Microsoft: Yes, We’re Bringing Back the Start Menu

microsoft start menu


It’s about time!!

In a surprise announcement, Microsoft said it would bring back the Start Menu to the Windows desktop. It’s not a part of the coming Windows 8.1 Update, but will come in a future upgrade.

Microsoft’s Terry Myerson showed off the new version of the Start Menu to an audience of developers at Build 2014 as he explained that users would be able to find apps via the menu. Users would also be able to run Modern (aka “Metro”) apps within windows on the desktop.

In a demo, Myerson showed that the new Start Menu looks similar to as it did in Windows 7, but it includes a minimized version of the Start screen right beside it.

The Start Menu’s return follows Microsoft’s announcement that apps across all its consumer platforms can now be “universal,” meaning they will run across phones, tablets and PCs with little to no re-coding.

For developers, universal Windows apps have clear benefits. It means a developer needs only create a Windows app once, then make minimal adjustments to them to optimize the experience for devices with different screens and capabilities, since the platforms share APIs, security and other resources.

For users, the benefit is a consistent experience across every device they have running Windows software. Another plus: You won’t have to buy the app again and again if you want it on both your phone and tablet.

Microsoft said the Xbox One would also be able to run universal Windows apps, although it didn’t give a timeframe.

Microsoft also announced new tools for to help develop apps across other platforms, introducing WinJS, or Windows library for javascript, an open-source resource that will help developers make Windows apps that work on the web, iOS and Android, too.

build 2014 new windows desktop


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Last call for Windows XP


This Patch Tuesday has much more significance than most. With only four security bulletins from Microsoft, it’s relatively tame as far as Patch Tuesdays go, but today also marks the final patches and updates from Microsoft for Windows XP.

“So this is it, the last hurrah for the once beloved XP, the last kick at the can for patching up the old boat,” says Ross Barrett, senior manager of security engineering for Rapid7. “Sure, by today’s standards it’s a leaky, indefensible, liability, but… hey, do you even remember Windows 98? Or (*gasp*) ME?”

There are two Critical bulletins and two Important. All of them are capable of enabling remote code execution if successfully exploited.

The most urgent update is MS14-017 because one of the vulnerabilities it addresses is currently being exploited in the wild. Simply opening a malicious RTF file in Word can compromise a vulnerable system and enable the attacker to install and execute other malicious code.

The other Critical issue affects Windows XP, but it’s actually the cumulative patch for Internet Explorer (MS14-018) and impacts all versions of Internet Explorer except IE10. The update addresses six different vulnerabilities, any of which could be exploited remotely to enable an attacker to remotely execute code with the same rights and privileges as the logged in user.

The update for Windows—MS14-019—is related to a publicly disclosed vulnerability in the Windows file handling component. In order to exploit it, an attacker has to lure users into navigating to a malicious network directory and somehow trick them into executing the malicious file. “Because this requires that attackers convince users to run a specially crafted .BAT or .CMD file provided by the attacker, this bulletin is of low priority,” says Marc Maiffret, CTO of BeyondTrust.

Finally, there is MS14-020, which deals with a privately disclosed vulnerability in Microsoft Publisher. Publisher is one of the less used applications in the Microsoft Office suite, and an attacker would have to trick a user into opening a specially crafted malicious file in Publisher to exploit it, so the risk isn’t too high. A successful attack will allow remote code execution with the same privileges as the logged in user, though, so there is still cause for concern.

Windows XP is going quietly, it seems. Russ Ernst, director of product management for Lumension, notes, “If the exit of Windows XP sounds a little uneventful, keep in mind that administrators are still dealing with the fallout from the recent Pwn2Own competition, which revealed vulnerabilities in all of the major browsers and in Adobe’s Flash Player plug-in.”

Regardless, future Patch Tuesdays will likely have far more significance for XP holdouts because each one will now be an opportunity for attackers to reverse engineer patches for supported versions of Windows to find the vulnerability, determine if that same flaw exists in Windows XP, and develop an exploit for it. And with no more bail-outs from Microsoft, those vulnerabilities will last forever.

