Windows 8.1 preview is out today, but don't install it over your current system

"Windows 8.1 is Windows 8 refined" but the preview is only for "experienced" PC users

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Microsoft is showing off Windows 8.1, the company's update to Windows 8, which brings start to desktop, a new start screen button, adjustable multi-screen snapping, and more. It looks, actually, great and you can download it for free here. My advice, though: Don't. At least not yet.

The reason: According to the Windows 8.1 Preview FAQs, not all of your file and settings will stick around when you install the preview. Also, as we've mentioned before, this is just a preview. When you install the final (also free) version of Windows 8.1 which is due in the fall, you'll need to reinstall all your apps--both desktop and Modern UI ones.

So if you want to give it a try (and, really, it does look like there are quite a few great enhancements), install the preview in a virtual machine using something like VirtualBox or in a separate partition you can wipe later. Windows 8.1 ISO files will supposedly be available within the next day.

Microsoft "strongly" recommends only experienced PC users to give the preview a try. Their FAQs warn:

Windows 8.1 Preview and Windows RT 8.1 Preview are stable and have been thoroughly tested, but aren't the finished product. Your PC could crash and you could lose important files. You should back up your data and you shouldn't test the preview on your primary home or business PC.

In other words, like other beta software.

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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