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Windows 8.1: frequently asked questions

Applies to: Windows 8, Windows 8.1

This article provides answers to common IT professional questions about the Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 operating systems with regard to the following topics:

Unless otherwise noted, the information in this FAQ applies to both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.


Will I have to learn new ways to perform familiar tasks?

IT professionals will perform most familiar tasks in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 the same way as they do in Windows 7. The same keyboard shortcuts work in Windows 8 (for example, Windows key + E and Windows key + R), and Windows 8.1 adds some great new ones. The same desktop experience is there, including the taskbar, pinned desktop apps, thumbnail previews, and more. You copy files, manage tasks, and administer the computer with the same tools.

Can you offer any tips for using touch, a keyboard, and a mouse with Windows 8?

The key thing to remember is that using touch is about the screen edges, and using the mouse is about the screen corners. For instance, swiping in from the right edge of the screen and tapping Start is the same as moving the mouse pointer to the upper-right corner of the screen and clicking Start. The mouse shortcuts that you have always used are still there. To open app commands in a Windows Store app, simply right-click the app. Last, the keyboard shortcuts that you know and love are still in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. A new one that IT professionals might love is the Windows key + X, which opens a menu of administrative tools. For more information on keyboard shortcuts, see Windows 8 Shortcuts.

Can I use my Microsoft account if I log onto my computer by using a domain account?

Yes. To associate your Microsoft account with your domain account on the local computer, press Windows key + I, click PC Settings, click Accounts, and then click Connect your Microsoft account.

Are there any new features in Windows PowerShell?

Windows 8.1 includes Windows PowerShell 4.0, which makes using Windows PowerShell easier, especially for managing remote computers. Windows PowerShell Desired State Configuration, new for this release, lets you manage configuration data for software services, and the environments in which those services run. You can debug remote scripts, and you can now debug Windows PowerShell workflows by using the Windows PowerShell debugger, in both Windows PowerShell ISE (“graphical PowerShell”) and the Windows PowerShell console. The Save-Help cmdlet now lets you save updatable help for modules that are installed on remote computers, but not necessarily installed on a local client. For more information about all of the new features in Windows PowerShell 4.0, see What’s New in Windows PowerShell.

Can I run virtual machines on my desktop?

Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise include Client Hyper-V; the same is true for Windows 8.1. You can use Client Hyper-V to develop and test applications, evaluate and learn about new technologies, and so on. This is the same virtualization technology that runs on Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. For more information about Client Hyper-V, see Client Hyper-V.

What's the difference between the Internet Explorer desktop and Windows 8 experiences?

Both experiences are part of Internet Explorer 11; both use the same “iexplore.exe” process and have the same support for web standards. The immersive, Windows 8-style experience provides a web browsing experience that is optimized for touch devices. It is fast, plug-in free, and runs as a 64-bit process to be more secure by default. The traditional desktop browsing experience offers backward compatibility by supporting plug-ins and running as a 32-bit process by default.

When I open a file in File Explorer, it opens in a Windows Store app. Can I change this behavior?

Yes. Right-click a file, click Open with, and click Choose default program to change the program that opens that particular type of file by default. For example, you can open pictures in Windows Photo Viewer instead of Photos if you want to view pictures on the desktop instead of in the Windows Store app.

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Windows 8.1 Update

What is Windows 8.1 Update?

Windows 8.1 Update is a cumulative update for Windows 8.1. In addition to previous Windows 8.1 updates, it includes enhancements such as improved Internet Explorer 11 compatibility for enterprise applications, usability improvements, extended mobile device management and improved hardware support. Windows 8.1 Update represents a series of feature enhancements to address customer feedback on non-touch scenarios (i.e. mouse and desktop), modern user interface and desktop integration, and the operating system disk/memory footprint for a lower-powered class of devices.

Are there any prerequisites for Windows 8.1 Update?

Windows 8.1 Update will install only on devices and machines running Windows 8.1. For customers who use Windows Automatic Update (AU) there is a prerequisite Servicing Stack Update (SSU) package ( KB2919442) that will be offered to those devices and operating system instances prior to Windows 8.1 Update being offered. In addition, there is a recommended fix (KB2939087) for those customers who will manually install Windows 8.1 Update.

