Who really knows Windows 8.1 Update 1/2?

Windows 8.1 Update 1/2 
is FAR more than simply a new and/or improved UI

Windows 8.1 "under the covers"

Picking out the differences between Windows XP and Windows 8.1 or even between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, improvements have been enormous and have remained unnoticed by a lot of people. So here's a glimpse of new features that are all in Windows 8.1. In sum, the following three unsorted (net even complete) lists of new features give an impressive insight into the innovation thrusts of the different versions starting with Windows Vista to Windows 8.1. Naturally, the list would be much longer - especially if we considered Windows Servers as well, which we won't in this article. Windows Server 2012 R2 on its own provides so many new features that an own list would even be more extensive than the ones provided herein.

It is definitely worth to have a look on the documentation since Windows is simply and even more unbeatable regarding security, manageability, automation, feature richness and customization.

New features within Windows Vista


User Account Control 

User Interface Privilege Isolation 

Live Icons 

Restart Manager 

Session 0 Isolation 

Quick Search 


Credential Providers 

Cancelable I/O 


Secure Startup 


Network Access Protection 

Windows Feedback Services 

Presentation Settings 

Sync Center 

MMC 3.0 

Windows Imaging Format (WIM)

Protected Mode IE 

Parental Control 

High Resolution/High DPI 

Mandatory Integrity Control 

IPv6 Dual Stack 

Desktop Hardware Acceleration

Resource Exhaustion Diagnostics

Shell Property System 

Peer Name Resolution Protocol 


Crypto Next Generation 

Search Folders 

Single Binary 


Workflow Foundation 

Power Management 

Windows Display Driver Model 


Windows Service Hardening

Transactional Registry 

Windows Defender 


Windows Desktop Manager 

Windows Filtering Platform 

New Explorers 


Writeable SIDs 

Winlogon Rearchitcture 

Registry/File Virtualization 

Bitlocker and MBAM

Monad Scripting Shell 

XAML and Segoe UI Font 

Enhanced Group Policy Scenarios

Ink Analysis 

Info Card 

Enhanced Reliability Monitor

Windows Sideshow 

Startup Repair Toolkit 

Internet Explorer 7-9

Windows Resource Protection 

RSS Platform 

IE Hardware Accelaration (IE 9)

Ad-hoc Meeting Networks

New Event Viewer

Java-Script native code Jit- Compilation (IE9)


Eventing and Intrumentation 

Process Elevation

Windows Installer 4.0/4.5 

XML Paper Specification 

Protected Processes

Function Discovery API 

.Net Framework 3.0 

Hidden Per-User-COM (Elevated Processes)

New Open/Save Dialog 

Process Dump in Taskmanager 

Improved Compiler Defenses (GS, ASLR, DEP, SAFESEH, robust, etc.)

User Mode Driver Framework 

Open Package Specification 

UI Access Application

Windows Disk Diagnostic 

Wizard Framework 

TrustInfo - Application Manifest

New Direct Access

New Security Model

> 320 Shims

Directory Junctions 

NTFS English language 

Separation of OS and MUI 

Automatic Compat. Mitigations (>5.500 Applications)  

New Firewall (Profiles, etc.) 

New Security Center



IIS 7.0 

Data Protection API 

ACT 5.0 


New features within Windows 7


User Account Control Slider

New Explorers

Enhanced MBAM 

New Taskbar 

Scenic Ribbon Control

BuiltIn Touch Platform

Taskbar Thumbnails

Process Cloning for Debugging

BranchCache ™

Pinned Icons

Display Driver Model (WDM 1.1)

DirectAccess ™

Thumbnail Buttons

Customized Troubleshooting

AppLocker ™

Thumbnail Preview,

Sensors and Locations

Sensors and Locations

Thumbnail Jumplists

Desktop Gadgets

New, Richer Support Tools

Thumbnail Overlay Icons

Memory Diagnostics

Shell Rearchitecture – Search, Explorer, CMD-Shell

Preview Pane

Network Location Awareness

Windows Installer 5

Reading Pane

Network Connection Timeout Event

Customized Troubleshooting

Folder/Document Library

VPN Reconnect

Internet Explorer 8-9

Metadata Pane

Bitlocker to go

IE Hardware Accelaration (IE 9)

People Near Me

Powershell BuiltIn

Java-Script native code Jit- Compilation (IE9)

Search Providers

.Net Framework 3.5

Improved Compiler Defenses (GS, ASLR, DEP, SAFESEH, robust, etc.)

