Support for Windows 8 is highly confusing

Martin Brinkmann
May 29, 2014
Updated • May 29, 2014

When Microsoft released the Windows 8 operating system back in 2012 -- is it really that long already? -- it released two distinct versions of it. The regular version of Windows 8, successor of Windows 7, that can run desktop programs and apps, and the RT version, which can only run apps.

It is almost certain that some customers bought RT only to find out that they cannot run desktop programs on it, but that is not what this article is about.

Microsoft published Windows 8.1 eventually a year later which improved the operating system in several ways. It improved usability for mouse and keyboard users and application handling among other things.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 was published in April 2014 and with it came additional improvements aimed at mouse and keyboard users such as context menus on the start screen, a titlebar for Windows apps, or changes on the desktop to make non-app versions default programs on those system.

Support however is quite confusing. Microsoft supports Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 Update, but not Windows 8.1 (without the last update). This means that Windows 8.1 users who don't update to Update 1 won't receive updates for the operating system anymore until they do.

Companies that track usage share can only do so for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, and not for the most recent update as it is identifying itself as Windows 8.1 as well.

It is not clear why Microsoft made the decision to block updates for Windows 8.1 users who don't upgrade to Update 1. The most likely reason is that the company does not want to fragment the operating system any more than it already is.

On the third-party side of things, support may also not be available for all Windows 8 versions. AMD's latest 14.6 beta drivers for instance don't support Windows 8 anymore while they do support Windows 8.1 and Update 1 just fine.

Usage share of Windows 8 ranges from 6.36% on Netmarketshare to 9.35% on Steam.

Where does this leave the user?

If you want to make sure that you receive system and software updates for your Windows 8 PC, you may want to upgrade to the very latest version of the operating system that Microsoft makes freely available.

To update from Windows 8 to 8.1, visit the Store to do so. It should highlight the update there for you so that you can install it right away.

The Windows 8.1 Update 1 update should be installed automatically if you have automatic updates enabled on the system. If not, type Windows Update on Start and select the result of the same name. Click on check for updates and install all updates that the check finds.

Now Read: Find out which version of Windows you are running


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  1. Farmers said on May 31, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    I’ve noticed that if you upgrade Windows 8 to 8.1 using the Store (the only ‘official’ route I’m aware of) the upgrade now appears to include the ‘Update 1’. In other words, MS appear to have ‘updated’ the 8.1 upgrade files that the Store uses.

    Not sure if anyone else has noticed this ….

  2. Swapnil said on May 30, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    As a reminder, there are many updates released from time to time that are required to get future updates, and these important updates are mostly for the Windows servicing stack. I believe Windows 8.1 Update also included improvements to the servicing stack, thus halting further updates for Windows 8.1 – because after all most updates are installed via the servicing stack. So, I guess unless Microsoft is really on getting users to update from Windows 8.1, most of future Microsoft software should run on Windows 8.1 (Office being, as previous releases have shown, an exception).

  3. Uhtred said on May 29, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    In principle, killing off a product by not supporting so quickly is a bit iffy, offered upgrade or no. Upgrades may chew a bit more system resources on an already struggling small spec machine, or offer things not wanted, or render some aspects unusable (e.g. older software).
    If this behaviour is a pattern for the future then I think they need to start clearly say at point of purchase “this product only has x months of support remaining” … like a guarantee…. so consumer makes an informed choice to go with that product or not…

    1. InterestedBystander said on May 31, 2014 at 6:17 am

      Some Linux distributions use a release cycle which includes incremental releases and long-term service releases. Ubuntu, for example, guarantees updates for LTS releases for 5 years. Other Linux distros — Arch and Gentoo in particular — use a rolling-release model in which the complete OS updates to the most recent version seamlessly (as if Win XP updated to become Win 7 and Win 7 updated to become Win 8).

      With a good development roadmap and the stable NT kernel, Microsoft could do the same. It could guarantee that an OS would be supported for 5 or 10 years, and SP updates would be issued every 18 months, for instance. I imagine that the development roadmap is the glitchy bit — MS may be chasing iOS and Android so hard for tablet and phone market share that it can’t see a development path for more than the short term. Follower syndrome: you see only the heels of the leaders, and cannot get a view of the trail ahead. Maybe. Dunno.

  4. Chris said on May 29, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Steam tracks 32bit and 64bit separately. 0.41% on Steam is for Windows 8.1 32bit. Windows 8 64bit is at 8.86%

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 29, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      Chris right, I have adjusted the percentage accordingly. Thanks!

  5. jasray said on May 29, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Me thinketh I’m a bit more confused now that all is clarified. Microsoft didn’t offer 8.1 in Windows Update–had to go searching for it; most likely that means this Update 1 for 8.1 will be found elsewhere on Swami G’s site. Thank goodness for India.

  6. Oxendine said on May 29, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I will read the articles more attentively. I will read the articles more attentively. I will… :)

  7. Oxendine said on May 29, 2014 at 10:41 am

    >Support for Windows 8 is highly confusing

    >you may want to upgrade to the very latest version of the operating system that Microsoft makes freely available.

    What’s confusing about this? The essense of this article is “Make sure to install all the latest updates” – the notion, that’s been told, retold and re-retold so many times it’s a cliche of its own. Microsoft and third-party companies do not support a system, which has not been updated for free? Tough luck.

    1. sades said on May 29, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      Do you even read the article?

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on May 29, 2014 at 10:43 am

      While that is right, the confusing part is that Windows 8 is still supported by MS while Windows 8.1 without the update is not.

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