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Microsoft makes it easier for Windows RT users to upgrade to Windows RT 8.1

Microsoft is making it easier for Windows RT users, like those who own the original Surface RT, to upgrade to Windows RT 8.1 through a new automatic update process handled by Windows Update. This is dramatically different from how the upgrade from Windows RT to Windows RT 8.1 was handled in the past as that was done through the Windows Store rather than through Windows Update.

Initially, with the launch of Windows 8.1 late last year, Microsoft had made updating to 8.1 a more confusing process where users would have to update through the Windows Store for both Windows 8 and Windows RT users. However, the process changed in the spring when the upgrade to Windows 8.1 was being handled through the Windows Update utility rather than through the Windows Store.

Now, it looks like Windows RT users are being migrated to Windows Update as well for their upgrade to 8.1, a process that will hopefully reduce confusion for those who haven't updated their systems yet.

A Microsoft spokesperson issued the following statement to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet.

This (Windows RT) pilot program is an example of ways we're experimenting to help ensure more of our customers benefit from a continuously improving Windows experience. Similar to how the Windows 8.1 Update process works today, the pilot program will automatically update consumer Windows 8 and Windows RT machines for free to Windows 8.1 Update and Windows RT 8.1 Update in select markets.

The move to simplifying the update process may be an effort by Microsoft to reduce platform fragmentation and ensure that all users are on the latest version of Windows so that they can create a similar user experience.

Source: ZDNet

Chuong's passion for gadgets began with the humble PDA. Since then, he has covered a range of consumer and enterprise devices, raning from smartphones to tablets, laptops to desktops and everything in between for publications like Pocketnow, Digital Trends, Wareable, Paste Magazine, and TechRadar in the past before joining the awesome team at Windows Central. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, when not working, he likes exploring the diverse and eclectic food scene, taking short jaunts to wine country, soaking in the sun along California's coast, consuming news, and finding new hiking trails. For news tips or to connect, please message him on the Signal messaging app at +1 (424) 666-7438. 