Can I upgrade Windows 8.0 to Windows 8.1 by applying the Windows 8.1 Update to Windows 8.0?

No. Upgrading Windows 8.0 to Windows 8.1 is a separate operation.

How does Enterprise Mode help me stay up-to-date?

Many businesses are experiencing tension between today’s web apps and services—which may require modern standards like HTML5 and CSS3—and older web apps and services, designed for older versions of Internet Explorer. Legacy apps often represent a significant investment and have long, multi-year lifecycles, effectively making these customers dependent on an older version of Internet Explorer until they can upgrade these web apps to modern web standards. Introduced in 2009, Internet Explorer 8 was the first browser available on Windows 7 and included innovative features like Compatibility View for older websites. Because it also ran on Windows XP, many customers and developers chose to standardize on Internet Explorer 8 to help ease the migration to Windows 7. According to Net Applications, Internet Explorer 8 still has more than 20% of the desktop browser market share; despite the fact that Internet Explorer 9, Internet Explorer 10, and Internet Explorer 11 have superseded IE8, many customers still rely on Internet Explorer 8 to run their business.

By providing better backward compatibility for Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 11 with Enterprise Mode is intended to help break this dependency and provide the best of both worlds: A modern, up-to-date browser that helps customers extend their existing investments in older web apps.

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Windows 8.1 editions

What are the hardware requirements for Windows 8.1?

Windows 8.1 provides a terrific experience on the same hardware that runs Windows 7 and Windows 8. In fact, you might even notice that your computer seems a little faster after upgrading to Windows 8.1. The minimum recommendation is a 1 GHz processor. For 64-bit systems, Microsoft recommends a minimum of 2 GB of memory with 20 GB of free hard disk space. For 32-bit systems, Microsoft recommends a minimum of 1 GB of memory with 16 GB of free hard disk space. A Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) driver is required. Some features require additional components. To use touch, for example, you need a tablet or a monitor that supports multi-touch.

Can I download an evaluation copy of Windows 8.1?

Yes, you can download 32-bit and 64-bit evaluation versions of Windows 8.1 Enterprise by visiting the Windows 8.1 Enterprise Evaluation page.

What are the differences between Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise?

Windows 8.1 is the basic edition for home users. It includes the core feature set that home users require but does not include key business features, such as support for the ability to join domains, process Group Policy, and so on. Windows 8.1 Pro is for small- and medium-sized businesses. It provides enhanced features that help to easily connect to company networks, access files on the go, encrypt data, and more. Last, Windows 8.1 Enterprise edition is available through Windows Software Assurance. It includes all the capabilities of Windows 8.1 Pro, plus premium features such as Windows To Go, DirectAccess, BranchCache, AppLocker, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), and Windows 8 app deployment. See Compare Windows 8.1 Editions for a detailed comparison.

What is the different between Windows 8.1 and Windows RT devices?

Windows 8.1 runs on x86 devices and you can install desktop apps on them. On the other hand, Windows RT devices run on low-powered ARM processors, helping OEMs build devices with long battery lives and new form factors (for example, thin, light, and sleek devices). Windows RT devices are preconfigured systems on certified hardware that helps ensure users have high-quality and predictable experiences over time. They still offer the same consistent and great Windows experience that Windows 8.1 provides. Windows RT devices can run apps from the Windows Store, but you cannot install desktop apps on them, and they are compatible with most peripherals.

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Windows Store applications

What is the difference between desktop apps and Windows Store apps?

Desktop apps are traditional apps that you install on the desktop. They have Windows and chrome. They are not typically designed for touch-first experiences. On the other hand, Windows Store apps provide a full screen experience that has no chrome. They are designed for touch-first experiences, and they offer beautiful views into the information you care about most. Windows Store apps can update Live Tiles on the Start Screen and display toast notifications on the lock screen. You download and install Windows Store apps from the Windows Store, and you can install them on Windows RT devices. You cannot install desktop apps on Windows RT devices.

