updated 07:14 am EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Free, paid downloads of Microsoft operating system upgrade commence
Windows 8.1, Microsoft's upgrade for Windows 8, is now available to download and buy. The update, which reintroduces the Start Button to the desktop among other changes, can be downloaded from Microsoft directly or bought as an installable DVD, with current Windows 8 users able to download it via the Windows Store at no charge.
Though the Start Button makes a return to the operating system, it will continue to trigger the full-screen Metro-style Start Screen instead of a smaller pop-up list of applications. Users can also set Windows 8.1 to boot directly to desktop, set the background of the Start Screen, and use two new sizes of Live Tiles. The lock screen can show a slideshow of images stored on local storage or SkyDrive, allows for device cameras to be used while keeping the system locked, and also lets inbound Skype calls be answered.
The snapping of Metro-style apps has been updated to allow for more ways to split the screen between two different apps, as well as adding support to do the same to multiple monitors, and the Search charm now shows more usable results, individual settings, and web results. Apps such as the Windows Store and Xbox Music get a facelift, with the new Reading List storing sites and other information for later viewing, and Metro versions of Sound Recorder and Calculator reappear.
In the United States, Windows 8.1 upgrades cost $120, with Windows 8.1 Pro priced at $200, and an upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 8.1 Pro costing an extra $100. Windows Media Center, a free upgrade for the first few months of the Windows 8 launch, is an extra $10.