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Windows 8.1 preview revealed, Start menu is back

Click here for everything you need to know about Microsoft's new Windows 8.1 -- featuring the return of the Start menu.

It's new, it's improved, it's Windows 8.1. Microsoft has taken the wraps off the first big update for its next-generation operating system -- and the Start menu is back. Sort of.

We've had a look at the  improved Windows 8.1, which includes the return of some familiar features. Check out our in-depth preview here, or read on for the highlights you need to know about.

The much-missed Start menu in the bottom left hand corner brings back some of the familiar options and shortcuts that had been moved elsewhere. It's not entirely the same as the Start menu on Windows XP or 7 that you probably know so well, but it is something of a compromise.

You can also start up straight to your desktop, bypassing the colourful but controversial home screen altogether.

The search option, pictured above, is just one of the features that's been souped up. Check out our picture gallery to see the new features in action.

Windows 8 has been slow to win hearts and minds, drawing flak for its bold new look. Some manufacturers have even gone so far as to blame the new software for slowing PC sales. To make up your own mind, download the preview here. The full public release is coming later in the year.

Are you waiting for Windows 8.1 with bated breath? What do you think of the changes? Tell me your thought in the comments or on our Facebook page.