Aero Snap / Shaking 

IE 9 Smart Screen and Tracking Protection

Event Viewer Tracing capabilities  

Compatibility - Application Manifest (OS Switch Points)

Direct Access

RPC changes, Asynchronous I/O changes 

Start Menu Search

New Search Engine 

New Logo Certification 

DaRT 7.0 


New Task Scheduler 

Concurrency Runtime 

Background Services 


CPU Multi Processing and Core Parking 

Task Parallel Library (TPL) 

New Windows Update - Less Reboots 

>360 Shims 

Automatic Compat. Mitigations (>6.500 Applications)

Visibility of Firewall Port configuration in Resource Monitor 

Compatibility Assistant 

Boot Performance Improvements 

Kernel Changes for Flexibility and Extensibility 

New Firewall 

New BITS service 

Server RemoteFx Support

VHD Boot 

XP Mode 

Windows Backup 

New RDP 

Action Center 

WERR - Third Party App Update 

IIS 7.5 

ACT 5.6 

New MDT and WAIK 

Credential Manager 

Security Compliance Manager 

High Contrast Mode 


New features within Windows 8


User Account Control changes 

Hyper-V on Client (almost the same as Server 2012 Hyper-V)

CHKDSK improvements with zero downtime (NTFS health)

Internet Explorer 10 with Enhanced Protected Mode 

Virtual Network Switch 

Powershell v3 In-Box, Powershell Intellisense, Powershell API Help- and Command Generator, New Powershell ISE

Virtual Fibre Channel 

SMB 3.0 Attached Storage 

Explorer VHD/ISO mount 

Guest NUMA Direct  

Direct Attached FC HBA 

Dynamic Memory 

64 TB Dynamic Virtual Disk 

64 Logical CPU 

VM 10-finger Touch 

Extensible Virtual Switch 

New Performance Tools

Fast and Fluid UI 

Low Power Busses 


VM NIC Teaming 

OS BuilIn Smart Screen Filter (Has blocked >1.5B malware and >150M phishing attacks) 

New Explorer with Ribbon 

IIS 8.0 

Do Not Track (DNT) capability 

SmartScreen Filter protects third-party browsers

IE10 ASLR Support for none-ASLR aware AddIns 

Secure Boot 

New Task Manager 

Powershell Web Interface 

Trusted Boot 

Windows to go 


Measured Boot 

Offline Domain Join 

WMI 2.0 

Remote Attestation Service 

New Activation Model

New App Certification 

Remote Applications 

Connected Standby 

Virtual Smartcards 

Windows RT (Windows on ARM) 

BuiltIn USB 3.0 Support 

Direct Access improvements 

TPM 2.0 

BuiltIn Bluetooth 4.0 Support 

Branch Cache Improvements 

UEFI 2.3.1 

New Driver Model (WDM 1.2)

DaRT 8.0 

Storage Spaces – Thin/Thick Provisioning 

Hunderte neuer Powershell CMDLets (z.B. 162 für Hyper-V) 

New VDI 

New Windows Defender (Forefront Scan Engine) 

New Firewall with Packet Filtering 

Internet Explorer 10 64-Bit with 32-Bit Support

Fast Boot 

PS ISE integrated CMD List 

.Net Framework 4.5 SP1

Hybrid Shutdown 

Improved, comprehensive Compiler Defenses (GS, ASLR, DEP, SAFESEH, SEHOP, Heap Spray, robust, etc.)

Async APIs (85% of WinRT APIs and included in .Net 4.5) 

High Contrast Mode changes

Office 2013 RT (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote included in Windows RT edition) 

Windows RT APIs and new Kernel Services

(e.g. Background Tasks, Suspended Apps) 

Maintenance Tasks 

Suspended Desktop Application (Windows RT) 

Suspended Apps 

Shared Kernel – Phone, Tablet, Notebook, PC

Offloaded File/Folder Operation (ODX Protocol) 

New Application Model – Platform neutral (Intel/AMD/ARM) 

Windows to go parse-through VM 

Windows Store App Resource Protection 

OPP Brokered API Isolation 

Live Tiles 

App Contracts – Secure App Data exchange (Search, Share, FilePicker, PlayTo)

Office 2013 Student (Windows RT) 

RICH Touch Support

10-finger Touch Support 

Secure Device Access – App Capabilities 

Process Isolation – Low Integrity App container 

VM 3D graphic support

Sidebar Removal 

HTML 5 Support 

Search throughout apps 

New Windows 8 OS Switch Point via App Manifest 

StartScreen Mouse- and Keyboard Support 

File History 

Windows Refresh / Reset 

Windows 7 Backup included but deprecated 

Optical Disk Power Management 

Windows Store App Forward Compatibility

Flat Desktop Design and Improvements 

Windows Store (Link to certified Desktop Apps possible) 