53 Comments
  • I didn't know the process to upgrade to 8.1 was THAT confusing. Just install a few prerequisite updates through Windows Update before you see 8.1 update in the Store.
  • But that's the whole problem with W8. Two UIs with two different design philosophies to do one thing... Shouldn't have to do that oh the flagship tablet.
  • Speaking of which, you know how the other day there was that story about how Microsoft had something that's gonna change the game...or something to that effect? Do you think it's possibly someone figured out a way for x86 programs to work on Windows RT/ARM devices? Or is that just an impossibility all the way around?
  • Directly it is impossible. They would need to run through a x86 emulator. But that is for x86 compiled apps. It would be possible to run arm compiled desktop programs on the desktop but it is locked to Microsoft signed programs currently. There was a "jail break" method to allow it on XDA, but only for 8. Not 8.1.
  • Personally, I think the "game changer" is offering the color cyan again to Lumia phones. 
  • Agreed. People don't understand that process, and Win8 is no longer by MSFT, as it is outdated software. This is a brilliant move by the company. I would hate to see the company go the ways of insanely-fragmented Android.
  • My surface rt is sleeping
  • Wonder if it can be done thru WSUS
  • I met someone in Starbucks with a Surface RT and she had asked me how to do something, and I quickly found out she had never moved any of the tiles on the Start screen or ever entered the Store. Yes, it happens.
    I told her she really should download the update from the Store.
  • I see it every other day when a customer walks into our office with a windows 8 computer and I ask them why they haven't updated to 8.1 and I'd get answers like "what's that?" Or "where do I do that?" More than once when I would tell them to get it from the Microsoft store they didn't even know I wasn't talking about a brick and mortar store.
  • In that circumstance, I think it would have been entirely appropriate for you to have told her that you, as a concerned WP user and enthusiast, were authorized to confiscate her phone due to her being unqualified to operate it properly. 
  • Her tablet, you mean.
    I had my Surface RT too then, so would've been a bit mean. Thankfully I now have a Surface 2.
  • This is made for people that are not tech savvy at all. But I like that Microsoft is making it easy as possible for anybody. The only way to make the surface line popular is to make it as easy a possible to deal with. People do not want anything remotely confusing, at all.
  • About time, now for the x86 version. Noticed a pretty big drop in 8.0 market share this month and a nice increase in 8.1 according to netmarketshare.
  • About time! So clunky to do via store.
  • Yesss!!! I don't know why they did that in the first place...
  • It never made any sense to have the 8.1 update something the user has to manually take care of through the store, outside if windows update. What was the point of doing it that way in the first place?
  • Probably experimenting if they can push updates through there for future purposes. As in, if you want Windows 9, it'll be in store, just gotta fork up some cash sorta thing.
  • Thats how wp7 was supposed to be but like dp no manufacture support(& most likely stepping on carriers toes)
  • 8.1 is actually a new operating system. Windows Update (historically) only knows how to install patches and Service Packs, not replace (upgrade) the operating system. Much like you can't upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7 over Windows Update.
  • Depends, if at some point upgrades would have required a fee, the store was the logical place to do it. Also a good way to track upgrade for MSFT. This changes mean one thing. Upgrades will remain free for RT. Now the question is, will it be possible to upgrade to "Threshold"?
  • ...updating the OS via Windows Update? Incredible!
  • upGRADING the OS through Windows Update is brand new.
  • But it's not exciting, if you can update the OS by mashing an icon in the store app, it's certainly trivial for the Windows Update process to do it non-interactively.
  • If it wasn't for me, my wife would still be on 8 because she doesn't even understand the concept of the store. Updates need to be automated or they don't happen for most users.
  • Tell her the store has really great deals on shoes and she'll figure it out quickly.
  • :-)
  • I don't remember having to do any of that lol Surface 2 said updates available I updated, bam 8.1.
  • *facepalm* The Surface 2 was made from the start with 8.1 installed.
  • The default for Windows updates on 8 is to auto install Windows updates, there was no jumping back and forth as the 8.1 update in the store was available front and center, just click and you're done. Media making it a bigger issue than it really is\was.
  • What the "RT" means ?
  • Run Time I believe. It's basically the core of what future Windows should be.
  • Microsoft hasn't officially said (not sure if they ever explained NT either), but some people think it refers to Windows Runtime (often abbreviated as WinRT).
  • NT stood for "New Technology." Aka it was a branch of Windows that didn't have DOS-based underlyings. So at the time, the technology was "new." :D
  • This is better IMO. Alot of users using Windows 8 haven't upgraded to 8.1 simply because alot of them haven't used or little use of the Store. Windows upgrade should done by system. Its like on other platform that App Store/Google Play handling the OS updates...its weird, heck WP OS updates isn't handled by Store too. Windows isn't an app to be included in Store, maybe we can still put notification there but still handled by Windows Update.
    With this alot of users would have free automatic updates to latest version of Windows, thus more progress to the platform. Also it's more reliable, since in my experience updating Store is too slow.
  • As a OG RT owner I can tell you beyond IE and Office, there is little one can do on RT without the store...  
  • Simple, just follow instructions
  • Assuming people actually go to the Store to begin with. Assuming people notice it in the Store. Assuming people actually know what it means. Assuming people click on it to start the process. Assuming people don't get scared and cancel the process. There's 12-15 W8 laptops in my office and only 1 is upgraded to 8.1... the only one that I had access to. Everybody else has the Store hidden from the Start Screen, and NEVER have a reason to go there. They use the laptops for work only - which means an internet browser, MS Office, and Remote Desktop. Updates are usually pushed out from the server but it seems 8.1 isn't pushed out in the same way (or perhaps the IT dudes haven't bothered).
  • People are so technically illiterate
  • Thus the success of Apple.
  • Does this work for users who built wtg drives using w8 pro?
  • Applies to x86 aswell. "...the pilot program will automatically update consumer Windows 8 and Windows RT machines for free to Windows 8.1 Update and Windows RT 8.1 Update in select markets.” Didn't you read what you yourself wrote? ;)
  • So the initial design was very stupid. Many PC "users" around me don't know about 8.1, they don't care and they don't know how to upgrade. Microsoft had many designs against the people. Posted via the WPC App for Android!
  • I'm still rocking my original RT.
  • What's it like? Is the speed good enough?
  • I have one too and it sucks!! Everytime is lagging, you can barely see a video without a flinch, but battery has been good, i can leave it in sleep for 3-4 days and come back to use it for a while and still have battery left. My complain is with the performance, i Just want it to run smooth as it should have
  • My rt is such a pile of pooh, it uses too much battery in standby so every time you go to use it its flat, useless. At least with my pro I can put anything on it and its powerful enough to dock and be my all in one desktop
  • That's unusual, the standby battery life on my 2 RT tablets is insane, they can go more than a week without a charge.
  • Microsoft makes everything more complicated. 
  • When are they releasing the Surface 3 RT. I'm waiting for it.
  • Hopefully never in a billion years. Wouldn't you rather have a thinner Surface 3 with Bay Trail or Core M? Perhaps they'll even add USB type-C for faster charging and a much thinner Surface with all the capability of a Surface Pro 3.
  • No I don't. Because I don't want a secondary device for 1200$.
  • Windows Updates in the Windows Store NEVER showed up for me, on any of my devices. Had to force my system to check for updates in Windows Update, and then find a hidden link from Microsoft to the Windows Store update, and THEN I could finally update. It was tedious.