If you’re one of the holdouts who refuse to surrender Windows XP, you should at least be aware of the heightened security risks. A recent post on the Microsoft Security Blog highlights the primary security concerns and provides some mitigations and precautions for those who intend to continue using the operating system.

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“I genuinely worry about the future of Microsoft,” says Epic Games founder


DayZ creator Dean Hall is not the only developer who is not terribly pleased with Microsoft and Windows 8. Speaking with Polygon, Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney said he’s concerned about the “closed” nature of Microsoft’s latest operating system.

“I genuinely worry about the future of Microsoft,” Sweeney said. “They’ve locked down this Windows 8. They say future app developers should focus there, but you can only ship that with Microsoft’s permission and Microsoft’s approval through Microsoft’s store. And that sucks compared to the open nature of the PC platform before…”

On the other hand, Sweeney praised Valve’s line of Steam Machines, describing the product line as the “most open high-end gaming platform ever.”

But Sweeney isn’t ready to write Microsoft off entirely in the PC gaming space. He said he’s hopeful, due in part to the recent senior management shakeup, that Microsoft will become more “open” as it relates to developing for the Windows platform. If they don’t, Linux and Steam OS are a good backup plan, he said.

“I sense kind of a renaissance at MS in the last six months,” Sweeney said. “Talking to the DirectX team for example, they’re making some brilliant decisions on DirectX 12 to make it more efficient and more open than ever before. You just generally sense a momentum to be more open with the community and more broad with their Windows strategy. I’m hoping that takes root.”

Also in Polygon’s interview, Sweeney said the virtual reality market is going to explode in popularity and prominence over time. “We’re doing a huge amount of research in VR, working with Oculus kits,” he said. “We see this as a technology that will influence every game and every platform.”

Sweeney went as far to say that virtual reality technology, like the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift or Sony’s Project Morpheus, are going to revolutionize the world in a more meaningful way than smartphones did.

“It’s technology that I think will completely change the world,” Sweeney said. “I think It’s going to be a bigger phenomenon than smartphones. You have to put it in perspective and realize we’re in maybe the [first-generation] iPhone stage right now where you have this really cool device, but it has some real flaws that prevents it from being a pervasive device for everyone. There might be an audience for 10 million users of the current tech, but as it improves with each generation, the audience is going to keep growing until eventually you’re going to reach a critical point where you can put on one of these devices and have an experience that is effectively indistinguishable from reality.”

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Still using Windows XP? Here’s how to survive the end of support

Windows XP HD

If you’re still using Windows XP and starting to lose a sleep over the fact that the April  8 end-of-Microsoft’s famously successful (and still popular) Windows XP is now  well over a decade old. While about 30 percent of Windows users worldwide still rely on XP, an operating system as aged as XP can’t be supported forever, and thus, its discontinuation date looms. After April 8th, 2014 there will be no new security updates and no new patches.

This effectively means that XP will be left to slowly become unsecured, unreliable and incompatible with new hardware, but you don’t have to abandon ship immediately. Here’s what you must know to keep XP going while minimizing the risks associated with using the OS once support for it concludes.

What end-of-support doesn’t mean

The end-of-support announcement has put some users into a panic, as it sounds ominous if you don’t delve into the details. We’ve encountered users who think that XP will simply stop working, users think thought they’ll be “forced” to upgrade, and users who believe troubleshooting XP will be virtually impossible after April 8.

Update Windows, install an anti-virus, prepare for the worst

The discontinuation of security patches is the most damaging part of terminating support for XP. New attacks are constantly developed, but XP computers will no longer be receiving patches to counteract exploits. The operating system’s security will degrade over time.

There’s nothing you can directly do about this, but you can take security seriously. Download and install a free antivirus, such as Avast or Avira. Install any Windows updates that you haven’t yet grabbed. Make sure your browser, as well as any relevant plug-ins (like Java), are constantly updated to their latest versions, and make sure you’ve backed up your data with software like Crashplan or Cobian.


