Head-to-head: How do Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 compare?

Not sure which is best for you? We compare Windows 8.1 with the latest operating system, Windows 10.

Windows 8 and 8.1 are two of Microsoft’s least popular operating systems, making any follow-up a huge task. To put this into perspective, 8 and 8.1 combined are only on 7.23% of machines, which is marginally more than the ancient XP operating system, which sits on 6.13% of PCs, according to NetMarketShare.

Windows 8.1 specifically is on about 5.94% or machines at the moment, which means some people turned down the chance to get Windows 10 for free when it first came out.

The prospect of changing from a familiar computing setup to the unknown might have put some people off upgrading, on top of the fact it is no longer free. So we’ve compared and contrasted Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 so you can get a better feel of how they match up.

And don’t forget, you can read our Windows 7 vs Windows 10 piece for more comparisons.


Windows 10 design

Microsoft gives Windows a visual refresh with every update, but those transitioning from version 8.1 to version 10 shouldn’t find it too much of a shock to the system.

Windows 10 has kept the bold colours, tiles and large-button approach to make it friendly for touch screens – except the full-screen approach has been drastically reduced.

You’ll no longer be welcomed with the Start Screen and instead you’ll get a more traditional desktop. The Charms bar has also gone.

The Start Menu

Start on Windows 8.1

The Start Menu is back! No longer will you be subjected to the Start Screen approach which caused uproar – but for those who preferred the full screen, Microsoft has made the option available to you (watch our video here to see how easy it is to change).

The tiles on the Start Menu look and act pretty much the same as they did on the Start Screen for 8.1, so there’s no difference there.


Search on Windows 8.1

Microsoft has scrapped the Search charm on 8.1, which you would find by swiping in from the right edge of your screen and clicking Search.

On Windows 10, you have the Cortana personal assistant at your disposal at the bottom of your screen next to the Start Button. Not only does it handle searches, but it can also be used to manage your calendar dates and other scheduling.

But like the Search charm, you can search for both documents on your PC and on the web using Bing.


Windows 10 notifications

On Windows 8.1, notifications would appear in the top right of your screen, then disappear – much like previous incarnations of Windows but from the bottom left.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has completely changed things with a so-called ‘Action Centre’. Notifications will continue to appear, but they’ll be stored in the Action Centre until they’re dismissed, which is great if you’re never quick enough to act on a notification before it disappears. It also brings up emails, and provides you with options such as Tablet Mode, Battery Saver and more at the bottom.

Find out how to get the most from Action Center.

Internet Explorer and Edge

Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge

One of the more notable program changes to come with Windows 10 is the arrival of an all-new browser, Microsoft Edge.

Although Internet Explorer 11 is still about to use as you please, Edge is faster, cleaner and has new features such as a Reading List for saving articles to read later when you’re without an internet connection.

For more details about Microsoft Edge, click here.


Windows 8.1 apps

Apps continue to be a central part of Windows, something 8.1 users will be accustomed to.

The dedicated Windows Store lets you find and download a range of apps onto your machine, and they work pretty much the same on both operating systems.

The apps may be for things you can easily access from a web browser, such as Facebook or Netflix, but the idea is that it’s quicker to access and requires less loading time.

What’s more, Microsoft has developed a new framework for apps known as ‘universal apps’. This allows developers to make apps that work on different size screens, from PC to mobile. So you can expect a greater selection of apps than on Windows 8.1.

 There are some glaring software losses with Windows 10 however, such as lack of DVD playback support. But there is a way around that, which you can discover here.

Watch - Still worried about Windows 10? We debunk some of the key issues:

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