Windows 8.1 system requirements remained almost unchanged compared to its previous version as well as Windows 7. However, Windows 8.1 Update brings many positive changes in terms of OS deployment.
Microsoft has introduced a new installation mode called Windows Boot Image (WIMBoot) that allows you to deploy the OS quickly leaving more space for apps and data. Now, Windows 8.1 requires 1GB of RAM and about 3GB of space, encouraging OEMs to build budget Windows 8.1 devices with smaller disks such as 16 or 32GB.
In a nutshell, the traditional method extracts all files from an image file (WIM file) on disk while WIMBoot option extracts a few key files (pointer files) and copy the WIM file (read-only) on disk for workings as well as for the recovery operations.
The standard partition layout has two system partitions (ESP and MSR), a Windows partition and two recovery partitions. Whereas, the WIMBoot option doesn’t require two recovery partitions, and copies all images (install.wim and winre.wim) in a single partition. And Windows partition contains all pointer files that “point” to the corresponding compressed files in the recovery partition.
To leverage the benefits of WIMBoot, the device must be Windows 8 logo-certified (requires UEFI) with SSDs or eMMC storage. Moreover, it’s available for client editions of Windows 8.1 with Windows 8.1 Update only (not server versions).
In addition, Windows 8.1 Update also includes desktop tweaks such as the ability to boot to desktop by default, context menu on Start, power and search button on Start, pin-ability for Windows store apps, OneDrive, OneNote and Internet Explorer 11 with Enterprise mode to ensure compatibility with old corporate sites.
Unlike Windows 8.1 upgrade, the update is available via Windows Update starting from April 8th.