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Windows 8 used the most minimalistic version of the Windows Store you could get, but it wasn’t very user-friendly. So much so that there were a number of websites that were touted as an alternative to the Windows 8 Store. Now, with Windows 8.1, the new Windows Store loses its simplicity but gains much need functionality.

The Windows Store is one of the few ways to get Microsoft-approved apps for your Windows 8 computer. Previously, the simple design made it difficult to find what you were exactly looking for. Microsoft has retracted the easy to use UI to focus on better functionality and integrate the intuitive nature of Windows Smart Search into its store.

Here’s how the new Windows Store works.

Getting Started With the New Windows 8.1 Store

The Windows Store will automatically be updated whether you upgraded or installed Windows 8.1.

Open the Windows Store app, and you’ll be introduced to its new, vibrant layout.

The differences are jarring, so take a moment to get used to it. It’s not your simple Windows Store anymore, and trust me, that’s a good thing.

Open the Charms Bar, and click “Settings.”

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Then, click on “Your account.”

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This allows you to set the default Microsoft Account associated with the Windows Store, as well as add your payment information so you can buy apps.

Without being linked to a Microsoft Account and having a credit card on the file, you can’t buy Windows Store apps. You can also change whether you’re prompted for the password each and every time you buy a Windows Store app.

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You’ll also be able to enter redemption codes you may have received from Microsoft or elsewhere.

You can also see how many PCs are connected to the Microsoft Account; you can remove them as you see fit.

Setting Up Proper Preferences

From the Settings menu, click on “Preferences.”

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Preferences allow you to set a few key options to make it easier to find apps in the Windows Store, such as focusing on apps in your preferred language, accessibility-based apps and whether or not the Windows Store keeps tabs on your apps to recommend new ones to you.

Once more from the settings, click on “App updates.”

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You can turn on automatic updates for your computer as well as manually check for updates. You can also sync your app licenses from here which will ensure that when coupled with your Microsoft Account, allows you to have the most up-to-date information for your apps when you access them on another Windows 8 computer.

A final time, open “Permissions” from the Settings for the Windows Store.

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This allows you to turn on or off notifications from apps. This can be useful if you feel like you’re using too many apps that tell you too many things during the day.

How To Use The Windows Store

Now that you’ve set up the Windows Store, you can truly begin using it.

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When you first open the new Windows Store, you’ll see a featured app that changes throughout the day. You’ll also see Picks for you which are recommendations on apps you should use based on your app history in Windows 8.

Navigation Options

Scrolling to the right will show you Popular now section. These are some of the most popular app downloads in the Windows Store.

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The New Releases section shows new additions to the Windows Store.

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The Top paid category shows you the most popular apps you have to pay for.

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Top free shows you the most popular apps that are free to use in Windows 8.

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To the far right of the Windows Store, you’ll find a Search box. While you can always search for apps directly from the Start screen, you can also search for apps here.

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If you type in a query before hitting enter or clicking the “Magnifying Glass Icon,” you’ll see a drop-down menu of the most relevant results. You can click on any of them to go directly to the app download page or you can click enter to get a list of apps that match the results.

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You can sort the results of the search query the same way you did in the Windows Store app in Windows 8.

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Many more Categories have been added to the Windows Store, making it that much easier to narrow down the results. You can also still sort by price and relevance related to the search query.

Downloading Apps

Clicking on any app will take you to the download page.

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The layout for this has changed completely and is jam-packed with even more useful information.

If you scroll to the right, you’ll see ratings for the app.

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Then, you’ll see the reviews.

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You can click on any review to read more about what that person thought. This can be a very beneficial way to learn more about an app not provided by the developer.

More scrolling reveals the details about the app, such as what permissions it needs, any notes you need to be aware of and what languages the app supports.

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You’ll also be given a list of related apps along with more apps by the original developer.

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On the main page for the app, you can install it at any time by clicking “Install.”

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The process begins immediately, and you’ll be notified in the upper right-hand corner when the app has been successfully installed.

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In the ten apps we tested to see if there was, in fact, a speed improvement in installing apps in Windows 8.1, it appeared most apps installed in under 10 seconds which sure beats the slow app installation speeds in Windows 8.

Why The Windows 8.1 Store Is Better Than The Previous Version

The Windows Store upgrade in Windows 8.1 has made significant improvements that make it better than its Windows 8 counterpart, such as:

  • Completely new UI takes true advantage of the Windows 8 Modern environment
  • New categories of apps narrows down exactly where each app fits to make it easier to find
  • Improvements in speed make it more efficient to download apps
  • Search take on the Smart Search filters to make results more accurate

Troubleshooting Windows Store Issues

Windows Store Times Out When Trying To Open

After upgrading or installing Windows 8.1, you may have the Windows Store time out on your as you try to open the app. If this occurs, there could be a variety of factors involved, including a change in app settings, an issue with time settings or even a misused proxy connection. Microsoft lists troubleshooting steps for all three scenarios here.

Windows Update 2864247 has been released to address the above issue.  Make sure to run Windows Update ASAP to correct this issue.  You will need to restart your PC afterward, then launch the Windows Store to see the effect.

Authentication Issues With Windows Store Apps

If you’ve experienced issues with authentication of apps in Windows, it’s possible this could be a conflict with the Enterprise version of Windows 8.  Windows Update 2863846 will correct these authentication issues.  Again, run Windows Update and update your PC as necessary.  After restarting, you should be able to install these apps without issue.

Apps Not Added To Correct App View Category

After downloading an app, you may see that it’s not in the proper category in the Start screen’s All App View.  If this is the case, Windows Update 2863721 will fix this after a restart of your computer.

Can’t Sign Into Google Accounts With Certain Apps

You may experience issues trying to link Google Accounts to certain apps, such as the Windows Mail app, if this is the case, a hotfix (Windows Update KB2864806) has been applied to correct the authentication issues.

Windows Store App Instability After An App Update In Windows 8.1 Preview

After updating Windows Store apps, it’s possible that they crash on start.  It may take a few times for the app to open.  With Windows Update KB2866537, this corrects the issue in Windows 8.1.

Conclusion

When Windows 8 came out, the Windows Store looked like it was thrown together the day before the OS shipped. Now, the Windows Store has the look and feel it deserved from the start. It’s much easier and efficient to find the type of app you’re looking for now, whether you search from the Windows Store itself or with Smart Search.

Microsoft discussed the idea of enhanced apps for use in Windows 8.1, and the Bing Health & Fitness as well as the Bing Food & Drink apps are two examples of what you can expect to see in the future.

Please Note: Windows 8, and the Windows Store, are still a work in progress. If you notice anything odd going on, let us know in the comments. We’d love to try to troubleshoot any issues you’re having to get you on track.