Microsoft-Windows-8.1Microsoft continues to finalize its Windows 8.1 update, but the company revealed today that it plans to make it available on October 18th. The free update will be listed in the Windows Store for existing Windows 8 users at 7AM ET on October 17th, with boxed copies, new hardware, and a full retail release on October 18th. The final copy of Windows 8, known as Release to Manufacturing (RTM), is expected to be made available to PC makers and partners in the coming weeks.

Windows 8.1 includes a number of improvements over the Windows 8 release. Microsoft is bringing the Start button back with the 8.1 update, improving multitasking, and tweaking its UI for smaller Live Tiles and 7- and 8-inch tablets. Although Microsoft won’t say what types of new hardware will be made available on October 18th, we’re expecting to see a number of new smaller Windows 8.1 devices in the coming months.

Windows 8.1 has been available in a preview edition since late June. Users who’ve installed the preview already have a good idea what’s in store for the final version.

Designed for both PCs and touch-screen devices, Windows 8 has proven a hit-or-miss affair with its dueling Modern and desktop approach. Some love it, others hate it. Either way, Windows 8.1 is Microsoft first attempt to make the OS more palatable than its predecessor.