Install Windows 8.1: step by step

The Windows 8.1 update is here, bringing improvements to the Windows 8 interface and new under-the-bonnet features.

All Windows 8 users can upgrade – even if you’re running RT, or the 8.1 preview that was released in June – and it only takes a few clicks to install. Depending on the speed of your internet connection, the upgrade will probably take between 30 and 60 minutes to complete. Here’s how to install it.

Windows 8.1

1. Open the Windows Store. You should see a rather conspicuous button, as above. If you’re not seeing this button, make sure you’ve installed all available updates. Note that if you’re using the 8.1 Preview, you may need to reinstall your applications after installing the final code via the Windows Store. If you want to avoid this, check out this unofficial way to perform an in-place upgrade.

Windows 8.1

2. Once you’ve clicked on the huge Store icon, you’ll be taken to a download page. Among other things, this tells you the size of the update for your PC: if you’re running a 64-bit desktop edition of Windows, this will probably be upwards of 3.5GB. Updates for Windows RT come in at a little over 2GB. Hit the Download button to kick things off.

3. You can switch away from the Windows Store and carry on using your PC while the update is downloaded and prepared for installation. If you switch back to the Store from time to time you’ll see it trundling through various stages of the process.

4. Some time later, Windows will report that it needs to restart to continue the installation. A 15-minute countdown will pop up, giving you a chance to save your work and close down your applications cleanly. When you’re ready, restart your PC – or wait for it to restart on its own.

Windows 8.1

5. Windows will now trundle through several stages of the upgrade process, including setting up device drivers, “getting ready”, “applying PC settings” and then, rather airily, “setting up a few more things”. On one of our test systems, this last part took a good 15 minutes: we’d guess this might be to do with the large number of applications installed. You might have a quicker experience with a less heavily laden PC.

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