Fancy having a peek at Windows 8.1, but put off by the idea of upgrading? Windows 8 UX Pack offers you a glimpse into the future of Windows without committing you to installing the full operating system. It basically skins Windows 7 to give it the distinctive look and feel of Windows 8.1, including the Metro theme, which basically uses a widget-like display to give you access to various tools and apps.

Although the UX Pack wraps things up nicely in its own installer, we’d still strongly recommend you have some kind of drive-imaging backup in place: Paragon Backup and Recovery Free is one such tool, or you could opt for a system rollback solution like Comodo Time Machine.

With your fail-safe backup in place, you’re free to proceed. When you install the program, you’ll first need to select the Windows 8.1 theme you want to apply (you can change this theme later after installation by re-running the setup program). Once it’s installed and applied you’ll have the distinctive feel of Windows 8.1 on your PC.

Your wallpaper and window furniture will have changed and you should notice the flatter, matt finish provided on scroll bars and progress indicators. There's the full Metro UI desktop emulated, giving access to Mosaic and the new Aero auto-colourisation. In short, you get a very pretty new desktop.

Sadly, a pretty desktop is more or less all there is: there are no major new functions here, and ultimately you’re overlaying a pretty new skin over the top of Windows 7. Once you're bored of the new look and feel, run the program again and select Uninstall to remove it. It's nice to pretend you have a brand new PC, but it's not really a patch on getting the real thing.

New UX Pack v9.1 features include:

- Added restarting UxStyle on startup to make sure it will always work properly
- Changed default wallpaper to ones shown from leaked Windows Threshold screenshots
- Changed Windows 7 themes back to Windows 8 RTM Theme by nasrodj
- Removed Aero Frame UI from default configuration for authentic Windows 8 UI looks
- Tweaked Modern/Metro themes with Glass support in Windows 7

Verdict

Windows 8 UX Pack gives an intriguing insight into the look and feel of Windows 8.1 but beauty is only skin deep.