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Woody Takes "A First, Jaundiced Look at Windows 8.1 RTM"

I’ve said it in this blog before, I’m saying it now, and I’ll no doubt say it again: Woody Leonhard is a genuine Windows guru, and always has something interesting and informative to say about his chosen field of endeavor. In his latest InfoWorld story — entitled “A first, jaundiced look at Windows 8.1 RTM” — he braves the potential for malware to inspect and comment upon a pirated, leaked version of the Windows 8.1 RTM bits that have come into his possession through various unspecified means (BitTorrent searching, anyone?). The net-net of his reporting is nicely summarized in that story’s subtitle: “Hopes that Windows 8.1 RTM would correct some of the problems from earlier builds prove very wrong.”

Here’s a list of the items he recites in that story to underscore that subtitle:
1. Smart Search remains turned on by default.
2. Difficulties inherent in installing Windows 8.1 to a local, non MS Live account continue (the trick, he discloses, is to use a bogus email address which presents the option to install to a local account when attempts to resolve that address fail).
3. Libraries don’t get built by default, and are hidden in File Explorer (which still launches from explorer.exe). The push toward SkyDrive for fun and profit even makes public folders hard to find. (Hint: the old default library items still show up under Folders at the very head of the “This PC” view in File Explorer. Public shows up as a folder entry under This PC in the left-hand menu as well.)


The old Library entries found in Windows 7 and 8.0 now appear as “Folders” in the This PC view in Windows 8.1 File Explorer.

4. No more backup and restore center (I also blogged about this on August 21 in a post entitled “Windows 7 File Recovery Absent from Windows 8.1” and explained how to gain access to the vhd and vhdx files created for Windows image backups by the now-missing utility in Windows 7 and earlier versions, and Windows 8, respectively). In this story, Woody also explains how to get to restore points in Windows 8.1 (by typing “restore” from the Start screen or into the Run box you elicit a “Create Restore Point” tool) and how to turn them on for drives of your choosing.
5. Echoing a point he makes several times elsewhere in his reporting, Woody affirms that claims for a return of a Start menu in Windows 8.1 are both overblown and inaccurate: he observes (and I concur) that it’s simply easier to get to the Start screen. I still use Classic Shell or Start8 (the 1.17 beta version) to keep a real Start menu on my 8.1 desktop. He also observes that desktop apps get Modern/Metro UI tiles in 8.1, which makes launching them “interesting” on an unmodified desktop (but works as it did in Windows 7 with any of the many add-on “Start menu replacements” available for Windows 8 or 8.1).
6. More missing matter: still gone are the Windows Experience Index (WEI), connections to Facebook and Flickr in the Photos app, and Windows Easy Transfer works inbound only (no using this tool to migrate to a different Windows 8.1 install).

Given what’s reported, the jaundice in Woody’s eyes is easy to understand. But perhaps it’s still worth hoping that MS will choose to address and repair some of these deficiencies before the general availability (GA) release hits on October 17/18. Only time will tell!

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