How to download and install Windows 8.1 Update 1 for free (right now)

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Windows 8.1 Update 1 is now available to download. If you’re already using Windows 8.1, the easiest way to download the update is to visit PC Settings (the new Control Panel, available from the right-hand menu bar) and click “Update and recovery.” There is also the option to download the Windows 8.1 Update 1 as standalone files, if you want to archive them or perform an offline/enterprise installation.

If you haven’t already installed Update 1, you really should do it as soon as possible — Microsoft has said that users won’t get any security updates if they stick with Windows 8.1, and sure enough, this past Patch Tuesday, there were no updates. To continue receiving updates, you need to install Windows 8.1 Update 1.

How do you do that, for free? Just follow these simple instructions.

How to download and install Windows 8.1 Update 1

Installing Windows 8.1 Update 1

As we previously mentioned, the quickest way to get Update 1 is to use the PC Settings control panel. If you do that, skip ahead to the section at the end of the story with tips on how to make the most of Update 1. If you want to download the standalone files, though, read on.

As always, we have to preface this with the usual disclaimer: Downloading Windows updates using unconventional methods is risky. At the very least, you should ensure that the SHA hash of the downloaded file matches by using the Microsoft File Checksum Integrity Verifier (a free tool). If you have any important documents on your computer, you should back them up, too (this should be an unnecessary precaution, though; Update 1 is just a bunch of patches, rather than a complete reinstallation).

Use the following links to download the right version of Windows 8.1 Update 1 for your computer’s architecture (probably 64-bit, unless you have an older computer or a tablet).

Official Windows Update download links:

Alternatively, if you don’t like direct downloads, you can always hit up the Windows Update website and follow the instructions there.

Once you’ve downloaded Update 1, you will have six separate patches that need to be installed in a very specific order. Your computer will need to reboot a few times during the process.

  1. KB2919442
  2. KB2919355
  3. KB2932046
  4. KB2937592
  5. KB2938439
  6. KB2934018

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Desktop

Life after installing Windows 8.1 Update 1

And that should be it! If you’re a mouse-and-keyboard user, you will find that Windows 8.1 Update 1 makes the Metro interface a lot more palatable. Whether this will move you to actually use the new Start screen, I’m not so sure. Unless there’s a Metro-style app that you really want to use, you will probably still find yourself on the Desktop, using a third-party app to bring back the Windows 7-style Start menu. Still, on the rare occasion that you find yourself thrust into the new Metro interface, Update 1 makes the whole experience feel a little less you’re being brutally plucked out of one operating system and unceremoniously dumped in another. So that’s good.

On the Desktop side of things, Update 1 doesn’t do a whole lot. I’m sure there will be some small, useful tweaks, but the main changes appear to be better support for high-PPI displays, and audio/video files will now be opened in Photo Viewer and Media Player respectively, rather than bouncing you into Metro. For the 23 people using Windows 8.1 on a tablet, Update 1 adds a Search button to the Start screen, and some of the stock Metro apps have been updated/improved. Thrilling stuff. Microsoft’s hunt for Windows 8 market share continues.

 

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