When the Windows 8.1 Preview was released back in June, I opted to pass on the opportunity to install it on the Surface Pro because I didn't want to go through the aggravation of re-installing all of my desktop applications when the final version is released next month.
That decision was vindicated yesterday when Microsoft released the RTM bits early to Technet and MSDN subscribers.
Before committing any changes to the Surface Pro, I decided to try out a couple of different installation scenarios.
First, I installed 8.1 on a laptop where I had previously installed the Preview and it was a significant hassle: uninstalling the Preview, re-installing Windows 8 and finally installing the update.
My second installation was over my principal desktop system, a Windows 8 machine that's been acting up in recent months. Installation on this pc was relatively slow, but when all was said and done, all my desktop applications were left intact so I felt confident enough to move onto the tablet. (It's been about 18 hours since the update and the pc is running very well compared to the freezing and crashing several times per day that I've been enduring for quite some time.)
The Amazon DVD reader I wrote about earlier came in handy during installation. I could have run the nearly 4GB Windows 8.1 ISO file from disk, but I didn't want to risk running out of room on my crowded system disk, which only had about 10 GB free at the time of install.
Setup took about an hour and once again all desktop applications were left intact.
However, as I had feared, the new system files overwrite the all-important Intel HD 4000 and Wacom feel IT drivers. The former are required for OpenGL applications like Sculptris and Mischief. Without the Wacom drivers, the Surface Pro was unresponsive to pen input.
My recommendation is that you download the driver files and store them safely before you begin the Windows 8.1 installation. There's no sense risking being without pen input in the event your connection goes down or something else goes wrong with your update.
With the drivers installed, everything is a-ok and all the software that ran previously runs perfectly now. As happens after every major OS update, the system feels very responsive and I used the opportunity to clean up several old programs and deleted expired trialware and unnecessary x86 versions.
UPDATE: Remember to turn off Automatic Updates and hide June hardware fix or Windows will automatically overwrite your Intel drivers.
I'll leave it to other tech pundits to discuss the many new features of 8.1. One of my favorites is the start screen customization which allowed me to display four rows of tiles with the flick of a software switch. Previously, this required a registry hack.
From here on out, any new software tests I perform will be for Windows 8.1 so I will be writing a new "What Runs, What Doesn't Windows 8.1 Edition" feature in the near future.