Unnamed sources said earlier this week that Windows 8.1 Update 1 has gone RTM, or Release to Manufacturing. These sources also said that Microsoft has begun sharing Update 1 with its partners and PC makers. Russian leaker WZor added that the final update to Update 1 was compiled on February 21.
As it stands now, there's no official launch date for Update 1, although a number of reports claim it will be on the first day of BUILD 2014, or sometime in April after the conference. Either way, the update is coming soon, and for some, it's already here.
Thanks to Microsoft's own Windows Update service, links to the final version of the Update 1 download were discovered. Microsoft's links are posted on the MyDigitalLife forum for anyone to download, and consist of six files total. Downloaders must grab the files that match their hardware (x86, x64, ARM), and they must download the files in the listed order.
For those that suspect foul play, there's a way to tweak the registry so that Windows Update actually lists the update now. Several system patches are required to be installed first before the big Update 1 can be installed on the system.
Naturally we recommend that you wait for Microsoft to release Update 1 next month. It's probably safe to say that the update isn't worth causing software and hardware problems. Of course, the DIY crowd may take this as a challenge, and will give these methods a try. Nevertheless, be careful.
For Microsoft, seemingly most of the work that went into the update were to address some of the issues traditional desktop users are facing. Early leaks revealed that the company will allow users to pin Metro apps to the taskbar. There will also be a new search button for all machines, and a shutdown button on the Start screen for non-touch machines.
Leaks have also indicated that Microsoft has lowered the system requirements in Update 1, allowing device makers to create Windows 8.1 tablets with only 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. They also claim that Microsoft is trying to reduce Windows 8.1's footprint on the hard drive, which points right back to the new lowered space on mobile devices.
Additional leaks have shown that Windows 8.1 will automatically bypass the Start screen and boot into desktop by default if installed on a device that doesn't have a touch screen. Otherwise touch-based devices will boot into the Start screen unless the user manually sets the bypass.
UPDATE: Sources are reporting that Microsoft has caught on to the registry trick and is blocking some of the required updates, but installing the service packs directly still works, according to our own Don Woligroski's efforts.