Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, "Confident Computing", for more solutions you can use to make your life easier. Click here.

How Do I Get the Required Windows 8.1 Update?

I received a question that pointed me to an article on a reputable mainstream press site discussing the Windows 8.1 Update that Microsoft recently rolled out. The update will become the new baseline for Windows 8 and within a month or so, it’ll be required in order to receive continued updates.

Their article’s  headline compared getting the update to the way Microsoft discontinued support for Windows XP and it insisted that people need to take action now.

While  there are some similarities, the headline was pure hyperbole.

In reality, you may not have to take any action at all. If you do, you’ll probably want to take that action sooner rather than later, but it’s not the end of the world if you’re late.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Windows 8.1 Update is … an update

I don’t know why Microsoft elected to call this an update, because we get updates all the time. I see it more as a service pack, but for whatever reason, Microsoft elected to give this the formal name of Windows 8.1 Update (note the capital “U”).

Call it what you will, but it’s just an update – albeit a large one. In fact, if you’re like me, you may already have it installed.

In Control Panel, fire up Windows Update:

Windows Update - View update history link

Click View update history.

Windows 8 Update in Update history

In my case, it was already there. (You may need to scroll down in the installed updates list to locate the update.) I did nothing special, but the update had already been downloaded and installed.

Why is that? As we’ll see in a moment, the update is considered important. As a result, if you have Windows Update set to install important updates automatically (as I do), it’ll do just that – download and install this update automatically.

So, you may not have to do a thing.

If the update’s not installed

On my laptop, however, things were different. I went to Windows Update and noted that I had an important update available:

Windows Update - 1 Available

And sure enough, when I clicked through to see what it was, I saw that it was “the” Windows 8.1 Update:

Windows 8.1 Update - ready to install

Note: One of the reasons why the update might not be installed is its size: 890.2 megabytes in my case. It’s possible that not leaving the system running long enough to download it all (as is the case for my laptop copy of Windows 8) might delay its installation.

I simply made sure it was checked and clicked Install; it began downloading right away:

Windows Update - Downloading Windows 8.1 Update

Some lengthy amount of time later, it completed the download and installation.1

Why the urgency?

As I said, I think the urgency implied by some of the news reports is overblown.

Unlike Windows XP, you can continue getting updates after the deadline by making sure that Windows 8.1 Update has been installed on your Windows 8 machine. In the meantime, your hardware, software, and peripherals will continue to be supported – again, unlike Windows XP.

Naturally, I recommend installing Windows 8.1 Update prior to the deadline (currently, the beginning of May 2014). Other than the download size, there’s really no compelling reason not to, for most people. And of course, it will become the new “baseline,” as Microsoft puts it, on which future updates will be built.

Why a new baseline? I can only speculate, but I would assume Microsoft is attempting to accomplish two things here:

  • Reduce the complexity of future updates by reducing the number of different possible combinations of updates that people have installed. By assuming that everyone has Windows 8.1 Update installed, they no longer have to worry about all possible combinations of updates that may or may not be installed when they develop and test future updates.
  • Increase the frequency with which they can reset the baseline. Clearly, Microsoft has been moving to a more frequent release of somewhat-major updates to their operating systems. Resetting the baseline is one of those updates.

The net result should be more effective distribution of the bug fixes and security updates that you and I want.

But I still wish they would have simply called it Service Pack 1.

Footnotes & references

1: I’m assuming. I don’t have the patience to wait until that’s done to finish writing this article. 🙂 800Meg takes a while on my internet connection.

28 comments on “How Do I Get the Required Windows 8.1 Update?”

  1. After numerous attempts at installation I have not been able to…at the date of this comment, been able to install it on my new Dell laptop. I have a high speed connection so it’s not that. I have plenty of room on my HD so again it’s not that. If you look in the Microsoft community forums you will see I am not the only one. I have talked to three MS techs and next week I’ll probably be speaking to another one so I’ll let you know how it goes. The fact that you really didn’t have any issues applying this update(and I also would call it a service pack and not a regular update)is more a matter of good fortune which is why MS who is aware of this issue, should not make this a mandatory update. I have even read of problems with more than one persons’ PC after being able to apply this update.

