Windows 8 is the latest operating system developed by Microsoft for personal computers. It is vastly different from all of its predecessors, as the interface is tailored specifically for use on tablets
and smartphones. The traditional “start” button has been removed entirely (but can be made to appear with the use of a third-party program) and most new laptops with Windows 8 installed utilize a touch-screen. The operating system also come with pre-installed anti-virus software and the Window Store distribution platform for easy downloads of more than 125,000 available apps.
Windows 8 is the first Microsoft operating system to feature the Windows Runtime (WinRT) platform, which allows users to run apps written in Microsoft’s typography-based design language known as Metro. This same language is now utilized in other Microsoft products, including the Xbox 360 and Outlook.com.
The company released Windows 8.1, the first major update to the system, on October 17, 2013. The most obvious change is the return of the “start” button with no additional software needed. Windows 8.1 also allows more than one app to be running simultaneously on an evenly split-screen, unlike the 75-25 ratio of Windows 8. Most of the other changes are relatively minor, but have been received positively by long-time Windows users. The colorful default landing page remains unchanged, with the Charms on the right and app drawer at the bottom of the screen.
Microsoft reportedly sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses in the first month after release, which outpaced sales of Windows 7. Users with a licensed copy of Windows 8 can upgrade to 8.1 for free via Microsoft’s website. Those currently running Windows 7 can purchase the standard version of Windows 8.1 for $120.
The Windows 8.1 upgrade is not necessary, but is recommended because it offers several new features not present in the original version. The transition is seamless and again, costs nothing.