All of this is basic stuff you should’ve been doing already, but it’s even more important now that XP will be taken off life support. You’re on your own, so you must take every precaution to keep new exploits and viruses at bay.

Stockpile drivers and software

Microsoft’s decision to abandon XP will send waves throughout the computing industry. Manufacturers will take it as a sign that they, too, can start forgetting about the operating system. This means new drivers won’t take XP into account and, to make matters worse, XP-compatible drivers will slowly disappear from the Internet.

Now is a good time to make an emergency driver stockpile. Round up all of the software used by your motherboard, video card, sound card, printer, monitor and any other hardware. Place all of it on a flash drive, and put that drive in a safe place. You’ll need it if a driver is ever corrupted, you install a new driver that doesn’t work, or you have to re-install XP.You should give the same treatment to any important software you have installed. This includes security software, disk management software, performance tweaks, and anything else you consider critical. Old versions of software can disappear, too, so it’s good to have copies on hand.

Make sure you have a recovery option

Your Windows XP computer probably came with a recovery disk. Many users lose track of that disc eventually, so make sure you still have it.

Can’t find it? Then you have a few options.

You can make a new disc using your computer’s recovery software. Strangely, Windows XP lacks a native tool to make recovery CDs, so manufacturers often shipped PCs with recovery software that fills this gap. You’ll need to consult your manufacturer or your PC’s manual for instructions on how to use it.

A better option is to use a backup utility that images your entire drive, such as Acronis True Image. This creates a backup that saves not just your files and folders but also your operating system and all relevant settings. You’ll be able to re-install XP exactly as it was before with all updates and software intact. The software isn’t free, though; one Acronis license is $49.99.

Bookmark helpful XP fan sites

Microsoft’s decision to end support for Windows XP likely won’t stop millions of people from using it, and XP user/fan sites will likely remain a good source for helpful tips and troubleshooting information if you ever run into a problem. You should become familiar with the most popular Windows XP fan forums, which include Bleeping Computer, Windows Forums,, and WindowsBBS.

There are also some fan sites that can assist with common problems, such as Mark Salloway’s Windows XP Resource Center, Paul Thurrott’s Supersite For Windows (check the XP section), and MakeUseOf (again, check the XP section). We’ve also a published a guide with fixes to common Windows XP problems.


You shouldn’t plan to stick with Windows XP forever though. Eventually, you’ll need to upgrade or replace hardware with newer equipment which doesn’t support XP, or you’ll fall victim to a security flaw Microsoft never patched. But you don’t have to jump to Windows 8 immediately. With some planning and perseverance, you can likely squeeze another year or two out of your existing setup.

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2014′s Top-Performing Free Antivirus Software

The web is arguably a dangerous place with viruses, hackers, spyware, malware and phishing sites; and every PC needs effective and powerful antivirus software to stay protected. However, antivirus has become an absolute essential these days. But, buying an antivirus and keep updating the package is indeed an expensive process.

Fortunately, there is ample of free antivirus software available in the market, many of which are as capable and reliable as their costly cousins. Of course, the free software may not offer like their costly counterpart but delivers nothing less than the best. Below listed are some best free web security tools at absolutely free of cost, as listed by PC Magazine.

#1) 360 Internet Security
Operating system: Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Price: Free
The cherry pastels designed organized user interface, 360 Internet Security is one of the good-looking free antivirus tools for your PC. When secure browsing and privacy protection are the most essential, 360 Internet Security restricts phishing sites, blocks malicious downloads and prevents unauthorized key-logger, to keep your personal information protected. It alerts you in case of any suspicious programs try to access critical system resources. Uses triple antivirus engine to keep your system away from threats. With 360 checksum based cloud engine, machine learning cloud QVM engine, and award winning Bit Defender local engine, this antivirus—combining all—makes an unprecedented level.
Pros: Quick installation, even on malware-infested systems.
Cons: Proactive Defense behavior monitor displays several popup queries for both good and bad programs.