I am not a developer, but can I build a Windows Store app to learn more about how they work?

In an effort to learn how developers build Windows Store apps, you can easily build one by using Visual Studio Express 2013 for Windows. Doing so can help you gain a deeper understanding of Windows Store apps to help you better manage and deploy them. To migrate an existing Windows Store app to Windows 8.1, you must retarget your projects and update your code. For more information, see Retarget your Windows 8 app to Windows 8.1.

Can I deploy our line of business (LOB) apps by using the Windows Store?

Yes, but any application you publish in the Windows Store will be publically available. Therefore, if you want to keep your LOB application private, do not publish it by using the Windows Store.

If not via the Windows Store, how do I deploy LOB Windows 8 apps?

You can sideload Windows Store apps. This means installing the app directly in Windows 8.1 without publishing it in the Windows Store. You can only sideload apps on Windows 8.1 Enterprise edition (or on Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows RT devices by installing a special sideloading product key on the device). There are additional requirements: the target computer must be joined to the corporate domain (unless you have installed a sideloading product key), the Group Policy setting "Allow all trusted apps to install" must be enabled; and the app must be signed by a trusted code-signing certificate.

What tools can I use to sideload Windows Store apps on my organization's computers?

You can use Windows PowerShell to sideload an app for the current user, or you can use the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool included in the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) to provision apps to a Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 image for all users. For more information, see How to Add and Remove Apps. Windows PowerShell and DISM are fundamental tools.

System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 offers native support for Windows Store app deployment to Windows 8 users, and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012 Update 1 supports provisioning Windows Store apps during Windows 8 image deployment. For Windows 8.1, you would need to use System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2013. Additionally, Windows Intune can publish Windows Store apps to the Company portal.

Can I control which Windows Store apps users can install and run?

Yes. You can use AppLocker in Group Policy to deny and allow Windows Store app installation based on a variety of criteria. For example, you can prevent users in a specific group from installing specific apps. For more information about AppLocker, see the AppLocker Technical Overview.

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Is there a way I can prevent my users from installing the Windows 8.1 from the Windows Store?

Users will only see the Windows 8.1 in the Windows Store if they have a retail- or OEM-activated version of Windows 8. Volume activated computers will not be offered the update. If you want to prevent users from seeing the update under any circumstances, you can set the group policy "Turn off the offer to upgrade to the latest version of Windows" located under “Computer\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Store”.  This corresponds to the registry value “DisableOSUpgrade” (DWORD) in key “HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\WindowsStore”; when set to 1, the update will not be offered.

How does Windows 8.1 deployment differ from Windows 7 deployment?

Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 operating system deployment is not significantly different than Windows 7 deployment. If you have experience deploying Windows 7, you can transfer almost all of that experience to deploying Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. This is because Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 deployment is based on the same proven tools, technologies, and processes you used for Windows 7 deployment. For more information, see Deploy Windows 8.1 on TechNet.

Has Microsoft updated its popular deployment tools for Windows 8.1 yet?

Yes. The Windows ADK for Windows 8.1 includes support for Windows 8.1, as do System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2013, all of which are now available.

note iconNote: To deploy Windows 8.1 with System Center, you must use System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager or System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 CU3. See Support questions about Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2for more information. To deploy Windows 8.1 using MDT, you must use MDT 2013. Also, because the new version of the User State Migration Tool (USMT) in the Windows ADK for Windows 8.1 does not support capturing data from Windows XP or Windows Vista, it is necessary to use the USMT 5 version, available in the Windows ADK for Windows 8, to capture the data and the new version to restore it to Windows 8.1.  

What is involved in migrating from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1?

Volume License (VL) machines managed via Configuration Manager Software Distribution or Group Policy can be migrated to Windows 8.1 as in-place update. Customers using a retail or OEM version of Windows 8 will be able to upgrade to Windows 8.1 via the Windows Store. For all other scenarios and SKUs, Windows 8.1 will require a fresh install using System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager, MDT 2013, and/or the Windows ADK for Windows 8.1.

