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Microsoft Download Center BETA: Improved or Just Changed?

written by: KateG•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/31/2008

The most popular place to get your Windows based downloads is going through some serious changes. Is it just a new design or is there more involved here?

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    A New Look and More Organization for the MS Download Center

    Have you ever needed to get a download for your Windows system, but you weren’t quite sure where to find what you needed? Perhaps you need an update for one of your programs. Maybe a free trial of a game is more your style. Either way, I have the solution for you.

    Getting updates and downloads used to be a bit of a hassle. The Microsoft Download Center has made this task a lot simpler. You can get all of your downloads for Windows in one place.

    While the download center itself is nothing new, they are making some pretty radical changes. The new site is currently in open beta testing. You can check it out by visiting the main page of the download center. A pop up will appear that asks you if you would like to access the beta. Choose the “yes" option, and you will be taken to the beta version.

    The beta is mostly about the redesign of the site. Aside from the cosmetic changes, the most noticeable change is the reorganization of the download center.

    The new beta site is based on a recent Microsoft development called Silverlight. This allows for a more interactive experience. In the beta version, it is only supported for Internet Explorer users. The full version is slated to be supported for all of the Windows browsers. This includes the new Safari browser for Windows.

    The download center has a wide variety of categories. You can get security updates, drivers, codecs, and trials of popular games for the PC. These are just a few of the more than two dozen categories.

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    Why Should I Use the Download Center?

    Well, for two reasons. First, it centralizes all of your downloads which will save you browsing time. Secondly, it vets your downloads. The downloads are pre-screened which means you can feel safe.

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    How Needed is Silverlight?

    If you want to try out the beta site, you will need to have Silverlight installed on your computer. Don’t worry if you do not have it already. The Silverlight download is free, and the beta page will give you the chance to download it right away. If you want to know a bit more about Silverlight in general, you can check out this article here on Bright Hub.

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    Categories for Download

    Here are some of the major categories that you will find in the redesigned download center.

    • Games – Trials of games that you can play on your Windows PC. You can get trials of major releases like Halo for the PC, as well as some lesser known titles.
    • DirectX – Anything and everything that runs on Direct X. This includes not only the updates but also SDKs and Media Packs.
    • Internet – This has plug ins for your browser as well as BETAs of new browser editions. This also includes updates for Windows Messenger.
    • Windows Security & Updates – Everything that you need in order to keep your system secure. Also, there are some great tools for removing malicious code to be found here.
    • Windows Media – New versions of Windows Media Player as well as additions like useful Codecs.
    • Drivers – Everything that you need to run your Windows based perpihals. If you lost your install disk, this is a good place to start.
    • Home & Office – This sections houses add ons for the Microsoft Office suite as well as the popular 'Viewer' programs that allow you to read Office documents without Microsoft Office.
    • Mobile Devices – Anything you need for a Windows based PDA or smart phone. Software to help you sync, hook up to a server, or play media can be found here.
    • Mac & Other Platforms – Software updates for the few Microsoft products that have made the crossover to the Apple platform.
    • System Tools – Utilities and tools to keep your computer, or your network running at its peak efficiency.
    • Development Resources – All the programs that you would need to write a Windows based program can be found here. This section hosts the popular OOP platform, Visual Basic.