#2) Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 11
Operating system: Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Price: Free; paid upgrade available

Lavasoft gave Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 11 a total user-interface makeover.  Two engines work together to stop malware from traditional viruses to the latest spyware attacks. It provides automatic updates frequently so that your computer and files remain protected from the evolving threats of the web. When comes to web browsing, Ad-Aware Safe Browsing will immediately warn you of the site’s risk status, if you click on any dangerous link while browsing or reading an e-mail.
Also, Ad-Aware is one of the first free antivirus software to include a game mode. In this mode, your computer stays protected while you enjoy your favourite games or watch movies without any interruptions. With less than 1 percent CPU utilization, this antivirus won’t slow down your PC even under heavy use.
Pros: This attractive user interface blocks quite a few brand-new malicious URLs.
Cons: former edition scored high in the same malware-blocking test.

# 3) Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition (2014)
Operating system: Windows 2000/XP/2003/7/8
Price: Free

Say goodbye to malicious viruses and threats with this powerful and effective antivirus, Bitdefender. This antivirus is extremely light and you hard realize that Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition (2014) is present on your system, unless it detects and remove a problem. However, you do not have to worry about the threat when this antivirus is present in your system. This Free Edition uses Cloud scanning to detect virus faster and unravel new or unknown threats that other products miss. On gaming front, this antivirus is ideal for AV solution and pause major system scans until you click quit. Besides, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition remains a beter-performing security suits that introduce new features over time while adjusting to your computer performance and usage.
Pros: NO need of configuration settings and extremely light to keep in your system.
Cons: if your system is infected with malware then it might take long time to install; and except email there’s no other way to get tech support.

# 4) Comodo Cleaning Essentials 6
Operating system: Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Price: Free

Comodo Cleaning Essentials (CCE) 6, designed to identify and remove malware and unsafe processes from infected computers. This lightweight, standalone security software doesn’t require installation. This means you can run directly from any removable media like USB key, CD or DVD. Comodo Cleaning Essentials 6 features KillSwitch and Malware scanner that help you to achieve the shield. This advanced system monitoring tool, KillSwitch allows you to identify and stop unsafe processes running in your system. And the scanner includes a customizable scanner that can remove viruses, rootkits, malicious registry keys hidden inside the system and hidden files.
Pros: Good threats detection rate and cleanup not balked by malware.
Cons: No realtime protection and less effective against rootkits.
# 5) Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70
Operating system: Windows XP/2003/Vista/Server 2008/7

Price: Free; paid upgrade available
No doubt, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70 is one of the best free removal-only antivirus tool that uses industry-leading technology to detect and remove all traces of malware, including worms, Trojans, rootkits, rogues, dialers and spyware. It also allows you to schedule automatic scans; and database Prevents malware from blocking Malwarebytes Anti-Malware updates. Sometimes, even tech support folks for other companies use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70 when their own product refuses to get installed in a system.
Pros: Quick and speedy installation; and removes malware better than some other commercial cousins.
Cons: Do not offer that great real-time protection against attack.

# 6) Panda Cloud Antivirus Free Edition 2.0
Operating system: Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Price: Free; paid upgrade available

Simple and small, Panda Cloud Antivirus 2.0 is the very first cloud antivirus from Panda. This lightweight user interface allows free real-time antivirus protection, which you can use alongside other security tools without any issues. Though it’s the free version of a commercial product, few features of Panda are missing. But, the core antivirus protection remains the same and helps you to protect your computer even when you are at public wifi networks.
Pros: impressive performing antivirus that cleans system against new threats.
Cons: Doesn’t work well when you are not connected with Internet.

# 7) AVG Anti-Virus FREE 2014
Operating system: Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Price: Free; paid upgrade available

AVG Anti-Virus Free 2014 is a top-performing web security tool that has a good range of features—email scanner, identity theft protection, an antivirus engine and LinkScanner Surf-Shield to keep you computer clean and protected. True, that the program looks complex when you see for the first time, as it’s decorated with lot of tiles, menu entries and buttons. Though there are mixed reviews on its effectiveness and reliable part, this antivirus is a good choice.
Pros: It effectively helps in malware cleanup and Toolbar offers secure search option.
Cons: it’s difficult to install this antivirus on malware-infested computers.