    • Definitely interested in the reports as you pursue this. And yes, I definitely consider this more of a “service pack” than a plain old update. I do wish they’d named it that.

    • Windows 8.1 Update installation on my new Gateway desktop has “failed” so far 13 times from April 14 through April 29. Guess it will just keep on with its automatic attempts, huh?

      • Should add that I downloaded the various parts of the update separately and installed them manually. That seemed to do the update, but Windows Update insisted on downloading the Update once again. This time it installed. I’m not sure which one of the manual updates actually fixed the problem.

    • I had the same problem, 3 trys to Update and 3 “ERROR”, then I close WIFI and connect to the line. OK now.

  2. I think we can all agree that Microsoft terminology sucks. They released Windows 7 followed by numerous Windows updates. After that came Windows 8.0. No problem there. Then they released Windows 8.1. Still no problem. Windows 8.1 was the new base point. Updates were released under “Windows update”. All well and good. But then they went off the rails. Microsoft decided to release a new base point, but instead of calling it Windows 8.2 or Service Pack 1 they called it “Windows Update” with a capital U. And to cap it all off they say that in order to continue to receive Windows updates you must install Windows Update. Let me repeat, in order to be able to install Windows 8.1 updates you must install the Windows 8.1 Update update. No chance for confusion there, right?

    Morons.

  3. All well and good– but I’ve never been able to install 8.1- did everything right, but it gets all the way through and tells me it can’t be installed. All my programs up to date- no problem– no 8.1. So I’m just leaving it at 8 , at least for now.

  4. I also had problems installing the 8.1 Update on my ASUS Q200E laptop. I attempted to install the update multiple times over several days trying the “fixes” that Microsoft suggested. I finally found a solution that worked in a community posting. Very disappointed in Microsoft.

  5. This whole business about slapping a deadline for Windows 8.1 users to install the Update 1 in order to keep getting security updates has to be the stupidest/inanest/potentially dangerous act ever committed by Microsoft. In my opinion, this is far worse than the ending of XP support! At least, Microsoft gave ample warning for this, and to be honest, XP is largely outdated anyway! Also, I cannot recall any other instance in which users actually got penalized for having installed prior updates!

    As for the Windows 8.1 Update 1 installation, mine took a good hour or more to complete, and it turns out that I’m among the lucky ones! What about the poor Windows 8.1 users who have found themselves unable to install the Update 1, and will thus, be unable to receive vital security updates after Microsoft’s deadline? In my opinion, it is the combination of the uncertainty as to whether or not the appropriate update has occurred, and the difficulties/frustration associated with its installation, along with Microsoft’s ridiculous deadline for getting vital security updates that DOES make for a very dangerous situation! Sure, in a worst case scenario, Users might be able to revert back to Windows 8, but this rather defeats Microsoft’s intended purpose, and Users end up losing out on the fixes that were implemented on Windows 8.1!

    In my opinion, until the problems with the Windows 8.1 Update 1 are resolved, Microsoft needs to remove their deadline for its implementation!

    CHEERS!

  6. I want to update to Win 8.1 OS as I have a new computer. But I have already installed many of my appications on it. Will 8.1 OS be an update and leave my applications alone, especially if I am forced into this update, or is Windows 8.1 really an upgrade and I will have to reinstall everything currently on my computer? Contrary to many comments being made, I was informed that Windows 8 was designed to make people buy touch screen monitors. When that didn’t happen, out came 8.1 upgrade designed to work software between smart phones, tablets, cloud networking and your normal laptops and desktops. It’s a business financial decision and bears little on improving Windows OS 7 or 8. I know just enough to be totally confused.

    • If you have Windows 8, the 8.1, as well as the Windows 8.1 Update, are simply updates that happen in place without affecting your installed programs and data.

      Windows 8 was never meant to make people buy touch screens. It was designed to support touch screens if they were present, but there was no agenda trying to force anyone in that direction.

