apps, a solution already exists!!! Simply sort them by “Date Installed” (click on the dropdown menu next to the Apps heading, which by default is set to By Name). Then all the apps labelled New will appear first.

    Also, don’t forget that in the apps view you can “pinch” to zoom out and see the app groups instead. To do this with a mouse, press CTRL and – (minus) or press CTRL and scroll the mouse wheel. You can then click on a group tile and it will take you to that group of apps.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 18, 2013 at 9:20 am

      Will give that a try. Thanks for the tip.

      1. WP7Mango said on October 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

        BTW, in case you’re not aware, this ability to zoom in and out (pinch gesture or CTRL + Mouse scroll) works in many parts of the operating system areas (Start screen, apps screen) and it works within many apps too. The feature is called Semantic Zoom and is a very useful feature to help navigation.

  12. Wayfarer said on October 18, 2013 at 1:24 am

    Have to confess I didn’t like Win8 when I first got it on a then new laptop 6 months ago. And I still don’t like it. Accessing my older desktop with Win7 is a positive relief.

    I thought 8.1 might solve some of my problems. It doesn’t. In fact – for me at least – it’s introduced more problems than it’s solved. Total fail as far as I’m concerned. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if we get 8.11 within a couple of weeks…

  13. Gregg DesElms said on October 18, 2013 at 1:11 am


    I think this is a TERRIFIC piece. I completely agree, and for much the same reasons. Excellent! Thank you.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  14. InterestedBystander said on October 18, 2013 at 12:53 am

    It seems to me there’s a continuum in the OS interface universe: Mac’s OSX is tightly locked down, and some users like not having to configure things. It just works. Linux has a plethora of OS interface choices, even within distros, and some users like being able to configure just about everything. Windows wobbles in the center, locking down the official interface with 8.0 and then backing away from the lockdown (clumsily) with 8.1, while tweaks like ClassicShell and StartIsBack give interested users the option of configuring the interface without waiting for Microsoft’s revision process.

    Not saying that Mac or Linux is “better” than Windows, just saying that there’s a spectrum of choices. Personally, I run a couple of dual-boot machines. Lately I find myself going to Windows every few weeks to run updates, and staying on Linux the rest of the time. Not “better” than Windows, just a matter of inclination and choice. Well, and I like not having to update antivirus and malware databases every time I log on!

  15. johnp said on October 17, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    Metro is still daunting on ginormous resolution desktop. But now I get a really nice Netflix app instead of going to the browser. You can ignore Metro if you want to with the setting to switch to the desktop after bootup.

    Beside that, I’m really looking to get either the Dell Venue 8 or Lenovo Miix 8. I think that is the best size for a tablet. Anything bigger, you might as well upgrade to an ultrabook.

  16. JohnMWhite said on October 17, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Is there any benefit to upgrading in terms of performance, security or stability? I’m not really concerned about the UI changes because ClassicShell fixes everything I wanted dealt with. 3+GB is a hefty download (not to mention the perils of an occasional upgrade gone wrong), and I’m just wondering if there’s any benefit at all.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 18, 2013 at 12:10 am

      I’m not aware of an official changelog at this point in time. Cannot say what has been changed other than the features that are obvious.

  17. imu said on October 17, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    I have MS online account now and I can see an update in store but I’m not using this for log in to my laptop, so will I be able to use local account to log in after the upgrade process?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 17, 2013 at 10:25 pm

      If you upgrade the machine, the upgrade should be available to all accounts.

      1. imu said on October 17, 2013 at 10:32 pm


  18. imu said on October 17, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Hi all,
    Can I upgrade from W8 with local account only?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 17, 2013 at 9:46 pm

      You need to wait for the ISO image then, as you cannot access the store with a local account.

      1. Swapnil said on October 18, 2013 at 2:52 pm

        No, I have done so with a local account. It will allow you to get Windows 8.1 from Store (I will still use ISO though as I have a slow connection and the Windows Store does not allow pausing the download and resuming it after reboot).

  19. KK said on October 17, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    I second all these points…

    And I’ll go one more.

    The GARISH crappy colored tiles MUST GO.
    Make an option to choose the dumb colors if you must.

    Win 8 had it right. Now 8.1 chooses the background color of the tile destroying all the great looks of each program icon. And the ones it picks are INSANE. Fail.
    MS has heard the complaints and claim they were going to allow an option.

    It seriously cheapens the look of the OS.

  20. Christoph Wagner said on October 17, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    ClassicShell + my normal programs. I never see the Startscreen, nor the hot corners. For me it’s Windows 7, just better :)

    1. Viejito said on October 17, 2013 at 10:30 pm

      That is what I do, as well. If you saw me using my computer, you would think I am using WinXP, but it is Win8.

  21. Steve Hall said on October 17, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Waitasec…you use a tablet WITHOUT touch?? Also, getting from the Metro (I don’t care that MS changed that nomenclature: everyone still understands what it means) to the Desktop (and vice versa) is a lot easier than installing a new program: Alt-Tab still works, and always has.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 17, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      I’m not using a tablet at all.

  22. bazza said on October 17, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I like it. It works for me on my surface and my tower desktop.

    each to their own i guess.

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