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Microsoft Tells XP Users To Upgrade to Windows 8 Already


On April 8, as i’ve reported numerous times previously, Microsoft is officially pulling the plug on the operating system. The not-so-insignificant number of users running the legacy OS will still be able to use it, but they won’t be able to count on Microsoft for patches, updates, security fixes, and other forms of support past the cutoff date.

That’s not quite news. What is news, however, is Microsoft’s renewed efforts to convince these (stubborn?) users to switch over. We can only imagine that the flurry of communications, warnings, and outright insistence from Redmond will grow as we approach various milestones closer to the shutoff date.

At 60 days out, Microsoft’s big communication is a new blog post that asks tech-savvy readers to help out those who need a little assistance making the big switch.

“As a reader of this blog, it’s unlikely you are running Windows XP on your PC. However, you may know someone who is and have even served as their tech support. To help, we have created a special page on that explains what “end of support” means for people still on Windows XP and their options to stay protected after support ends on April 8th,” wrote Microsoft senior marketing communications manager Brandon LeBlanc.

He goes on to list some steps that Windows XP users should take prior to the big cutoff date. Namely, three steps: Purchase and install Windows 8, upgrade your computer to support Windows 8, or buy a new PC that… comes with Windows 8 preinstalled. Sensing a theme?

Of course, upgrading to Windows 8 from Windows XP requires users to manually save all their critical data prior to the switch; the process won’t automatically save your data for you. LeBlanc is quick to note that Microsoft’s own cloud storage service, SkyDrive (now OneDrive), doesn’t actually have a desktop client for Windows XP – ruling out dragging and dropping ones files to Microsoft’s cloud as a means of temporary data backup.

What LeBlanc doesn’t mention, however, is that Microsoft has officially extended Microsoft Security Essentials updates for Windows XP users through July 2015. That includes updates to the application as-is, as well as signatures updates for virus and malware detection. While that still doesn’t do much for those who would prefer an up-to-date operating system, it’s still a bit of a consultation prize for those planning to ignore Microsoft’s pleas and continue running XP post-cutoff.

Interestingly enough, LeBlanc left comments on his blog post, and a number of people are using it as an opportunity to blast Microsoft, blast Windows 8, and blast the XP cutoff.

“Honestly, this sounds more like a sales pitch for Windows 8.1 than any kind of interest in what is actually best for my friends and family. Had the article actually mentioned both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 as options, I would be able to take it more seriously,” wrote user “Naru.”

The plea comes as XP gained market share at the expense of Windows 8 in January, while HP started selling Windows 7 PCs again, which it said were back “by popular demand.”

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Windows 8 Downgrade to Windows 7

Although Microsoft’s latest operating system is gradually gaining acceptance, thanks largely to the Windows 8.1 update, there is no denying the fact that it isn’t for everyone. For those who want to wash their hands of Windows 8 and revert to Windows 7, it can be done, but the process involves quite a bit of planning. Here are some things to consider before you downgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 7.

Licensing and supportability

The first step in making the transition back to Windows 7 is to determine your organization’s license requirements and whether such a move is supported. If you purchased physical PCs with Windows 8 (or 8.1) Professional Edition, then Microsoft gives you the rights to downgrade to Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate. If you have a qualifying version of Windows 8, then you should be able to contact the PC OEM to obtain Windows 7 and the required product key.

If you have the basic edition of Windows 8, or if you purchased the Windows 8 license separately from your hardware, then you do not have any downgrade rights. You will have to purchase the required Windows 7 licenses outright. When you do, make sure that the installation media is included. Otherwise, you might receive a Windows 7 product key and nothing else.

Perform a hardware and software inventory

One of the most important steps in the downgrade process is to perform a comprehensive hardware and software inventory on the PCs that you are downgrading.

