Windows 8.1: What you need to know (FAQ)

One year after the debut of Windows 8, Windows 8.1 is here. It feels significantly less dramatic, but Microsoft’s latest version of its PC operating system has some changes, and some requirements, all its own. If you’re a curious would-be adopter, or a diligent Windows 8 upgrader, read on for some answers to your questions.

What’s new?

Last year’s Windows 8 was a brand-new, somewhat jarring operating system aimed at making touch-screen devices, and Windows devices that could convert between touch and keyboard/mouse modes, easier to use.

Windows 8.1 is a series of subtle changes, a software patch of sorts to last year’s software. There are some differences, but most of them seem to exist to appeal to more-traditional PC users — those who want more of a return to the traditional Windows experience. The biggest changes are:

    • You can boot directly into Desktop mode instead of the tile-based app user interface
    • The long-lost Start button is back
    • You can snap more apps side-by-side for better multitasking
    • There’s also better cross-system search, along with search that ties into cloud-based SkyDrive storage


What are the system requirements?

    • For the full rundown, click here. But here’s the bare-bones needs:
    • 1GHz or faster processor with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2
    • 1GB of RAM for 32-bit computing, or 2GB for 64-bit
    • 16GB of hard-drive space (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
    • A Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
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