Applies to

Surface RT, Surface 2, Surface 3, Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro 3, Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1.

Get to know Windows

There’s a lot to explore in Windows. Here’s a quick overview.

What’s new in Windows 8.1 Update

The latest update for Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 includes improvements to make Windows more familiar and more convenient, and includes security and performance updates. You must have the update installed to receive any future security updates for Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1.

Getting the update

Windows 8.1 Update and Windows RT 8.1 Update are available for free through Windows Update. To see if you’re running the latest update, check to see if the Search button Search button appears next to your account picture on the Start screen. Otherwise, to get the update, see Install the latest Windows 8.1 Update.

New features: Easier access to favourite apps and key controls

  • The Search button Search button appears next to your account picture on the Start screen. If you have Surface Pro or Surface 3, the Power button is there too. (For Surface RT and Surface 2, the Power button won’t appear on Start. Instead, find the Power button by using the Settings charm.)
Windows 8.1 Update Start screen
  • Windows Store is pinned to the taskbar.
  • You can launch apps and switch between apps from the taskbar. To learn more, see How to use the taskbar.
Windows 8.1 Update desktop taskbar
  • When you install new apps, you’ll see a message on the bottom-left of your Start screen.
Windows 8.1 Update new apps installed message

Using the desktop

  • Start screen or desktop? Work where you’re comfortable. Windows 8.1 Update makes it easy to use both Windows Store apps and desktop apps from Start or from the desktop taskbar.

    Want to go straight to the desktop when you sign in? See Boot to desktop instead of Start to learn how.

More familiar mouse and keyboard options

  • Move your mouse to the top of the screen to see the Close button in any app.
Windows 8.1 Update Close button
  • Right-click a tile on Start, and you’ll see a context menu that shows what you can do with a tile.
Windows 8.1 Update context menu

Welcome to the new Windows

New to Windows 8? Here are the basics.

Start screen and charms

The Start screen and the charms for Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings are your gateway to all the things you want to do with your Surface.

Looking for the desktop? Tap or click the Desktop tile on Start, or click the down arrow Down arrow to go to Apps view, and click Desktop there.

For more info, check out the Start screen tutorial.

Get to Start

There are several ways to get to back the Start screen:

  • Tap the Windows button Windows button on your Surface.
  • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key on your keyboard.
  • Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and tap Start.
  • Move your mouse to the bottom-left corner of the screen and tap or click the Start button Start button.

The charms: Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings

No matter where you are in Windows, the charms help you do the things you do most often, like search, share links and photos, connect devices and change settings. Here’s how to open them:

Touch. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen.

Mouse. Point to the top-right corner of the screen and move the mouse pointer down.

Keyboard. Press a charm key on a Surface Typing Cover.
You can also press the Windows logo key Windows logo key+C to bring up the charms bar. Press the up and down arrow keys to cycle through the charms.

For info on what you can do with the charms, see Charms: Search, share, start, devices and settings.

Swipe in from the right edge of the screen to see the charms.

Apps and the Windows Store

Your Surface comes with built-in apps like OneDrive, Photos, Mail, Calendar and People.

The Windows Store has tons more apps. Browse, search, see staff picks or view lists of the most popular apps to find exactly what you want.

Tap or click Store on the Start screen or in the Taskbar to open the Windows Store.

To get apps from the Windows Store, you need to sign in with a Microsoft account.

To learn more about using apps in the new Windows, see Open app commands, Switch between open apps and Use more than one app at a time.