When performing a software inventory, there are three main things to look out for. First, check each application for Windows 7 compatibility. Don’t forget utility software such as antivirus agents.

Once you verify application compatibility, the next thing to check is whether you have a way of installing the software. You can’t insert a Windows 7 DVD into a Windows 8 machine and perform an automatic downgrade. Windows 7 requires a clean install. This also means that applications will have to be reinstalled. As such, you will need some sort of application media, whether it’s a DVD, a network distribution point, or something else.

Finally, check your application licenses. Some applications may require a new license key if they have previously been activated on a Windows 8 PC. This could end up costing a lot of money. It’s a good idea to determine the licensing requirements ahead of time. If any of the applications do require new licenses, you may be able to talk to the application publisher about your downgrade so as to avoid paying for new licenses.

As for the hardware inventory, you should go through the Device Manager and make a list of the hardware that is being used. You can then locate and download Windows 7 drivers for the hardware. If you are running Windows 8 on virtual PCs, you won’t have to worry about this step.

Make a backup before you move from Windows 8 to Windows 7

Just before you perform the downgrade, you should make a full backup of each desktop configuration. There are a number of things that can go wrong during the downgrade process, so it is important to have a backup to revert to Windows 8 should it become necessary to abort the downgrade. Incidentally, simply making a backup is not enough. It is equally important to test your backup.

Don’t forget about the boot configuration

A critical, but easily forgotten step in the downgrade process is to reconfigure your computer’s BIOS. Unlike previous versions of Windows, Windows 8 uses Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). You’ll to disable UEFI and enable legacy boot for Windows 7 to work properly. To do so, go to Settings, click PC Settings, and go to the General tab.

Then, click Advanced Startup and then click the UEFI Firmware Settings tile. You can now disable Secure Boot and enable Legacy Boot. This will allow Windows 7 to be installed. Of course, if you are running Windows 8 on virtual PCs, it will probably be easier to simply delete and recreate the virtual PCs than to change the boot type.

As you can see, there are a number of steps involved in downgrading to Windows 7, and the transition is often anything but smooth. It is a good idea to test the downgrade process in a lab environment before attempting it in your production environment.

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Users finally giving up on Windows XP

Microsoft is successfully guiding users away from Windows XP and up to Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 on new PCs, laptops, and other devices. XP’s market share dropped from 40 percent at the start of last year down to almost 29 percent currently, with more businesses abandoning the OS. Despite being an archaic OS, much less secure than 7 or 8/8.1, Microsoft set an end-of-support date of April 8, 2014.




Microsoft wants partners to focus on migrating users directly to 8, but customers have the option to downgrade pre-installed systems to 7 if they are interested in a non-touch OS. There were reports that IT managers weren’t taking migration seriously, and many casual users were unaware of potential security threats, but that stance is finally changing.

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Avira Free Antivirus 2014 Without Notifier Ads

Avira has released its 2014 line of products including Avira Antivirus Free 2014. If you are still using Avira Antivirus Free 2013 or any other product of Avira, you may like to download and install the latest version to keep yourself protected from latest threats and enjoy the new features offered in the new version.


The latest version of Avira Antivirus Free 2014 has removed the notifier ads that used to bug the users while running the free antivirus. If you have used Avira Free antivirus 2013, you must have noticed a large ad popup which insisted the user should buy the paid edition of Avira security product to get more features and get rid of ads.


Avira Antivirus


Here’s what Avira says on their own blog:


We also never liked it. We used it because we wanted to finance the Free Antivirus so that we continue to be able to offer free good quality security to the millions of users that are counting on it. But, soon we realized that despite the fact that it paid for a small percentage of the costs, it pushed away exactly the users for which we were striving to make the updates more frequent.


Here are some features of Avira Free Antivirus 2014:


  • Advanced real-time protection
  • AntiAd/AntiSpyware protection
  • Browser Tracking Blocker
  • Website Safety Advisor


For using the browser tracking blocker, you will need to install Avira Search Free Toolbar.


