Windows 11 23H2 update: Everything you need to know

Microsoft has already added lots of new features to Windows 11 since its initial release in late 2021, but it looks like more are on the way soon. Plenty of new functionality was added in September’s 22H2 update, before File Explorer tabs finally arrived in a subsequent October 2022 update. Another range of new features were then released in February 2023. These ‘Moment’ updates are seemingly the way forward for Microsoft, but it’s not doing away with the big feature updates entirely. Version 23H2 is scheduled to arrive before the end of 2023, and we already know some of its big new features. Here’s everything you need to know. When will Windows 11’s 23H2 update be released? With the introduction of Windows 11, Microsoft announced that it was shifting to annual feature updates rather than the half-year approach of Windows 10. That was put into doubt following July 2022 rumours from Windows Central, that suggested it’d be replaced with more frequent “Moment” updates throughout the year. However, it looks like both are true. New features are being added every few months, but as Microsoft confirmed in a February 2023 blog post, “Windows 11 will continue to have an annual feature update cadence”. As Windows Latest reports, it looks like Microsoft has subtly confirmed the existence of the 23H2 update in May 2023 preview builds. This so-called ‘Evaluation Copy’ apparently expires on 15 September 2023, so is that when the 23H2 could be released? It’s certainly possible, although that specific date might not be accurate. Windows Central suggested September or October 2023 back at the end of last year, but a lot could change between now and then. The expected gradual rollout means it may take a while to arrive on all Windows 11 devices, although you’ll be able to test it ahead of time via the Windows Insider Program. But there’s no need to sign up for the recently introduced Canary Channel, which is very experimental and may include potential Windows 12 features. Will all existing Windows 11 devices be compatible with version 23H2? Almost certainly, yes. Microsoft introduced sweeping new hardware requirements for Windows 11 in the name of security, leaving plenty of older devices unable to upgrade. There are no indications that’ll happen again before the end of Windows 11’s lifespan. Things might be different on Windows 12, which is rumoured to arrive in 2024, but it’d be a big surprise to see Microsoft prevent any Windows 11 devices from getting smaller updates such as 23H2. What new features will be available in the Windows 23H2 update? Confirmed upcoming features The 23H2 update isn’t expected for a few months, but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from revealing many upcoming features. These aren’t confirmed to arrive in 23H2, but Windows Central thinks they will: Windows AI Copilot – powerful virtual AI assistant based on ChatGPT and Bing Chat. Can be used to analyse images and text, answer specific contextual questions and control on-device settings Dynamic Lighting – built-in tools for controlling RGB lighting on devices and accessories One-click Taskbar app ungrouping and show labels Ability to hide the date and time on the Taskbar New support for formats including 7-zip, RAR, gz, and others New AI features in the Microsoft Store – AI-generated app keywords and review summaries, hub for selected AI apps Backup and restore apps – will reinstall any apps you’ve installed from the Microsoft Store when restoring a backup. Unclear if any apps downloaded from elsewhere will be included Copilot is arguably the most exciting of these, and Windows Latest has been provided access to an early version. Author Mayank Parmar emphasises that “the final version looks much better”, but it’s a useful indicator of what to expect: Windows Latest The sidebar offers quick access to the Bing Chat interface that many of us will now be familiar with. But rather than just generating new information, it’ll be possible to control almost any Windows 11 setting via Copilot. There will also be a range of integrations with Microsoft 365 apps. Windows Latest has also gone hands-on with a new volume mixer, which it says is coming in version 23H2. It looks more like Windows 10 than the current Windows 11 design, but will allow you to easily change the volume of any open apps. It’ll be available via the Quick Settings menu, or by using a new Windows Key + Ctrl + V shortcut. Windows Latest The article goes on to say that several new options will be added to the main Settings app. These include updated “Recommended settings” cards in various sections, including for “Cloud storage” and “Account recover”. As our sister site PCWorld reports, these features are also coming to Windows 11 soon. Some may arrive in the 23H2 update, although these aren’t confirmed: Ability to pin specific apps to a dedicated space on the Widgets panel Bluetooth LE (Low Energy)

Windows 11 23H2 update: Everything you need to know

Microsoft has already added lots of new features to Windows 11 since its initial release in late 2021, but it looks like more are on the way soon.

Plenty of new functionality was added in September’s 22H2 update, before File Explorer tabs finally arrived in a subsequent October 2022 update. Another range of new features were then released in February 2023.

These ‘Moment’ updates are seemingly the way forward for Microsoft, but it’s not doing away with the big feature updates entirely. Version 23H2 is scheduled to arrive before the end of 2023, and we already know some of its big new features. Here’s everything you need to know.

When will Windows 11’s 23H2 update be released?

With the introduction of Windows 11, Microsoft announced that it was shifting to annual feature updates rather than the half-year approach of Windows 10. That was put into doubt following July 2022 rumours from Windows Central, that suggested it’d be replaced with more frequent “Moment” updates throughout the year.

However, it looks like both are true. New features are being added every few months, but as Microsoft confirmed in a February 2023 blog post, “Windows 11 will continue to have an annual feature update cadence”.

As Windows Latest reports, it looks like Microsoft has subtly confirmed the existence of the 23H2 update in May 2023 preview builds. This so-called ‘Evaluation Copy’ apparently expires on 15 September 2023, so is that when the 23H2 could be released?

It’s certainly possible, although that specific date might not be accurate. Windows Central suggested September or October 2023 back at the end of last year, but a lot could change between now and then.

The expected gradual rollout means it may take a while to arrive on all Windows 11 devices, although you’ll be able to test it ahead of time via the Windows Insider Program. But there’s no need to sign up for the recently introduced Canary Channel, which is very experimental and may include potential Windows 12 features.

