On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that Windows 8.1 has reached its final “Release to manufacturing” stage and has, well, been released to manufacturers for inclusion in the annual blitz of holiday hardware. News of Windows 8.1’s RTM status first broke this weekend.
What does this mean for you? Nothing, yet. While manufacturers have their paws on the final version of Windows 8.1 today, the free update won’t appear in the Windows Store until October 17, with boxed discs and third-party hardware appearing on physical store shelves the day after.
Think hard before you install the Windows 8.1 preview, though. If you opt for the preview available in the Windows Store, your apps—though not your personal data—will be wiped when you install the final build in October. Since that’s just a couple of months away, you’d probably be better off grabbing the ISO files of Windows 8.1 that Microsoft has made available and running it in a virtual machine, instead.
Read this primer for a tutorial on how to get Windows running in a VM. (Yes, the link leads to an article about installing the Windows 8 preview in VirtualBox, but the core procedure remains the same for Windows 8.1.)