Windows 8.1 Update: the complete list of changes and new features (update)

Start screen in Win 8.1 Update 1

This post has been updated to reflect all the changes included in Windows 8.1 Update until the day of its release on April 8th, 2014.

First Windows 8.1 Update 1 was rumored to launch in March, now it seems it will arrive in April. Leaks are happening in the daily basis and it’s becoming sort of hard to keep up with everything that is going on. As such here is the complete list of changes, new features, improvements with non-touch and touchscreen devices coming in the next small-major in Windows 8.1 Update 1, which Microsoft is releasing focus on making its operating system lighter and more useful for keyboard and mouse users:

Boot-to-desktop: Let’s start by the most talked change, so far Windows 8.1 Update 1 does boot-to-desktop by default on non-touchscreen devices. Though, tablets like Surface and other touch-enabled devices will boot straight to the Start screen.

Power Options: Yes, Microsoft is making shutdown Windows 8.1 a lot easier, this time around. Now the Start screen features a new Power Options menu with Shut down, Restart, and Sleep options — so no more hunting to find these options.

Power Options Start screen

Search button: Alongside the Power Options, users will also notice a new search button in the top-right corner of the screen to access the Search functionality a lot easier when using the mouse. Though you can always (just) type anything on the Start screen to commence a search.

Start context menu: For those users without a touchscreen device, now they will be able to access all the live tile settings by using the new context menu by right-clicking the tile. You’ll able to access to options like: pin to taskbar, unpin from Start, uninstall, resize, and turn live tiles on or off. But options will vary from tile-to-tile.

Context menu in Start screen Win 8.1 Update 1

Start screen groups: A new small addition includes the ability to right-click any empty space in the Start screen and have the option to rename groups of tiles.

Rename groups of tiles

Apps installation notification: In Windows 8.1 Update 1 is much easier to keep track newly installed apps. Now you’ll get a notification in the bottom-left corner of the screen telling you about new apps that have been installed and were never open, clicking this link will take you to the Apps view where you can identify these apps.


Apps view: A new option appears in the Apps that let users change the size of the app’s icon to fit even more apps in the same space. The option is simply called “Show more apps in Apps view”.

More apps in Apps view option

PC settings with Control Panel: At the bottom-left corner of PC settings now features a link to the desktop version of Control Panel. (Minor tweak, but useful.)

Control Panel link in PC settings

PC settings Disk Space: PC and devices view now get a new utility called “Disk space” and it’s aimed to help users with touch-enabled devices such Surface tablet to manage the available space in the device. Also there is a new “Empty my Recycle Bin” option, though you can’t view what you’re deleting.

Disk Space Windows 8.1 Update 1 feature

PC settings with domain: In Windows 8.1 Pro or Enterprise Update 1 users will now notice a “Join a domain” button in the PC info view. This option again makes it much easier to configure Windows using a tablet or touchscreen device, which shows that Update 1 is not only an update to enhanced the OS with keyboard and mouse.

Join domain option in PC settings

App enhancements: Windows 8-style (Metro) apps now feature a black title bar (only visible on launch or by moving the mouse to the top of the screen) with a minimize and close button on the top-right corner and the app icon on the left is clickable with the same options, plus you can snap the app left or right using this menu.

Title bar with close and minimize options in Windows 8.1 Update 1

The minimize button will only appear when you have turned-on the “Show Windows Store app on taskbar” option which by default is enabled. So if you don’t see the button anymore, this is the reason why.

Pinning Metro apps to taskbar: Users can now pin Metro apps to the taskbar from the Start screen by default. Just right-click the tile and select “Pin to taskbar”

One interesting behavior I notice is that pinning the Metro version of IE won’t add an extra icon to the taskbar, if the desktop version of Internet Explorer. Though, you’ll see both icons if you’re running both versions.

Viewing running apps on taskbar: By default Windows 8.1 Update 1 will show running apps on the taskbar and this is possible thank to the new “Show Windows Store app on taskbar” option in the taskbar properties. (Also note that you can disable this option.)

Taskbar new options in Windows 8.1 Update 1

Taskbar everywhere: In the new update users can also click a running Metro app from the taskbar and jump to it, however the taskbar will remain visible until you move the mouse away from the pin. But moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen won’t bring the taskbar back, though it seems Microsoft will be including a new keyboard shortcut (Windows 8 Key +T) to make the taskbar visible at any time.