Windows Store Apps using JavaScript and HTML 

Device Encryption and Bitlocker 

Windows Store Installer 

Sideloading Installation

Windows Intune Support 


ACT 6.0 

New Compatibility Assistant 

New Windows Update – Less Reboots 

Startup Application Diagnostics 

Enhanced Cloud Integration – Linked Microsoft Account 

Surface RT Ports for HDMI, USB, Bluetooth 4.0, SDCard

Convertible Devices Support 

Support for almost infinite number of Hardware Formfactors 

> 385 Shims 

Automatic Compat. Mitigations (>7.500 Applications) 

PowerShell Web Service Interface 

Remote Attestation Service 

Settings Roaming 

Huge number of different Device-Formfactors

Web Setup (ESD) 

No Installation without NX (DEP)

Silent (automatic) Activation 

UEFI CSM Boot (Class 2) 

Connected Account 

Automatic Startup Repair UI 

Assessment Execution Engine

Compression API

Data Deduplication API

App Packaging and Deployment


Direct Manipulation 


Help API 

iSCSI Software Target API 

Operation Recorder 

Steps Recorder Changes 

SMB Management API 

User Access Logging 

User State Management API 

Web Socket Protocol Component API 

Windows Connection Manager

Windows Storage Management API 



Event Tracing 

IP Helper changes 

MIB changes 

Native Wifi changes 

Network Management changes

UEFI CSM Boot (Class 2) 

Connected Account 

Automatic Startup Repair UI 

Direct2D changes 

DirectWrite changes

Printing changes

UI Automation changes

Windows Sockets changes

Software Input Panel 

Assessment Execution Engine

Compression API

Data Deduplication API

Surface Pro with ultra thin digitizer 

Windows Image Acquisition (WIA) 2.0


Start Button replaced by link to new Start-Screen

Technical Start Menu 

Windows Style UI – New Start Screen 


New features within Windows 8.1


Internet Explorer 11 with Enhanced Protected Mode ON by default

Internet Explorer 11 – automatic AddOn-Handling

IE11 with better touch performance, faster page load times and several other new features

Remote Business Data Removal (Selective Wipe)

Internet Explorer 11 antimalware solution integration

Windows Store in-place upgrade (Click-Click-Done)

3D Printing Support (built-in

Biometrics Support (built-in)

Biometrics liveliness Detection

Biometrics modern reader support (swipe, touch)

Biometrics usage with UAC, Windows Store, Modern UI Apps and more

Common fingerprint enrollment

Workplace Join

Work Folders

Open MDM for BYOD

Mobile Device Management

Web Application Proxy

RDS Enhancements - enhanced VDI

Wi-Fi Direct Printing

NFC Tap-to-pair Printing

Native Miracast Wireless Display

Broadband Tethering

Pervasive Device Encryption

Malware Resistance – Defender with network behavior monitoring and ActiveX support

Device Lockdown

Assigned Access

New Credential Theft Mitigations

New local Groups for hardening capabilities

Hundreds of new Win32 APIs

New Windows Surface 2 RT with new Keyboards

New Windows Surface 2 Pro with new Keyboards

Boot Performance improvements

Network performance improvements

Remote-Apps with faster reconnects and improved compression and multiple monitors support

Wider range of VPN clients

Apps can automatically trigger VPN connections

Embedded wireless radio

Windows To Go - Windows Store enabled by default

Touch to Buy with Biometrics

High DPI improvements

Dynamic DPI Changes 

Per-Monitor DPI-Aware Applications

New GPOs (e.g. Start Screen)

New or improved Development Tools

New or improved Deployment and Management Tools

Text to Speak capabilities

In-app commerce support

Automatic App Updates

Hyper-V improvements

New Shims and Compatibility Modes

New Windows SwitchPoint for backward compatibility

Developers: New App Packaging

Developers: New scheduler API for Asynchronous Programming

Developers: Lots of new HTML and JavaScript controls

Developers: Lots of new XAML controls

Developers: New Device APIs (USB, Bluetooth, 3D Printing, Biometrics, Point of Service "POS", Human Interface "HID")

Developers: New DirectX 11.2 support with hundreds of new features

Developers: Enhanced support for in-app file management

Developers: New ways to capture and process media (playback controls, native support for Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) for HTML5 playback.