  7. I’m confused as to what will happen after the May deadline. For example, if I buy a Windows 8.1 computer on the day of the deadline and it does not have this update, how will I get it? Same question if I have to do a factory restore on a Windows 8 or 8.1 system.

    • You will simply get it as part of the regular Windows Update process. If you have Windows Update keeping your machine updated automatically it’ll be downloaded and installed automatically.

  8. Count me among those who has made numerous attempts to download 8.1 and who has yet to have one succeed. Microsoft has sent me directions and I followed them very carefully, but with no luck. It downloads and gets all the way to the end, but then tells me the attempted download was unsuccessful and to try again. A computer tech I know told me that this is one of the “tickiest” updates Microsoft has ever sent out, and apparently everything has to be just perfect for the update to work. Me, I’ve given up and am living with Windows 8.

  9. I read somewhere that it is absolutely vital to have all previous updates installed before proceeding from WIN7 to WIN8.0 and from WIN8.0 to WIN8.1 etcetera. Having suffered enough in recent weeks with having to completely reinstall WIN7 and my programs I decided to follow that set of instructions to the letter. I just spotted this thread as I was also uncertain about installing the WIN8.1 Update, I read it with great hopes. Thank-you Leo, it saved me another hair pulling episode as it was already installed. Happened automatically and I believe that for once Microsoft gave the correct instruction in saying to install all updates for each level of the upgrade from WIN7 through to WIN8.1 Update. Thanks again Leo. Regards from Chris

    • The update page gives you the option of downloading an iso file which you can then burn to a DVD or create a bootable flash drive. I used this method myself.

      • That’s to get Windows 8.1. That isn’t the option to get Windows 8.1 Update. (Yes, they’re two different things. Think of Windows 8.1 Update as Windows 8.1 SP1 and things will be clearer.)

        • On the question of downloading an ISO file to install W8.1 – there was a trick, but it seems to have been closed in the last few weeks. If there’s another way to do it, I would love to know how. I would like to get one that includes the Update and WMC.

          On the matter of the W8.1 Update – I got it to install in my machines without too much difficulty, although I did have to use the redistributable version in at least one OS. At least I have that redist. version if I ever have to do a future re-install. And how likely is that?

          However, I now have another problem that only seems to have appeared since this big Update. This month’s updates were a nightmare to install. Not one of my OSs went smoothly. All sorts of error messages came up. The Help system asked me to check my internet connection. But how did I get anything at all if that was not working. Other codes got no help whatever from MS.

          Sometimes it would fail during the initial attempt to seek updates. Sometimes it would see the updates but fail to download them. Sometimes it would partially download them but then abort.

          Then after a while it would suddenly work without explanation. It took two days to update 4 machines, a couple of them with 2 W8.1 systems.

          I do hope MS sorts this out before too long, because if they don’t there are lots of people out there that are going to ditch W8.1. Yes, I’m not the only person that has suffered this problem.

          Anybody got any thoughts – or better still, solutions?

  10. I have also had issues with 8.1 since upgrading late last year. At first all ok then April this year my security scan prompted me to update driver at this time i found my updates were failing and my computer was running slow and difficult to use, my anti virus was continually informing my of problems. i troubleshooted with Microsoft which advised me to restore my computer which so i did and the system is running better, however i am now not sure what the problem was and if i should upgrade. Need advise

  11. My problem is when I do the 8.1 upgrade/update the drivers for my Bluetooth are not included. There are many people having the same issue both on the MS forums and the dell, however no fix is said. Back in October I was told that 8.1 was in beta so all the driver stacks were not completed, however the issue is still ongoing. As a result I have the 8.0 and have not upgraded but would like to because I did like the other features. My question would be, can I expect MS to address this issue or should I simply be satisfied with 8.0 if I wish to continue using my BT?

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article. Comments indicating you've not read the article will be removed.
  • Comment on the article. New question? Start with search, at the top of the page. Off-topic comments will be removed.
  • No personal information. Email addresses, phone numbers and such will be removed.
  • Add to the discussion. Comments that do not — typically off-topic or content-free comments — will be removed.

All comments containing links will be moderated before publication. Anything that looks the least bit like spam will be removed.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.