If you’re coming to Windows 8.1 from Windows 7, I’ve got bad news: in this latest Windows version, Microsoft has badly melded a mobile OS into the desktop version of Windows, and it has removed key user interfaces you’ve come to know and master. The software giant is fixing these problems in Windows 10, but you don’t need to wait. Using some free or inexpensive utilities, you can make Windows 8.1 look and work more like Windows 7 today.
And here’s some more good news: While the original shipping version of this new OS, called Windows 8, took an even more hardline stance on the new user interfaces, Microsoft has since stepped back from the cliff via free updates such as Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update 1. That is, it has begun reversing some of the most-hated features of Windows 8.x that made this OS so unsettling to users of previous Windows versions. So to get these changes, all you need to do is upgrade through Windows Update.
Without a doubt, the most unfamiliar (and, for some, most annoying) feature of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 is its tile-based Start screen. Where Windows 7 lets you choose from a list of applications by pulling up the Start menu, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 make you go to a completely separate screen just to launch an application or conduct a search. Windows 8.1 places a Start button in the lower left corner of the screen, but don’t be fooled; it does nothing more than take you back to the same tile-based Start screen when you click it.
There are a number of third-party Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 Start menu apps including the free Classic Shell and you can choose one of them.
With Windows 8, Microsoft took away the attractive translucent Aero glass effects and style many people love in Windows 7. Instead, the company made the desktop theme flat, solid and a little bit boring. While you can’t get all of the translucent effects back, you can get a very similar look to Windows 7’s default theme.