Will all existing Windows 11 devices be compatible with version 23H2?

Almost certainly, yes. Microsoft introduced sweeping new hardware requirements for Windows 11 in the name of security, leaving plenty of older devices unable to upgrade.

There are no indications that’ll happen again before the end of Windows 11’s lifespan.

Things might be different on Windows 12, which is rumoured to arrive in 2024, but it’d be a big surprise to see Microsoft prevent any Windows 11 devices from getting smaller updates such as 23H2.

What new features will be available in the Windows 23H2 update?

Confirmed upcoming features

The 23H2 update isn’t expected for a few months, but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from revealing many upcoming features. These aren’t confirmed to arrive in 23H2, but Windows Central thinks they will:

  • Windows AI Copilot – powerful virtual AI assistant based on ChatGPT and Bing Chat. Can be used to analyse images and text, answer specific contextual questions and control on-device settings
  • Dynamic Lighting – built-in tools for controlling RGB lighting on devices and accessories
  • One-click Taskbar app ungrouping and show labels
  • Ability to hide the date and time on the Taskbar
  • New support for formats including 7-zip, RAR, gz, and others
  • New AI features in the Microsoft Store – AI-generated app keywords and review summaries, hub for selected AI apps
  • Backup and restore apps – will reinstall any apps you’ve installed from the Microsoft Store when restoring a backup. Unclear if any apps downloaded from elsewhere will be included

Copilot is arguably the most exciting of these, and Windows Latest has been provided access to an early version. Author Mayank Parmar emphasises that “the final version looks much better”, but it’s a useful indicator of what to expect:

Early version of Windows Copilot on Windows 11

Windows Latest

The sidebar offers quick access to the Bing Chat interface that many of us will now be familiar with. But rather than just generating new information, it’ll be possible to control almost any Windows 11 setting via Copilot. There will also be a range of integrations with Microsoft 365 apps.

Windows Latest has also gone hands-on with a new volume mixer, which it says is coming in version 23H2. It looks more like Windows 10 than the current Windows 11 design, but will allow you to easily change the volume of any open apps. It’ll be available via the Quick Settings menu, or by using a new Windows Key + Ctrl + V shortcut.

Windows 11 new volume mixer

Windows Latest

The article goes on to say that several new options will be added to the main Settings app. These include updated “Recommended settings” cards in various sections, including for “Cloud storage” and “Account recover”.

As our sister site PCWorld reports, these features are also coming to Windows 11 soon. Some may arrive in the 23H2 update, although these aren’t confirmed:

  • Ability to pin specific apps to a dedicated space on the Widgets panel
  • Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) support for reduced power consumption while connected
  • Notifications in Start menu if account-related action required
  • Ability to turn off presence sensor (on supported devices), which turns screen on you’re in front of it and off when you leave
  • Isolation of older Win32 apps, allowing them to run independently of the rest of Windows 11 and preventing unauthorised access to processes

In April 2023, Microsoft also began publicly testing a new Gallery feature within File Explorer. This will make it easier to view photos and videos from within the app, making it look similar to the separate Photos app:

Windows 11 File Explorer Gallery feature

Microsoft

A few other features have already been confirmed, albeit not specifically for the 23H2 update:

The big one is a revamped File Explorer. Microsoft already added tabs in an October 2023 update, but this looks to be taking things to the next level.

Its updated design will include a redesigned header that’s in keeping with many web browsers, with an address and search bar alongside key navigation buttons. There’s also a new ‘Gallery’ feature which specifically designed for viewing photos, with timeline functionality allowing you to quickly find content from years ago.

Windows 11 new File Explorer

Microsoft

The classic Paint app is also finally getting a dark mode, with the feature currently in testing with members of the Windows Insider Program. And the Widgets board will also allow you to disable the MSN news feed, offering a “widgets only” option.

Potential upcoming features

In an earlier Windows Central video, Zac Bowden and Daniel Rubino discuss what 23H2 update might entail. Despite the big caveat that this could all change, there are some useful insights worth knowing about – both are reliable journalists with a strong track record for Windows news.

Despite Windows 10’s dedicated tablet mode being dropped for Windows 11, Microsoft is continuing to make the OS more suited to touch input. Bowden anticipates there’ll be more to come, with the potential for a separate tablet user interface (UI) to be reintroduced in version 23H2. Windows Latest‘s Mayank Parmar agrees, suggesting a tablet-friendly taskbar could arrive in 2023.

Bowden also believes version 23H2 might be when we’ll finally see a system-wide dark mode. This was originally intended for the first release of Windows 11 in 2021, but there’s no suggestion it’ll arrive this year either.

A May 2023 Windows Central article suggests that a future update will allow you to pin widgets to the desktop. The Widgets panel was introduced alongside Windows 11 in 2021, before being opened up to third-party apps a year later. This seems like the logical next step, although it’s actually similar to the Windows Desktop Gadgets feature in Windows 7. It’s not clear exactly when the feature will arrive, but the 23H2 update is a possibility.

An earlier Windows Latest article discusses another potential 23H2 feature. As Microsoft subtly revealed at its April 2022 event, the option for app folders on the Windows 11 desktop looks to be on the way. With no appearance in the the 22H2 update, it could arrive at some point in 2023 instead.

Some features won’t be included in version 23H2 as they’ve already been released. The June 2023 update included several pieces of new functionality alongside the usual monthly security patches.

There was nothing groundbreaking, but highlights included seconds in the clock on the taskbar, the option for larger widgets and a revamped Accounts page in Settings – the latter now includes all connected OneDrive accounts.

AI looks set to be a huge part of Windows for years to come, with a potential Windows 12 in 2024 expected to feature it heavily. There are plenty of ways artificial intelligence could upgrade Windows,, and we might see some new features in the 23H2 update, too.

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