Windows 11 was first released in October 2021, but Microsoft has been making constant additions and changes to its OS since then.
The company began adding new features within weeks, before lots of new functionality was added in a February 2022 update. But Windows 11 only officially gets one major update per year, reflected in the new name for its latest feature update: simply the ‘2022 Update’, rather than the ’22H2′ we might have been expecting.
Whatever you decide to call it, the update is officially available now. But as usual, the rollout will be gradual – if you’re running older hardware, it may be weeks or even months before your device is eligible. However, if you’re happy with an earlier build, there is another way to start using it. Here’s everything you need to know.
When was the Windows 11 2022 Update released?
Following plenty of speculation and weeks of testing via the Windows Insider Program, Microsoft officially released the 2022 Update on 20 September 2022. In a blog post, the company confirmed it’s available in more than 190 countries around the world.
However, that doesn’t mean you can download it on your Windows 11 device yet. As was the case with Windows 10 updates, expect a gradual rollout taking several months. Newer hardware will be prioritised, but all Windows 11 devices will get it eventually.
But if you want to try out the 2022 Update before it’s available, there is an alternative. An early build has been available via the Windows Insider Program since June, meaning anyone with a Windows 11 device can install the update now. There’ll be some subtle differences between this and the final version, but all the key features are there and it’s stable enough to install on your main computer.
Looking further ahead, Windows Central suggests there’ll be another significant update before the end of 2022. This is expected to add more features that haven’t made it into the 2022 Update, and could arrive as early as October.
It’s expected to be the first step in Microsoft’s new ‘Moment’ approach to updates, which will see new features added ever few months rather than all at once. If true, it’d mean the 2023 Update (23H2) will be replaced with several smaller updates. According to rumours, we could then see Windows 12 released in 2024.
How to get the Windows 11 2022 Update now
The 2022 Update is officially available, meaning some Windows 11 devices will be able to install it now. To check, just head to Settings > Windows Update and click ‘Check for updates’ like you normally would. You may have to install any existing updates before it shows up.
But for most people, it won’t be available yet. If you don’t want to wait, an earlier version of the 2022 Update is available via the Windows Insider Program now. Anyone with a Windows 11 device can sign up and try out new updates before they’re officially released.
Just head to insider.windows.com and sign in with the same Microsoft account you use on your Windows 11 device. Then open Settings > Windows Update > Windows Insider Program and click ‘Get started’. Follow the instructions here, making sure you link the relevant account and choose the Release Preview Channel to access the 2022 Update.
Moving forward, you may want to switch to the Beta/Dev channels or opt out completely. Just click the drop-down next to ‘Choose your Insider settings’ or ‘Leave the insider program’ and follow the instructions.
Are all Windows 11 devices compatible with the 2022 Update?
Yes. Microsoft controversially updated the hardware requirements for Windows 11, excluding plenty of older hardware. There’s no indication of that being repeated anytime soon, especially with a feature update.
If you installed Windows 11 on a compatible device using an officially supported method, you will get the 2022 Update eventually. You may be waiting a while, but there is the option to go via the Windows Insider Program.
What new features does the Windows 11 2022 Update include?
Microsoft has been teasing new Windows 11 features throughout 2022, many of which have been available to test via the Windows Insider Program. But in a blog post announcing the 2022 Update, the full range was revealed.
Accessibility has long been a priority for Microsoft, and this update aims to make Windows 11 even easier to use. The ‘Pinned’ area within Start menu can now be resized and supports folders, while Widgets have supposedly been tweaked to improve news coverage. Tabs in File Explorer are also on the way, but they won’t be added until a subsequent October update.
Both these apps are in the taskbar by default, so will benefit from another key feature: drag-and-drop. This was removed with the introduction of Windows 11 after being a staple of Windows 10, but it’s great to see its return now.
But the most significant accessibility feature is Live Captions. As the name suggests, this can automatically generate captions from any audio content you play throughout Windows 11.
The 2022 Update adds a preview of the Voice Access, which allows you control your entire device and compose text using just your voice. Narrator, Windows 11’s screen reader feature, has also been updated with voices which are designed to be more natural.
Windows 11’s Snap Layouts multitasking feature has been a real hit, allowing users to easily arrange windows on a screen of any size. The 2022 Update makes it easier to use with touch input and adds support for individual tabs within Microsoft’s Edge browser.
Talking of touch input, the 2022 Update introduces several new touchscreen gestures that improve navigation without a cursor and keyboard. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen opens the Start menu, while swiping in from the right lets you access Quick Settings. Using three fingers, you can also swipe down to minimise apps and left or right to move between open ones. This is similar to what you’ll find on iPads and Android tablets, and it shows that Microsoft is taking touch input seriously.
To help you stay on task, Windows 11’s Focus Assist feature is now directly integrated into the Quick Settings menu. When you start a timer here, Do Not Disturb will automatically be enabled, turning off all notifications (except those you specifically allow).
Video calls remain crucial to many people, something Microsoft has recognised. Whether you use the integrated webcam or connect an external accessory, the Settings menu includes new options to get things looking just right – variety of different ‘Camera Effects’ are available. Separately, a ‘Voice Focus’ feature uses AI to filter out background noise.
If you’re editing video that’s been captured, Windows 11 has a new built-in app to help you do that. Clipchamp is free to use for video up to 1080p, although there are plenty of premium features available if you’re willing to pay $11.99/£9.99 per month.
Gaming and Windows 11 go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise to see a separate Xbox blog post on the 2022 Update’s new features. They include a new Controller Bar for easy access to recently played games and launchers using a controller, plus improvements to the Xbox Cloud Gaming experience using Microsoft Edge.
Elsewhere, Auto HDR and variable refresh rate (VRR) are being expanded to support games that aren’t running full screen, alongside significant improvements to display latency. There’s also a new HDR Calibration app to help improve colour accuracy and consistency.
Security updates were perhaps inevitable, and they include a new Smart App Control feature which will prevent untrusted apps from launching. There are still ways to use them, of course, but this warning could be crucial. Similarly, Microsoft Defender’s new SmartScreen can alert users when Microsoft credentials are being entered into a site or service that can’t be trusted.
For people who pay for Microsoft 365, there’s also the option to manage your subscription within Settings. This is where you can add payment information and see when you’ll next be charged, rather than having to go via the website.
Within Settings, you’ll also find a new Family Safety page and the option to have the Bing daily image as your desktop wallpaper.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the new features in the 2022 Update. But it gives an idea of what to expect – for most people, this is definitely worth downloading.
As the resident expert on Windows, Senior Staff Writer Anyron’s main focus is PCs and laptops. Much of the rest of his time is split between smartphones, tablets and audio, with a particular focus on Android devices.