Can I install Windows 8.1 on my computer running Windows 7 and dual boot operating systems?

Yes. For evaluation, the simplest and easiest-to-revert method is to install Windows 8.1 to a native boot virtual hard disk (VHD). If you simply want to ensure that Windows 7 is available because of application compatibility, testing, and so on, an alternative is to install Windows 8.1 on your computer and then install Windows 7 in a Client Hyper-V virtual machine. Lastly, you can configure your computer to dual-boot Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 by installing Windows 8.1 on a separate volume on your computer.

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How is Client Hyper-V in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 different than Virtual PC in Windows 7?

Client Hyper-V is a virtualization platform available in the Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. It provides a local environment to test applications and deployment scenarios without requiring a Hyper-V server. Client Hyper-V uses the same virtualization technology as Windows Server 2012. As a result, you do not need to learn new tools to use it. Additionally, you can run 64-bit guest operating systems in Client Hyper-V, and you can export VMs back and forth with server-based Hyper-V. For more information, see Client Hyper-V.

What are the requirements for installing Client Hyper-V on a computer running Windows 8.1?

You can install Client Hyper-V on 64-bit computers that have Second Level Address Translation (SLAT) enabled. Most modern PCs have support for SLAT, which supports as many as 12 monitors, most USB devices, wireless networks, and sleep and hibernate states. It also offers a full-fidelity experience, including 3D, audio, multi-touch, and so on. For more information, see Client Hyper-V.

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Where are the administrator tools in Windows 8.1?

You can display a menu of administrative tools by pressing Windows key + X. You can also add the administrative tools to the Start screen: On the Start screen, press Windows key + I, click Tiles, and click Show administrative tools to change it to Yes. When you return to the Start screen, you can view all of the administrative tools on the right side of the Start screen.

Do the Windows Sysinternals tools work with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1?

Most of the Sysinternals tools work with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Download the latest versions of these amazing tools from the Windows Sysinternals website on TechNet.

Is a new version of the Remote Server Administration Tools available for Windows 8.1?

Yes. Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 8.1 includes Server Manager, Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-ins, consoles, Windows PowerShell cmdlets and providers, and some command-line tools for managing roles and features that run on Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012. To manage Windows Server 2012 R2 remotely, you must use the Windows 8.1 version of RSAT. RSAT can also be used to manage older releases of Windows Server. For a full support matrix, see the TechNet Wiki.

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What new security features does Windows 8.1 offer?

Windows 8.1 offers a full spectrum of new and improved security capabilities– from devices that can be fully locked down by IT, to remote security options to protect employees and your business in a bring your own device (BYOD) environment, to safeguards for personal devices that need to access certain resources from home. Some of the specific new security features in Windows 8.1 include:

  • Modern Access Controls – Rich first class support for fingerprint-based biometrics has been added. Your fingerprint based identity will provide enhanced identity security while at the same time offering the very best possible user experience for authenticating to devices, resources, and even making purchases with the Windows Store. Multi-factor authentication using virtual smart cards (VSCs) will be made even easier with rich support for provisioning VSCs to user devices and unmanaged device scenarios.
  • Malware Resistance – Substantial improvements have been made in technologies like Windows Defender and Internet Explorer to help keep you safe while you’re online. Windows Defender now includes network behavior monitoring to help detect and stop the execution of known, and even unknown, malware and Internet Explorer now includes the ability to have binary extensions (e.g.: ActiveX) scanned by the anti-malware solution before code is executed. Windows 8.1 will also be able to take advantage of the power of the cloud to enable remote analysis of devices such that even the most sophisticated threats, including those that have traditionally had the ability to remain hidden, can be detected and removed.
  • Secure Your Corporate Data – Windows remote business data removal will enable organizations to securely wipe company data from a device while leaving user data behind. To protect data on lost or stolen devices Device Encryption, a technology previously found in Windows RT and Windows Phone 8, has been added to all editions of Windows. This feature is automatically provisioned when Windows is deployed to supported hardware.

What's new in device encryption?

