08 March 2014

How to download and install Windows 8.1 Update 1 for free

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Start screen, with power button
If you want to download Windows 8.1 Update 1 for free, ahead of its official launch on April 8, you’re in luck! Just follow these simple instructions.

Yesterday, it emerged that Microsoft had already placed the final version of Windows 8.1 Update 1 on the public Windows Update servers. Normally, because these files have cryptic, unguessable file names, they would’ve remained hidden April 8 but, as luck would have it, Microsoft made another mistake: By adding a new key to your registry, you could fool Windows Update into thinking you were a Microsoft employee, at which point it would grab the files and begin the update. (This technique of testing products internally is known as dogfooding. It’s a fairly common practice.)

Sadly, as you’d expect, Microsoft has since plugged the registry hack but not before a lot of people downloaded the updates… and then uploaded the updates to digital file lockers, like Mega. If you know where to look, you can now download and install Windows 8.1 Update 1.

How to download and install Windows 8.1 Update 1

Installing Windows 8.1 Update 1As always, we have to preface this with the usual disclaimer: Downloading Windows updates from anyone other than Microsoft 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).

So, there are two routes to obtaining Windows 8.1 Update 1. First, you can try the official download links from Microsoft but at the time of publishing, at least one of the files had been removed from the servers. Presumably, though, the links will become active again at some point closer to the actual release date (perhaps at directory /crup/2014/03, rather than 02).

The other option is to use these Mega links:
If those links go down (unlikely), the files are almost certainly available from other file lockers, or from your favorite torrent index.

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 probably need to reboot a few times during the process.
  1. KB2919442
  2. KB2939087
  3. KB2932046
  4. KB2919355
  5. KB2938439
  6. KB2937592
Windows 8.1 Update 1 Desktop

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Desktop. Note how Metro apps can now be minimized to the taskbar. There’s no sign of ‘Update 1′ in the system info window, interestingly.

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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