System requirements for Avira Free Antivirus 2014 are:


Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows XP (Both 32-bit and 64-bit systems are supported)


You need to have minimum of 1GB RAM, 1 GHz processor and 150 MB free space in the installation drive to install the antivirus.


Other requirements include administrator rights and internet connection for updating the antivirus to latest virus definitions.


Download Avira Free Antivirus 2014 (110 MB) [direct download link to offline installer]

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Windows 8.2 or 9 concept: Saving Windows from itself with a focus on ‘little things’

Ever since Windows 8 debuted in October 2012, PC users have been searching for ways to improve Microsoft’s struggling OS. The Redmond, Wash.-based company sent out its first wave of major Windows 8 updates through Windows 8.1, which brought some minor enhancements when it premiered a year after Windows 8. But while the OS looks and feels nothing like its previous iterations, the next major overhaul could bring Windows back to its design roots. Microsoft may still be months away from announcing what could be Windows 8.2 (or Windows 9)

The Classic Start Menu Returns

Microsoft brought back the Start button with Windows 8.1–but we have yet to see the familiar Windows Start menu. This will supposedly change with the next iteration of Windows. Sources have reportedly told Windows blogger Paul Thurrott that the traditional Windows Start menu will return. The feature is said to be optional, meaning that if you’re already accustomed to the Windows 8 “Modern UI” you won’t have to use it. It’s also possible that the Start menu functionality will only be compatible with product versions that support the desktop mode.If you don’t feel like waiting for Windows 8.2, there are several third-party apps that mirror the Start menu quite accurately, including Stardock Start 8 ($5) and Classic Shell.

Threshold: A More Unified Windows

The most prominent rumor surrounding the next version of Windows is its codename: Threshold. But the title is more than just an internal reference point– it’s a callback to one of Microsoft’s biggest franchises. Microsoft borrows this name from the planet around which the first halo ring orbited in the original “Halo” game, as Windows guru Mary Jo Foley reports. The Threshold update will reportedly include updates to three major platforms: the Xbox One, Windows and Windows Phone.  Thus, the codename refers to the “wave” of operating systems we’ll see across Windows-based phones, laptops, tablets and Xbox gaming consoles. Part of this unification includes a singular app store that will house applications for all of its operating systems, according to Foley.

Metro Apps on Your Desktop

In the next version of Windows, you may be able to run Metro apps in floating windows on the desktop. You can already do this today with third-party tools such as Modern Mix, but this functionality could be built into the OS soon enough. As is the case with the Windows Start Menu, Thurrott says this feature may also be optional.

Three Main Flavors

Despite Microsoft’s Julie Larson- Green saying that the company won’t “have three” versions of Windows in the future, there’s a chance we’ll see three different SKUs for the next Windows iteration. Foley reports that while Microsoft has a vision for a singular Windows core, there will still be multiple versions of the software. Sources have reportedly told the ZDNet columnist that there will be three main SKUs: a “modern” consumer version, a traditional PC iteration and an enterprise SKU.

The modern SKU is likely to appear on ARM-based Windows tablets and PCs, and could be part of a hybrid Windows Phone/Windows RT OS that Microsoft is rumored to be working on. The consumer SKU would target traditional PCs and will include a desktop mode like the current iteration of Windows 8.1, while the Enterprise SKU could end up being for volume licenses only. This Enterprise version would come with standard features targeted at businesses, including support for group policy and device management.

Release Date

Microsoft is expected to deliver an update to Windows 8.1 as early as Spring 2014, but we probably won’t see the next full version of Windows until Spring 2015. It was originally believed that a new version of Windows could launch in Fall 2014, but Foley writes that a trustworthy source says that seems “less and less likely.” While Microsoft could be prepping Windows “Threshold” for 2015, the company is likely to release the Windows 8.1 update alongside the rumored Windows “Blue” update in Spring 2014–which would align closely with Microsoft’s Build conference scheduled for April 2.


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