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 official name for its latest feature update: simply the ‘2022 Update’, rather than the ’22H2′ we might have been expecting.
It’s been available for a few months, so all Windows 11 devices can install it now. Your device may be updated automatically, but a more recent optional update has been doing more harm than good on some devices. Here’s everything you need to know.
When was the Windows 11 22H2 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 its availability in more than 190 countries around the world.
A gradual rollout to all Windows 11 devices was completed soon after, so you should be able to install version 22H2 if you haven’t already. It’s not necessary yet, though, with 2021’s 21H2 update supported until October 2023.
However, Microsoft decided in January 2023 that not everyone will get that choice. In a 21H2 support document, the company confirmed that it would “begin to automatically update consumer and non-managed business devices running Windows 11, version 21H2 Home and Pro editions to Windows 11, version 22H2”.
This will rely on automatic updates (which you can turn off) and will require a restart which you can postpone indefinitely, but it still feels unnecessary. It’s worth installing, but that doesn’t mean you should have to.
You may have now installed October 2022 update, with tabs in File Explorer one of several new features. But an optional January 2023 update (KB5022360) should be avoided on all Intel devices – it’s causing app crashes on all recent versions of Windows 11 and 10, although potential fixes are available.
Version 22H2 is thought 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. According to rumours, that would mean a 23H2 update in 2023, then Windows 12 released in 2024.
How to get the Windows 11 22H2 update now
The 2022 Update is available for all Windows 11 devices, and you should 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 if it’s not showing up, or you’d like to have access to Windows 11 features before the general public, go via the Windows Insider Program. It’s completely free to sign up, and you can opt out at any time.
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 there, making sure you link the correct account.
Learn more in our separate article on how to install the 22H2 update.
The Release Preview channel is fine for the 22H2 update, but you can get early access to upcoming features via the Beta channel. The Dev channel is much more experimental, so only use it if you want to test out new features in their early stages of development – bugs and other issues are likely.
To switch between them or opt out completely, just click the drop-down next to ‘Choose your Insider settings’ or select ‘Leave the insider program’, then follow the instructions.
Are all Windows 11 devices compatible with the 22H2 update?
Yes. Microsoft controversially updated the hardware requirements for Windows 11, excluding plenty of older hardware. We wouldn’t expect that to change until the next major version of Windows – that might be Windows 12, and it’s rumoured to arrive in 2024.
If you installed Windows 11 on a compatible device using an officially supported method, the 22H2 update should have already been delivered to your device. If not, go via the Windows Insider Program instead.
However, the situation is much less clear if you’ve downloaded Windows 11 on a device that’s not officially supported by Microsoft. The 2022 Update is unlikely to ever be delivered to your device, so you’ll need to install it manually via the Microsoft Update Catalog.
What new features does the Windows 11 22H2 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.
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.
Provided you haven’t been prevented from doing so, that is. In November 2022, Microsoft put a temporary compatibility hold on some devices following reports of gaming performance issues. These were believed to have been linked to the update, but the problem has now been solved.
Learn more in our separate article: Why you might not be able to install Windows 11’s 22H2 update right now
Tabs in File Explorer were then added in a subsequent October 2023 update, alongside new ‘Suggested Actions’ and taskbar improvements. However, it hasn’t been plain sailing for some of the early adopters. As Windows Latest reports, several issues have already been reported via the Windows Feedback Hub.