The Windows 8.1 preview is available for download from Microsoft or through the Windows Store. Please be aware if you install the Windows 8.1 Preview over your current Windows 8 installation, you will have to reinstall all Windows Store and desktop apps when the final version is released, so you might not wish to test the new OS on your primary PC.
Microsoft provides other cautions as well. Companies may want to test this feature, but I recommend home users wait until the final version is complete. Microsoft estimates the final version of Windows 8.1 to be released in the fall of 2013. Microsoft has said this will be a free update available from the Windows Store, for both Windows 8 and Windows RT.
Part 1 of this article will address the Start screen which has generated many complaints.
Start button returns
The Start button is now featured prominently. Instead of providing the start menu as on previous versions, it overlays the Window 8 Start screen tiles over the desktop wallpaper, making it more familiar. The menu now has options to shutdown and restart as with previous versions.
Direct to desktop
If the new Start button still isn’t to your liking, Windows 8.1 will also feature an option to bypass the tile-based Start Screen and go straight to the desktop.
Start screen wallpaper and lock screen
Users will be able to set their own wallpaper on the Start screen. Currently, users are merely allowed to choose from a selection of preset "accents" and to select a color scheme.
Windows 8.1 also includes new "motion accents" - animated wallpapers that move as you scroll through the Start screen.
The lock screen can now be used as a digital photo frame, displaying a slideshow of images stored on the user's PC or in cloud services.
New tile sizes
Windows 8.1 has doubled the options for tile sizes from two to four, a larger and a smaller one than the existing ones.