2021 was a huge year for Windows.

After previously denying it would ever be needed, Microsoft announced and then released Windows 11, introducing the first wholesale changes for six years. These include a brand-new aesthetic, redesigned taskbar & Start menu and updated stock apps. You also get new multitasking features, Widgets pane and native Android app support.

However, the new OS hasn’t been universally well received. Some features still haven’t arrived, despite being announced back in June 2021. Many people have also complained about missing taskbar functionality, as well as Microsoft’s incessant promotion of Teams and its Edge web browser.

Some of these things are expected to be addressed in Windows 11’s first major update, scheduled for release in 2022. Here’s everything we know about the 22H2 update so far.

When will Windows 11’s 2022 feature updates be released?

Shortly after Windows 11 was announced, Microsoft confirmed that the new OS would only be getting feature updates once a year. This brings it in line with macOS, and means a major update is expected at some point in 2022.

Exactly when that’ll be is unclear. October would mark exactly a year since Windows 11 was released, but Windows Latest says it'll arrive sooner - July 2022 to be exact. Author Mayank Parmar is usually a reliable source of information, although the article’s suggestion that Windows 11 will turn one in July is incorrect.

As was the case with Windows 10, expect Microsoft to gradually throttle up availability in order to manage demand. Unlike the initial rollout of Windows 11, there probably won’t be a way for all devices to get the update immediately, although there is another option for early access.

How to get Windows 11 feature updates early

Since launching in 2014, the Windows Insider Program has allowed users to test new Windows features ahead of time. Microsoft has regularly released early Windows 11 builds here since June 2021, so it’s the place to be if you want to try out the 22H2 update before anyone else.

The Insider Program is split into three channels:

  • Dev Channel – This is where updates arrive first, but they’re also most likely to be unstable and buggy. Most people shouldn’t sign up to the Dev Channel on their main PC
  • Beta Channel – Microsoft recommends most people opt for the Beta Channel. This still allows you to get updates relatively early, but without some of the stability issues of Dev Channel builds
  • Release Preview Channel – This is where updates arrive just before they’re made widely available. Stability shouldn’t be an issue here, but general availability may be just days away, so it’s primarily for last-minute feedback

Whichever channel you choose, it’s easy to get started. 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 restart to apply changes.

Once that’s complete, any future updates will appear alongside your other regular software updates in Settings.

Will all existing Windows 11 hardware be compatible with the 22H2 update?

Almost certainly, yes. Microsoft controversially updated the hardware requirements for Windows 11, excluding plenty of older hardware. Security was cited as the main reason, with features such as TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 2.0, Secure Boot and virtualization-based security all applied as standard.

It would be very surprising to see more devices culled for an annual feature update, unless serious hardware vulnerabilities are discovered. However, if you’ve downloaded Windows 11 on a device that’s not officially supported by Microsoft, the situation is less clear. Current availability of security updates is a good guide, but there’s no guarantee the 22H2 update will arrive in a timely manner.

What new features will the Windows 11 22H2 update bring?

Various upcoming Windows 11 features have been mooted, but it’s not clear which will make their way into the 22H2 feature update. The main source of information so far is Windows Latest, which claims the update is internally codenamed ‘Sun Valley 2’.

Author Mayank Parmar says the update will make Windows 11 “faster, smoother and more modern”, as well as deeper integration of the new design language. However, it’s not clear which “native apps” will benefit, with only a new dark model for the Windows Run tool mentioned.

As an earlier article from the same source suggested, drag-and-drop functionality for the taskbar is also expected to return, after Microsoft dropped it for the introduction of Windows 11. The company says it’s listening to user feedback, so the negative reaction to its removal will surely have made an impression.

Something which may be of interest is support for third-party providers within the Widgets tool. This was a new feature introduced in Windows 11, but it’s currently limited to Microsoft’s stock apps. Adding third-party support would make it much more attractive to many users.

Windows 11 Widgets
Widgets in Windows 11 could see a big upgrade in 2022. Image: Microsoft

The ability to pin more apps or pages to the Start menu and some slight changes to context menus are unlikely to have a big effect. The same can be said of the option to trade Windows 11’s rounded corners for the traditional straight design, as per GizPie.

According to the same source, the following pages will also be updated within Settings: Touch, Themes, Taskbar, Touch keyboard, Installed apps, Advanced apps, Default apps, Microsoft account, Language and region, Date and time, Mouse pointer and touch, Ethernet and Wi-Fi, VPN and Find my devices.

We’ll update this article once more is known about the 22H2 update.

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