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Windows 8.1 now available to download

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Windows 8.1 download
Windows 8.1 download

Microsoft's Windows 8.1 update is now available to download. Windows 8 users will see a notification in the Windows Store with a prompt to upgrade to the new operating system. Microsoft has added a number of improvements with this update, including built-in Bing search, smart SkyDrive syncing, and visual changes to the Start Screen and application snapping. For a full overview of all the features see our Windows 8.1 review.

Windows 8.1 Preview users will need to reinstall apps

If you're an existing Windows 8 user then moving to 8.1 should be relatively pain free. The update will retain all desktop and Windows 8-style apps, including files and settings. It's worth backing up just in case, but it should be like any other patch through Windows Update that Microsoft supplies on a monthly basis. Windows 8.1 Preview users will have a slightly different experience depending on how the Preview was originally installed. If you installed Windows 8.1 Preview from the Windows Store on top of Windows 8 then you can move straight to the final edition in the Store today. Personal files will be retained, but apps will need to be reinstalled.

If you clean installed Windows 8.1 Preview by using an ISO then you can update to the final version of Windows 8.1 using the Store today, but the system won't activate without a Windows 8.1 license key. Microsoft says existing Windows 8 keys will not work on systems that clean installed the Preview and update to 8.1. If you were previously running Windows 8 then you'll need to reinstall that copy before moving to 8.1 to ensure you don't have to purchase a new key.

Microsoft has released a large number of built-in app updates for Windows 8.1 today, so expect to see those appear following the upgrade. The software maker is also releasing a final General Availability update patch today for existing Windows 8.1 users and those upgrading, so if you have any limitations on your monthly broadband bandwidth then bear that in mind before you update. Finally, if you're a Surface RT user then the Windows RT 8.1 update is also available today and details can be found at Microsoft's support pages.

Update: If you're having trouble finding the update in the Windows Store, simply visit this article on your Windows 8 device and click this link.