Most readers of this site know all about the convoluted history of Windows 8.1 Update 2, which Microsoft recently demoted to the less interesting August 2014 update rollup. But now that this update is available, we can see that there are a few more new features that were not previously confirmed by Microsoft for some reason.
Obviously, Update 2—as I'll continue to accurately call it, Microsoft's public silliness over this be damned—isn't a major update like Update 1: that update added a number of useful new features, especially for users with traditional PCs. (Check out my Windows 8.1 Update 1 Review for a complete rundown.) But it's also not the complete loss we were led to believe when Microsoft pre-announced last week which features it would include.
At that time, Microsoft revealed that Update 2 would include exactly three new features:
Precision touchpad improvements. Three new settings for so-called precision trackpads in PC Settings (Modern) control panel: "Leave touch pad on when a mouse is connected," "Allow right-clicks on the touchpad," and "Double-tap and drag." I see these options on my Surface Pro 3, which apparently has a "precision trackpad" in its Type Cover. But my 2012-era Ultrabook does not, so I don't see those options there. Boo.
Miracast Receive APIs. A set of Wi-Fi Direct Discoverability APIs for Windows that will enable developers to create desktop applications will let your PC (x86/x64 only, obviously) become a Miracast receiver.
Fewer login prompts for SharePoint Online. A reduction in the number of prompts you get when accessing SharePoint Online sites courtesy of a new "Keep me signed in" option.
Aside from the trackpad bit—which I need desperately—there's nothing particularly compelling there. But now that Update 2 is available on Windows Update and Microsoft has documented the release on its support web site, we discover there are some more new features:
Settings changes for Update and Recovery. This feature modifies the Windows Update (Modern) control panel to display textual information about the most recent update check and the last date updates were installed.
Ruble symbol update. This feature adds new Ruble currency support for input and rendering.
Out-of-date ActiveX control blocking. Microsoft did actually announce this previously, but it wasn't clear that the feature was part of Update 2 for Windows 8.1. Now, Internet Explorer will tell you when it finds and blocks parts of webpages that are loading out-of-date ActiveX controls, especially Java. You will also be prompted to update the control so you can safely browse the web.
Video capture metadata for MP4 APIs. This set of APIs lets developers to read and write the "Date taken" and GPS data on MP4 files in Windows Runtime (Modern) apps and Win32 desktop applications. (As such, it is not an end-user feature.)
Still not that impressive, I know. But it's nice to finally have a complete understanding of this update. And I'm curious if there isn't more hidden in there.
If you are using Windows 8.1, you will need to manually download Update 2 because, for some reason, it is currently published as an optional update.
To do so, visit the (Modern) Windows Update control panel (PC Settings, Update and Recovery, Windows Update), and tap the Check now button. When Windows Update is done checking for available updates, tap the "View details" link. On the View Details screen, you'll see an entry in the Optional section called "Update for Windows 8.1 for x64 (or x86)-based Systems (KB2975719)." (If you have a lot of updates to install, it could be a ways down the screen.)
Select that update and then tap the Install button at the top of the screen.