For users on previous versions of Windows who skipped Windows 8, the updated OS deserves a look. Many of the promises Microsoft began to deliver on with Windows 8 (cloud integration, for example) are fully realized in Windows 8.1. It also makes the touch-first modern UI more friendly by introducing some conveniences such as the option to boot up straight to your desktop.
Here are our top 10 reasons for Windows 7, Vista or XP holdouts to make the jump to Windows 8.1:
1. It Takes Up Less Space
Although Windows 8.1 introduces many new features, it's actually less of a storage hog than Windows 8. Microsoft says the footprint is significantly smaller and will win you back 8-15% of the storage on your device.
2. Supercharged Search
One of the most convenient features of Windows 8 is its ease of search: Just start typing from the Start screen and you can search for settings, content, apps or even stuff on the web. Windows 8.1 takes this to a new level with Smart Search, powered by Bing. Now if you search for a subject such as Benedict Cumberbatch, the White House or Cairo, the results are organized in a search "hero" -- a visually-driven page that will call up basic facts, photos, a map (if applicable) and relevant links -- creating an orderly buffet of information out of what used to be a slop pile.
3. Better Multi-Tasking
Snap -- the ability to have multiple app screens open simultaneously -- is theoretically a great idea, but it was kneecapped in Windows 8 by having only one size and limiting the ability to just two windows. Now Snap is a little more true to its name, letting you resize the smaller window to virtually any size with just a finger swipe. If you have a large, high-res monitor, you'll be able to have multiple windows, potentially having email, Skype, a web browser and the weather all open at the same time.
4. All Live Tiles, Great and Small
Since Microsoft's design philosophy doesn't allow for organizing app icons into folders, it's a big improvement that Windows 8.1 brings with it two new sizes for live tiles: A small square that takes up one-fourth the size of a regular tile, and a biggie size that's the same as four regular squares. The former is great for power users who want to cram as many shortcuts into their screen real estate as they can, and the latter is great for apps with lots of "glanceable" info, like Bing Weather.
5. Automatic App Updates
Sick of all your devices screaming at you to update two, three or a dozen apps? With Windows 8.1, all those updates will just happen in the background, and the Windows Store will stop pestering you with that ever-increasing count of what's still pending.
6. Start Screen Can Share Desktop Background
This may seem like a minor feature, but it may have the greatest potential to make the modern UI friendlier. By having the same background image on both the Desktop and Start screen, Windows "traditionalists" may begin thinking of the modern UI as the extension of the platform that it is, not some alien world to be feared. Unfortunately, Microsoft buried this option in the Taskbar's Control Panel on the Desktop for some reason.
7. Dynamic Lock Screen
The lock screen on a Windows 8.1 device doesn't have to be a static image anymore. There's now the option to play a slideshow, which can pull photos from various folders including whatever you've got in SkyDrive. Plus you can choose to get calendar alerts, email notifications and even take Skype calls without unlocking your device.
8. Improved Multi-Monitor Support
External monitors are a big deal for Windows tablets, since many of them have serious computing power but screens that aren't exactly what you'd call large. Now in Windows 8.1, users will have more control over how content renders on a second display, giving tablets more flexibility.
Cloud storage has a lot of advantages over saving things locally: you can access the files from anywhere, they're shareable and they don't take up any room on your device. In Windows 8.1, Microsoft has made SkyDrive the default place to save new documents, and improved things on the back end to ensure the system sees them as local files in every way that matters (for searches, etc.).
10. The Only Way to Get the Facebook App
Chances are you're on Facebook, and chances are you interact with the social network via apps. If you upgrade to Windows 8.1, you'll be able to run the official Facebook app for Windows, which provides a native experience for PCs. There's room for improvement -- the app doesn't appear when you call up the Share charm from another app -- but the response is fast and fluid, and the interface encourages you to explore parts of the service you may have overlooked (just watch the map fly when you browse "Nearby").