The release date is nearing for the comprehensive update to Windows 8, now known as Windows 8.1 and formerly known as Windows Blue.

The Windows 8.1 release date is October 17 - it will be available to existing Windows 8 users for free on Windows Update. It will be available to buy in retail from October 18 and has already been released to manufacturers (this stage is known as RTM). Volume licencees will be able to get their hands on it ahead of the update, too.

We've also had plenty of time with the new update and are running it every day, so check out our brand new Hands on: Windows 8.1 review. To whet everybody's appetite, Microsoft has released a preview version, called the Windows 8.1 Release Preview. It's now available to download.

The first Windows 8.1 laptops and Windows 8.1 tablets have already been announced, with numerous devices being launched already including Toshiba's Encore tablet, Dell Venue 8 Pro and Microsoft's Surface Pro 2. Surface 2 runs the new version of Windows RT, which is also known as Windows 8.1 RT. Then there are Dell's new Venue Pro tablets as well as the XPS 13 and 15.

The official confirmation from Microsoft came back in the Summer: "Today we are excited to share that starting at 12am on October 18 in New Zealand (that's 12:00pm in the UK and 4:00am in Redmond - October 17th).

Windows 8.1 will begin rolling out worldwide as a free update for consumers on Windows 8 through the Windows Store. Windows 8.1 will also be available at retail and on new devices starting on October 18 by market."

Windows 8.1 boxed copies are available for pre-order right now.

If you happen to be one of the small number of users who have a Windows RT device like Surface RT, we're sure you'll be thrilled to know that the Windows 8.1 update will also be coming to your device - check out our Hands on: Windows 8.1 RT review