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Windows 8 vs. Windows 8.1: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 7, 2023
Windows 8 introduced a new UI with a focus on touch, while Windows 8.1, a free update, enhanced usability, brought back the Start button, and added more features and customization options.

Key Differences

Windows 8 emerged with a noticeable shift in user interface design, emphasizing a touch-friendly, tile-based Start screen, which marked a significant departure from its predecessors. Windows 8.1 followed, serving as an update, designed to address various criticisms and user feedback, thereby refining the experiences initially introduced by Windows 8. Both iterations aimed to bridge the gap between conventional desktop utility and the growing prevalence of touch-based devices, albeit with varying degrees of user acclaim.
The Start screen, championed by Windows 8, replaced the iconic Start menu, providing an array of live tiles that could dynamically display information. With Windows 8.1, developers acknowledged public demand for familiar navigation, reintroducing the Start button and allowing users to bypass the Start screen upon boot. The distinctions between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 are perceptible in these usability enhancements, intended to mollify those who found Windows 8's innovations to be too abrupt or inconvenient.
Under the umbrella of customization and user control, Windows 8 presented limitations, particularly in the configuration of the Start screen and default app settings. In contrast, Windows 8.1 offered more personalized experiences, introducing more tile sizes, background designs, and improved settings for default apps and lock screens. Both operating systems showcased Microsoft’s dedication to personal computing, but Windows 8.1 made notable strides in amplifying user autonomy regarding interface and experience customization.
When evaluating Internet Explorer, Windows 8 introduced version 10, which boasted improved performance and better touch support. Windows 8.1 elevated the browsing experience further by launching Internet Explorer 11, offering enhanced performance, better touch interactions, and superior developer tools. Both operating systems delivered commendable web browsing experiences, with Windows 8.1 making additional progress in web interaction and development capabilities.

Comparison Chart

Start Interface

Tile-based Start screen
Start button reintroduced

Boot Options

Direct to Start screen
Option to boot to desktop


Limited Start screen customization
Enhanced customization options

Internet Explorer

Version 10
Version 11

User Feedback Response

Initial touch-focused UI
Improved usability and added features

Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 Definitions

Windows 8

It integrates with Microsoft’s cloud services.
Users could sync their Windows 8 system settings by utilizing Microsoft's cloud service.

Windows 8.1

It provides enhanced customization options.
Windows 8.1 allows users to personalize their Start screen's background and tile sizes.

Windows 8

Windows 8 introduces Internet Explorer 10.
Internet Explorer 10 was launched with Windows 8, offering better touch support.

Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 offers boot-to-desktop options.
Upon startup, Windows 8.1 provided users with the option to bypass the Start screen.

Windows 8

Windows 8 features a tile-based Start screen.
Windows 8 introduced users to a dynamic Start screen, with live tiles updating in real-time.

Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 includes improved search functionality.
The enhanced search feature in Windows 8.1 offers comprehensive results from various sources.

Windows 8

It emphasizes touch-friendly navigation.
With its new interface, Windows 8 catered to tablet and touch-screen laptop users.

Windows 8.1

It features an upgraded Internet Explorer 11.
Windows 8.1 introduced Internet Explorer 11, with improved performance and developer tools.

Windows 8

Windows 8 minimizes the traditional Start menu.
Windows 8 replaced the familiar Start menu with a screen of live tiles.

Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 reintroduces the Start button.
Addressing user feedback, Windows 8.1 brought back the Start button to ease navigation.


Can I upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1 for free?

Yes, Windows 8 users were able to upgrade to Windows 8.1 for free.

How does Internet Explorer 11 in Windows 8.1 compare to IE10 in Windows 8?

IE11, introduced with Windows 8.1, provided enhanced performance, better touch interactions, and improved developer tools compared to IE10.

Was networking enhanced in Windows 8.1?

Yes, Windows 8.1 improved upon networking features and introduced new VPN options and settings.

Is there a Start menu in Windows 8?

Windows 8 substituted the traditional Start menu with a tile-based Start screen.

Is boot-to-desktop possible in Windows 8?

Windows 8 boots to the Start screen by default, while 8.1 added an option to boot directly to the desktop.

Was multitasking improved in Windows 8.1?

Yes, Windows 8.1 brought improvements to multitasking, like better app snapping and multi-screen options.

What was a common complaint about Windows 8's UI?

Some users found Windows 8’s departure from traditional navigation, like omitting the Start button, challenging.

Was security improved from Windows 8 to 8.1?

Yes, Windows 8.1 brought security enhancements and feature updates compared to Windows 8.

Are Windows 8 and 8.1 still supported by Microsoft?

No, as of January 2023, both Windows 8 and 8.1 have reached the end of their lifecycle and are not officially supported by Microsoft.

What are live tiles in Windows 8?

Live tiles in Windows 8 are dynamic squares on the Start screen that display real-time information from apps.

Was Windows 8.1 the successor to Windows 8?

Yes, Windows 8.1 was an update to Windows 8, addressing user feedback and adding features.

Is Windows 8 touch-screen mandatory?

No, while designed with touch in mind, Windows 8 can be navigated using a mouse and keyboard.

What was the key focus of Windows 8's design?

Windows 8 focused on providing a touch-friendly, tile-based Start screen.

What was added to Windows 8.1 for customization?

Windows 8.1 added more tile sizes, background designs, and improved settings for default apps.

Can Windows 8.1 run Windows 7 software?

Generally, yes. Windows 8.1 maintained compatibility with Windows 7 software.

Can I still upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1?

While official support has ended, users can still generally upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1 through certain means.

Which version is better for traditional PC users?

Windows 8.1 is often favored for traditional PC users due to its added flexibility and usability enhancements.

How did Windows 8.1 respond to user feedback?

Windows 8.1 reintroduced the Start button and enhanced customization and usability based on feedback.

Can you find apps easily in Windows 8.1?

Yes, Windows 8.1 improved app visibility and searchability compared to Windows 8.

How does the Microsoft Store compare between Windows 8 and 8.1?

Windows 8.1 brought enhancements to the Microsoft Store, including better organization and user interface.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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