Windows 8.1 Launches Digitally October 17, Hits Store Shelves October 18

Microsoft is making its Windows 8.1 launch date official: mark October 18 on your calendars, you devotees of Ballmer and Redmond. That’s when the free update for Windows 8 users arrives in-store as boxed software, according to the official Microsoft Windows blog, and new hardware available in stores will have it installed on the 18th as well. If you’re shopping digitally, you get access to the updated OS a day earlier, too.

The update rollout begins October 18 at midnight New Zealand time, which means 4AM PT on October 17 if you’re operating on clocks located in our neck of the woods, but boxed copies and new devices only arrive the next day. That means Windows 8 users get an advantage of a few whole hours to play around with the new software!

What do you get on the 18th (or 17th, depending)? A redesigned user experience that features a new Start button (which isn’t a Start button) as well as an option to default boot to the old-school desktop, among a number of other improvements like native 3D printer support.