Windows 8 was released in final form last October. With it, Microsoft brought about some dramatic changes to the Windows experience. They wanted to create a unified operating system that works the same and as well on both portable devices such as tablet and desktop computers. On top of the visual overhaul Windows underwent, a lot of work went into making 8 a more secure and stable operating system. With 8.1 just released in preview form, Microsoft is set to fix some of the complaints early adopters of Windows 8 had and build in a few more features to keep the user secure.
A lot of talk has been made about the new design Microsoft unveiled with Windows 8. For users accustomed to a standard Windows experience, it was cumbersome to work in and find what you are looking for. There was no more start menu on the desktop and most applications were hidden in the All Apps page. With 8.1, Microsoft helps improve the learning curve. All Apps is easier to find and the Start button is back on the desktop. Users are able to set options that change the behavior of the Start button and also allow Windows 8 to boot straight to the desktop, something that is more familiar for users. Microsoft has also built a help application that guides users through basic tasks and helps them learn some of the new features.
In addition to user interface adjustments, 8.1 has a few enhancements for both home and business users. In the past, home computers were typically members of a workgroup while business computers were on a domain. With the proliferation of portable computers, such as tablets, businesses needed a better way to manage these and users needed a better way to get more use from them at work. Microsoft has added a feature, Workplace Join, which allows someone to keep their device on their home network but also join their work network and access files and programs to increase their productivity. In addition, network administrators now have more control over company files stored on a Windows 8.1 device and can remotely erase these if the need arises.
Windows 8.1 also brings with it some new security features. Internet Explorer 11, which comes standard on 8.1, now scans webpages for any malicious code before it runs. This helps to lessen the likelihood of getting malware on your computer. Should something slip through this safety net, Windows Defender on 8.1 scans all code and binaries for malicious patterns. If something is detected, it will stop it before damage is done.
Windows 8 has been out for just over 8 months and has radically changed the way we use Windows. With 8.1, some of the less intuitive features have been improved to give an all-around nicer interface. With a slew of other improvements and adjustments, it may be the time to think about upgrading to the safer and more reliable operating system when it releases in final form later this year.
By: Andrew Owen, Technical Services at HCCS, Inc.
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