How to get a sneak preview of Windows 8.1

Friday 6 September 2013

Windows 8.1 will become available to the mass market on October 18th 2013, giving business and home users the opportunity to update their operating system. A host of new features are set to be introduced, geared at optimising the user experience and enabling them to make the most of their PC, laptop or mobile device.

But what if you can't wait another six weeks for the launch? Well, for the more experienced IT users, Microsoft has launched pre-release versions of Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1. These include enhancements in personalisation, search, apps, the Windows Store, and cloud connectivity, and feature all the standard security and reliability features.

Microsoft is giving users the opportunity to test the latest version of Windows 8, on the basis that the feedback provided can help deliver further improvements ahead of release. Since the software is still in development, it is possible that users will encounter errors not normally associated with a released version of Windows. Pre-release testing can help remove these bugs and product glitches, ensuring that when the launch date comes, Windows 8.1 is fully ready for users.

How to install the Windows 8.1 Preview

There are two ways to install Windows 8.1 Preview - through the Windows Store or through the ISO. But for the majority of users, the first approach is the best. If your version of Windows 8 is in one of the 13 languages chosen for the preview, we strongly recommend downloading the pre-release from the Windows Store. And users who are on Windows RT have no choice other than to opt for this approach.

Users who update via the Store will receive the same edition of Windows 8 Preview as they are currently running. This means that if you are on Windows 8 Pro, you will update to Windows 8.1 Pro Preview. Installing through the store means there is no need to use a product key. ISO users will require the following key: NTTX3-RV7VB-T7X7F-WQYYY-9Y92F. This will also be needed to update to the final edition of Windows 8.1 after October 18th.

How to uninstall the Windows 8.1 Preview

There is no uninstall option as such for users who update their Windows 8 operating system to the pre-release version. However, should problems occur, it may be possible to restore the entire system to its factory condition. If the PC came with Windows 8 in-built, there may be a simpler option - restoring the original operating system using Windows Refresh. This should not have any bearing on personal files, although it may be necessary to reinstall apps if they did not come with the computer.

Users who download the Windows 8.1 Preview from Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 do not have an uninstall option. In order to restore their earlier operating system, they will need to use the recovery or installation media that came with their computer.

Does the pre-release version carry any risks?

Although Windows 8.1 Preview and Windows RT 8.1 Preview have been thoroughly tested, they are not the finished product. And as such, users could potentially face a number of problems - one of the reasons it should only be downloaded by those with strong IT experience. Potential issues could be the PC crashing, file loss or damage, software problems, and difficulties connecting to corporate or home networks.

Downloading the pre-release version can be a highly rewarding experience, giving users the opportunity to contribute to the further development of Windows 8, and enabling them to get an exciting sneak preview of the upcoming release. It is a case of weighing up the potential risks and benefits when deciding whether to go ahead and download.

Find out all about the Windows 8 operating system by clicking here.

Posted by Alex Boardman