Microsoft begins rolling out the Windows 11 2022 Update (aka Windows 11 Version 22H2) to mainstream users in more than 190 countries today, September 20. Windows 11 22H2 is Microsoft’s first annual feature update for the initial release of Windows 11 that shipped last year. The support clock starts ticking today with Windows 11 22H2, with Enterprise and Education edition customers getting 36 months of support for this version, and Home and Pro users getting 24 months.
As Microsoft has done for the past several years, it is rolling out this update to Windows via a phased approach. “Seekers” who want to install it manually using Windows Update will get it first, and computers most likely not having compatibility issues will get the update next.
Here’s what else you want and need to know about Windows 11 22H2, plus a little info on what to expect next on the Windows update front:
What is the build number for 22H2? The RTM build number is 22621. It might be 22621.521 (based on a user saying they had it pre-installed on a new Dell PC). Or maybe yes 22621.382? I asked Microsoft and a spokesperson just said, “The final build number is subject to change as the team works to complete the global rollout beginning September 20th. Because of this, we’re not sharing the final build number at this time. “
Who can get the Windows 11 22H2 update? Microsoft officials say 22H2 will continue to be a free update available to Windows 10 and Windows 11 users with PCs that meet the stated minimum requirements.
When will Windows 11 22H2 be available via Windows Update, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), Volume Licensing Service Center and MSDN? Microsoft isn’t releasing any specific dates today, but if this rollout is like previous Windows updates, it could happen very soon – maybe even today for at least some of these servicing mechanisms.
Speaking of Windows 10, where is Windows 10 22H2 and what will be in it? Although the majority of Windows users run Windows 10 and not 11, Microsoft officials say very little about Windows 10 22H2. While an annual Windows 10 22H2 feature update is expected in October 2022, Microsoft officials still decline to release a feature list for it. It is expected to be delivered via an activation pack, meaning it will be a small and quick update for those running the latest Windows 10 builds. Microsoft officials have said that Windows 10 will continue to receive security updates until October 14, 2025, so it’s safe to stay on Windows 10 until then.
What has changed in terms of system requirements for Windows 11 since the 22H2 update? In short, very little. Microsoft hasn’t lowered the CPU/TPU bar for qualifying machines since last year. A new issue: Microsoft now requires not only Windows 11 Home users but also Windows 11 Pro users to be connected to the internet and sign in with a Microsoft account to install this 22H2 update. Microsoft has not closed the existing loophole that allows PCs with CPU/TPU bar non-compliant PCs to install Windows 11 on these devices, with the understanding that they are not officially “supported” by Microsoft.
Will Windows 11 22H2 be available as an activation pack, meaning it will be a small, quick update for those running Windows 11? Surprisingly, at least for me given the relatively small number of new features, this is not the case. The enablement package approach that Microsoft has used for its latest Windows 10 feature updates, Windows 11 22H2 will be a full install instead. I asked Microsoft why it’s not an activation pack but got no comment. Some of my contacts are speculating that it might have something to do with changes in the taskbar. Others think it might have to do with Microsoft’s decision to keep updating Windows 11 outside of the annual feature release.
Although officials said Microsoft has been working to reduce the download size and time requirements for its annual and monthly feature updates, they have told the company’s own staff that the 22H2 update will take 90 minutes to download and install and another 20 minutes to complete to complete the installation.
What’s included with Windows 11 22H2? At the highest level, Windows 11 22H2 includes some new security features; more productivity-oriented features; and more management functions for business users. It has new Snap layouts, new Focus features; better voice control features and updates for the new Windows Store. In addition, the Amazon Appstore Preview, which makes Android apps available on Windows 11, is expanding to more international markets and now includes 20,000 Android apps and games. For more details on all the new features, check out ZDNET’s Ed Bott’s post here. For more detailed information on security features, including Smart App Control and Defender Smart Screen updates, read ZDNET’s Liam Tung’s post here.
What about tabbed file explorer? Shouldn’t that be in Windows 11 22H2? It looked like Tabbbed File Explorer would be part of Windows 11 22H2, but then it apparently missed the internal deadline for inclusion. Microsoft officials say they will make Tabbed File Explorer available via an additional, separate feature update — first in October 2022 in preview as part of the non-security pre-release updates, and then in November 2022 as part of the Patch Tuesday security update .
Will there be more features added as part of this October/November feature update? Yes, in addition to the tabbed file explorer, an update for the Photos app; Suggested actions for copying phone numbers, future dates, etc.; the taskbar overflow feature; and Share to more devices via Nearby Share are also provided as separate updates to Windows 11 22H2 users. Microsoft officials said in February 2022 that they plan to make features available outside of the single annual feature update via security updates and through the Microsoft Store. Officials call these feature updates, which are rolled out outside of the annual feature update, “continuous innovation.”
What if I don’t want these additional feature updates to be rolled out whenever Microsoft decides it’s time to push them out to users? If you’re a Windows 11 Enterprise or Education customer with company-managed devices — or a domain-joined Windows Pro user — you’re in luck. These interim feature updates are delivered by default for those running Enterprise and Education. Administrators can create a Group Policy/Mobile Device Management Policy that allows users to enable these features as a group (not individually). Microsoft officials said they will release documentation about these features and will release their arrival dates in advance. At the time of the next annual feature update, these new features will be activated automatically.
OK. As such, Microsoft will provide an indefinite number of these interim feature updates after the launch of Windows 11 22H2. What happens after that? Officials say the plan is to continue this approach: delivering a single annual Windows 11 feature update in the second half/fall of each year for the foreseeable future, as well as rolling out these interim feature updates whenever deemed ready.
What about Windows 12? Will it come as rumored in 2024? Microsoft officials said in a press conference last week that the company plans to continue updating Windows 11 annually and that nothing other than a major release every three years is currently planned. Aaron Woodman, vice president of Windows Marketing, told us, “I haven’t heard anyone internally say we have a three-year cadence. We intend to continue with annual updates for Windows 11.”
My two cents: I believe Microsoft may move to a cadence of major updates every three years, with the next one due in 2024 Windows headquarters reported first. But the plan may not yet be set in stone, giving Woodman plenty of leeway in his answer. Whether something called “Windows 12” is coming in 2024 is just a branding question in my opinion and depends as much on what Apple is doing at the time as anything else.