Interesting behavior involves clicking the the Start button from the desktop, which will make the taskbar visible in the Start screen, something that is a bit redundant.

OneDrive: Microsoft is finally renaming SkyDrive to OneDrive with Windows 8.1 Update 1, you’ll notice this change system-wide. But it just the name that is changing, the service still remains the same.

SEE ALSO: Microsoft’s OneDrive to offer free extra storage with referrals and using camera roll

OneDrive Windows 8.1 Update 1

Note: Microsoft also added the OneDrive icon in the system tray, but recent SkyDrive update in Windows 8.1 also brings the same tweak.

Jumplist and playback controls: In Windows 8.1 Update 1 some Metro apps now also show support for jumplists and play controls, which can quickly get you access to recent files, pinned locations, and playback controls to easily control your music playing in modern apps.

jumplist-metro-apps_small playback-controls-metro_small

Default file viewer: Now photos and audio files that you open on a non-touchscreen PC will default to Windows Photo Viewer and Windows Media Player, while in touchscreen devices will open these files in Metro-style apps, but of course you can always change these behaviors.

Internet Explorer 11: The Metro version of Internet Explorer 11 is also getting a few tweaks. For example, you’ll now notice the Enterprise More to help companies to transition from previous version of IE to the latest. There is a new “Report website problems” option in the desktop and modern version of IE to tell Microsoft a web page isn’t working the way it should, information that will help to improve the software. Also you can now configure the modern version of IE by clicking the wrench icon in bottom-right corner of the screen and selecting Options.

IE11 Metro new options

Also there is the read feature in Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 8.1 that has a read feature, but now the little book icon that appears in the address bar now also displays the word “Read” to make sure users know the feature is available.

Read feature in IE11 Metro

Windows 8.1 Update 1 footprint: The next update for the operating system also reduces the installation footprint on hard drives. This new change not only helps to give back to users more space, but it also helps Windows 8.1 to run on smaller and cheaper devices. (Personally I noticed about 3GB difference.)

Small Windows 8.1 Update 1 footprint on hard drive

SEE ALSO: Microsoft pushes Windows 8.1 Update 1 release to April

Stay tuned, I’ll be revising this list as new changes and features are added to the final release of Windows 8.1 Update 1. If you come across anything new, please tell us in the comments below.

Update: Microsoft continues to target April 8th, as the release date for Windows 8.1 Update 1, MSDN subscribers will get the update on April 2nd, according to Paul Thurrott.

Update: Microsoft officially announced that Windows 8.1 Update 1 is actually called “Windows 8.1 Update”.

There are also a few new tweaks included in the final release of the update:

  • Taskbar everywhere:  The taskbar will extend from the desktop to the Metro environment. Simply moving the mouse cursor to the button of the screen will make force the taskbar to pop up.
  • Delayed hot corners: Another additional tweak added to the update is on hot corners, now Charms and quick app switch, which appear from the edges are time delayed, that way they will no longer show up suddenly when closing an app or reaching an app options in the top-left corner.
  • PC settings tile: The update will also add a new “PC settings” tile on the Start screen for easy access to the modern Control Panel.
  • Boot-to-desktop behavior: Also Windows 8.1 Update will make the PCs boot straight to the Desktop, however Microsoft will let PC manufactures decide how new PCs and tablets should boot based on their capabilities. But be careful here, if you choose to boot-to-desktop by default, Microsoft will also include new changes. For example, if you select to bypass the Start screen, the operating system will assume that you like Desktop more than Metro, as a result photos, music, and videos will default to open to desktop applications instead of Windows 8 apps.

SEE ALSO: Windows 8.1 Update ready for download on April 8 with keyboard/mouse improvements

Update: The WiFi ‘fly-out’ returns. A context menu provides controls for managing WiFi network connections. Now you’ll have the “Forget this network” option again.

Forget this network option Windows 8.1 Update

Touch and touch-keyboard: “Tap and a half” is a new, more intuitive touch gesture for touch-pads – allowing you to tap twice but hold second-tap to highlight text or an object, and then drag and drop it.

When working with Office documents, you can lock the touch keyboard via this icon on the bottom right corner:


Dismiss or bring up the touch keyboard:

Virtual keyboard Windows 8.1 Update 

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].