Developers: Removal of GetVersionEx()

Developers: New HTTP APIs

Developers: New Networking APIs

Developers: Latest authentication techniques support

New Windows Store

Better Mouse and Keyboard Options

Modern UI App Kiosk Mode

Enhanced Device Sync capabilities

Picture Slide Show on Lock Screen

New Touch Keyboard

Explorer SkyDrive integration

Redesigned Photo, Mail, Camera apps and more

Cloud connectivity enhancements (SkyDrive, etc.)

Improved All Apps List

Start Screen configuration by GPO

Start Screen Corporate Identity configuration

Improved Personalization

Variable, Continuous Size of Snap Views

Backgrounds with motions

Two more Live Tile sizes 

Improved Search (Web, Bing, SkyDrive, Documents, Apps, etc.)

More colors and backgrounds for Start Screen

New Start Button

Boot to desktop

Modern UI Improvements – New Start Screen look and feel


New features within Windows 8.1 Update 1/2


Bing Smart Search on Start Screen

Shutdown Options on Star Screen

Title bar with Close/Minimize Option in Store Apps

New Mouse Controls on Start Screen (e.g. Context Menu on right- click)

Store Apps on Task Bar with show/minimize/pin option (optional feature can be disabled)

Universal Apps platform for Phone, tablets and PCs

Hundreds of new WinRT APIs

Taskbar at the bottom of Store Apps (move mouse down)

Apps in Windows Store show up in Bing Smart Search results

New Apps View

Lock Screen Slide Show


SkyDrive becomes OneDrive

Boot to Desktop as default

New Windows Store Version with improved Search

Performance improvements for boot and start-up time

More tile sizes and background colors in Start Screen

New Mail App Features

Improved App Launch PreFetch



PageFile Memory Compression

PageFile Memory Combining

Hybrid Disk Hints

Windows To Go improvements



By the way, Windows 8.1 now has a new Start Button which references to the new Start Screen AND much more mouse and keyboard controls on start screen. If you counted the number of required clicks or keystrokes to start a program in Windows 7, you will see you won't need more rather less clicks when using Windows 8.1. Despite, the Start Button is back most people don't miss it anymore as the Start Screen and the underlying application list became so beautiful, meaningful and useable. 

Incidentally, the most important technical features are still accessible in the "Technical Start Menu" with a right mouse click on the new Start Button. This is a massive improvement for Virtual Machine users because on Windows 8 finding the bottom left corner in those machines was a little bit tricky some times. 

Just looking at the touch ability of Windows 8.1 in the new Start Screen and in the new Windows Store applications is impressive and for this I'm likely adapting on a new operation system, which is in my opinion to learn easily within a few minutes. On Windows 8.1 a new user will see some useful hints (one time) while navigating through the Start Screen the first time. 

In addition, the new type of handling opened an unprecedented comfort. Here a quote of a colleague, who appreciates the new Start Screen as much as I do: 

"My personal highlight is the ability to interact in totally new ways compared to other operation systems.

I simply enter a term and Windows 8 lets me know all possible alternatives for it. So it shows you the results Windows 8 finds for the term in "Apps", "Files" and "Settings". What is even more interesting is that Windows 8 tries to process across apps. "Tie" for example is being looked for in Bing and eventually you might see what different types of ties and knots exist. Using an app might lead me to a shop where I find offers. Otherwise I can just search through an auction app for auctions. The "Share" function is just amazing: I may easily share the found ties with my wife and find out, whether she likes the tie as well."   

Looking at how many powerful features inside Windows 8.1 are we can definitely call it an impressive operating system which hadn't been seen by the world before. It's the most feature rich client operating system so far (Windows Server 2012 R2 has much more than the client). 

First of all, Windows itself benefits from these features and therefore reaches a new dimension concerning security, manageability, usability, performance and much more. Furthermore it is extremely energy saving so even with older hardware battery life has been raised a lot. 

Also administrators profit by substantial increases Windows 8.1 had in terms of manageability, automation and security, which results in potential reduction of operating costs. 

Additionally, software developer benefit from those features since many of them may directly be addressed or integrated in their own projects and thereby increasing the quality, safety and performance. Also, development costs can substantially be reduced. 

Finally, all users profit from the new features – no matter if they use Windows 8.1 at home or at work. If the operating system and related apps are secure, reliable and fast, users are the ones to really make use of it. Not to mention that many features are of course available to the user – if he is aware of them. 

There is one question remaining: "Who really knows Windows at all?" 

It would be a pity if the entire discussion about Windows 8.1 would be reduced on a new type of user interface or usability. 

Therefore, I to highlight my favorite Top-10 features in Windows 8.1 as a separate blog series. 

More Information:  

For Developers:




For Enterprise






 Oliver Niehus, Microsoft.