Hopefully you are no longer using Windows XP. Good, that's a start! You may have only just upgraded to Windows 8.1 after Microsoft finally ended support for Windows XP on April the 8th. Users of Windows XP are now vulnerable to security issues, as Microsoft will no longer release patches, security updates and hotfixes for the operating system that came out in 2001.
Well now you're going to have to update again for the same reasons if you're on Windows newest operating system. Microsoft have released Windows 8.1, Update 1 - and if you're running 8.1 without the update, you only have 30 days to update before your machine becomes a security vulnerability!
Windows 8.1 Users who do not install Update 1, will no longer receive security updates for the operating system, making them vulnerable to security threats in the future. Similarly to users still on XP, Windows 8.1 users who do not install the update, may be subject to attack from cyber criminals who discover flaws in the operating system by reverse engineering the future patches and security hotfixes released by Microsoft. There will be no patches released for users who do not update the OS.
"We strongly recommend that you install Windows 8.1 Update or Windows RT 8.1 Update (KB 2919355). This is a critical update that is required for future updates to Windows. If you prevent it from installing or you uninstall it, you won’t get future bug fixes, security updates, and new features. In some cases, if you uninstall this update from a new PC after signing in with a Microsoft account, OneDrive might not work as expected."
Business Users Get More Time to Update 8.1
Business Users running Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 are going to receive a few additional months from Microsoft to update their systems before Microsoft stops their support. Business users will have until August the 12th 2014, rather than May 13th, before they stop receiving security updates.
For consumer customers, the original deadline of May 13th, the next patch Tuesday, still applies.
You Might Already have Windows 8.1 Update 1 Package Installed
The update has already been released, and can be downloaded here, although users who have automatic updates enabled will receive the update without any action needed on their part. You can also go to PC Settings and click on "Update and recovery".
You can check if the update is installed by opening up the start screen (metro interface), and looking at the top right corner, next to your name and display picture. If you see a magnifying glass search icon, then you have the update installed.
What does the update do?
The update package is a set of security fixes for Windows 8.1, and contains all previous updates released for the relatively new operating system, so you do not need to install any of the old updates first, if you have not already done so.
The update also includes various changes that should improve your overall experience on Microsoft's latest operating system. Enhancements have been made to Internet Explorer 11 - which will allow for greater security and performance if you're one of the 10% of people who prefer IE over the other alternatives.
The Windows 8 Metro interface
The update also allows users without a touch screen interface to boot straight to the desktop, rather than the Metro tile interface designed for touch. The install size has been reduced to half on SSDs (32Gb to 16GB), which is a major plus if you have a fast SSD - as they typically come with limited space compared to their older HDD counterparts.
The update also allows Windows 8.1 to run faster on devices with slower, less advanced hardware, and has a lower minimum memory (RAM) requirement. There are also a number of small, but pleasing differences, such as photos and videos/audio opening by default in photo viewer and media player, rather than launching the respective Metro 'apps'.
You can see what else is included here.
Online Security Currently a Big Talking Point
Microsoft have been criticised for their poor timing of this update, coming at a time when people are already worried about security - with the Heartbleed bug causing panic and exposing 'secure' user details and information on many of the internet's 'secure' web servers using the Open SSL security protocol.
There is also criticism of the fact that users on windows 8.0 will have until January 2015 to upgrade, keeping security eligibility for 8.0 alive for 8 more months, whilst those on 8.1 will only have 30 days to install the update.
Microsoft shoot themselves in the foot amid XP hysteria
The other reason that this update is poor timing is that it comes just after Windows XP became obsolete for security reasons. In the case of XP, the operating system was 13 years old, so you could kind of understand Microsoft finally ending support for it. XP was barnstormingly popular however, whereas Windows 8/8.1 has been a complete sales flop.
The idea of having the same operating system across desktops, tablets and smartphones has not been popular, with the interface not lending itself well to desktops. Microsoft radically changed a winning formula, with the old style desktop and start menu so popular and well-known that users have been loathe to switch. So much so in fact, that many PC stockists and retailers have been selling their products advertised as coming with Windows 7 via a downgrade.
It seems that Microsoft is looking to address the problems with Windows 8, and at the same time get everyone on this new version of the operating system, in order to protect their future sales and market position.