Windows 8.1

At its Build 2013 conference, Microsoft released a Preview version of Windows 8.1 for PCs and tablets.

Update: It seems that for some bizarre reason, the WIndows 8.1 Preview won't install for users on English (UK). It's not one of the 13 supported languages meaning you can't install via the Windows Store. You can intsall it but you'll need to do it from an ISO.

The latest version of Windows, version 8.1, is now available to download for users to give a trial run. Previously known as Windows Blue, a new version number of the operating system is an alternative to the traditional service pack and puts it more in-line with OS X, iOS and Android in that respect.

See also: What is Windows Blue? Windows Blue release date, Windows 8.1 details, features.

Microsoft said: "today we are providing an opportunity for people to take a first-hand look at many of the new features and improvements with the Windows 8.1 Preview."

Windows 8.1 adds a number of improvements and features to the operating system. For starters the Start screen is more customisable with more live tile sizes available and there are more colours and backgrounds to choose from.

In a way, the Start button has returned to Windows. The new Start 'tip' isn't exactly the same, though, as it simply is another way besides the Charms Bar to get to the Start screen. See also: Microsoft to bring back Start button in Windows 8.1.

Brandon LeBlanc, Communications Manager at Microsoft said: "the best part is my Start screen customizations, apps, and files get synced across all my Windows 8.1 PCs and tablets, which is awesome. If I change my Start screen, install new apps, pin new apps to my Start screen on one PC – that all gets synced to my other PCs."

Microsoft said there are more apps and enhanced cloud integration with SkyDrive. And there are other tweaks including slideshows on the Lock screen and more freedom in Snap View multi-tasking.

As previously announced, Windows 8.1 will be a free download via the Windows Store when it launches fully later this year.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.