Device Encryption, which is based on BitLocker technology and is currently included in Windows RT and Windows Phone 8, will be added to all editions of Windows 8.1. If the device is certified for InstantGo, this capability is available and automatically implemented on the device.

How do you ensure that remote business data removal only takes company documents and won’t erase personal files?

Data (for example: mail, Work Folders data) coming from the corporation is protected with remote business data removal (encrypted) as it is received by the client, which makes it easily identifiable and wiped. 

What specific tools are you offering to prevent against hardware attacks?

Universal Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) provides a secure root of trust for Windows devices and helps ensure that all that the firmware and even the Operating Systems boot loader itself is signed and tamper free. 

On computers without UEFI or TPM, what security features will not be available?

Without UEFI, Secure Boot will not be available. Early Launch Anti-Malware and Attestation are still possible without UEFI. If a TPM is not present, then neither Measured Boot nor Attestation of boot measurements will be possible. BitLocker is available without a TPM, but it will not be as secure. To learn more about BitLocker, see the BitLocker Overview.

What is Trusted Boot in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1?

Trusted Boot is a feature that secures the entire boot process on the computer and prevents malware from hiding and taking permanent residence on it. Trusted Boot can secure the boot process by ensuring that all Windows components that are loaded during boot have not been tampered with. Trusted Boot ensures that anti-malware software loads before any third-party device drivers and applications. This prevents malware from inserting itself in front of the anti-malware engine at which point it can compromise the anti-malware engine's ability to protect the system. In the event where malware was able to successfully compromise boot process, Trusted Boot will attempt to automatically remediate the issue. For more information, see Reengineering the Windows boot experience.

What is the difference between Trusted Boot and Secure Boot?

Trusted Boot is a Windows 8 feature that can protect the Windows boot process anti-malware solution from malware tampering (i.e., if it is properly designed and ELAM-compliant). It specifically prevents Boot Kit infections which inject themselves within the Windows boot process. Trusted Boot is able to best to protect the system, boot process, and anti-malware solution on Windows 8 certified devices, which include UEFI 2.3.1 hardware that enables the secure start-up of an operating system. This feature is called "Secure Boot." Secure Boot is specifically designed to prevent the start-up of "Root Kit" infections which inject themselves before the Windows boot process. Trusted Boot does not require a Windows 8 certified device or a device that includes UEFI 2.3.1. Secure Boot requires either a Windows 8 certified device or a device that includes UEFI 2.3.1. Trusted Boot offers the best end-to-end protection when it's coupled with the Secure Boot capabilities. For more information, see Reengineering the Windows boot experience.

What is Measured Boot?

Measured Boot is a feature that complements Trusted Boot. While Trusted Boot can protect the boot process, Windows components, and anti-malware software, providing a high level of assurance, only an external trusted third-party can verify the integrity of the system. Measured Boot takes measurements of each aspect of the boot process and then signs and securely stores the measurements in a TPM. Upon request, these measurements can be sent to a trusted third-party known as a Remote Attestation service that can compare the measurements with known good values. From here, it can attest that the boot process is secure and that the anti-malware software is properly functioning. The Remote Attestation service can also issue a secured Device Claim to the client which can then be used for access control scenarios (e.g., grant network or file access if the client's Device Claim indicates that it is secure). For more information, see Reengineering the Windows boot experience.

Does Secure Boot prevent me from dual-booting or running other operating systems on my PC?

No. UEFI's Secure Boot feature prevents the computer from starting unsigned and unauthorized operating systems. This can prevent certain types of malware (e.g., Boot Kits) from starting on your computer. If you want to single- or dual-boot a Windows 8 certified PC with an operating system that does not support Secure Boot (e.g., Windows 7 or Linux), you can disable Secure Boot. For more information about UEFI and its Secure Boot feature, see Protecting the pre-OS environment with UEFI.

What protections are in place to safeguard virtual smart cards?

Virtual smart cards, like physical Smart Cards, leverage hardware based security and anti-hammering protection, to protect sensitive information like identifies are private keys. In the case of Virtual Smart Cards this protection comes from the device’s Trusted Platform Module (TPM) which is a standards based hardware security component.

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Additional resources