Microsoft is returning to one major feature update a year on Windows 11

Windows 11 Widget2 Razerbook
Windows 11 Widget2 Razerbook (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft is returning to one major feature update a year on Windows 11.
  • New releases will ship in the second half of the year.
  • One update a year means more meaningful releases.

Microsoft has announced (opens in new tab) that Windows 11 will be returning to a once-a-year major update cycle, matching the rest of the industry. Throughout the lifecycle of Windows 10, Microsoft attempted to ship two major updates a year, but often struggled with stability and performance issues as a result.

With Windows 11, Microsoft is giving up on that, and going back to doing one major update a year just like Apple and Google do. One major update a year is absolutely fine, as it means Microsoft can make these major updates more meaningful by putting more changes into them, as the company now has longer to develop them.

Microsoft says Windows Updates on Windows 11 are 40% smaller too, meaning they less time to download and install.

Windows 11 ships this fall, and Microsoft says new feature updates will arrive in the second half of each year. Microsoft will continue to update Windows 11 throughout the year with smaller cumulative style updates just as it always has done, and those who want access to new features sooner can always join the Windows Insider Program, which gets new builds of the OS almost every week.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • This is a win. One major update a year gives Microsoft 11 months to fix all the stuff they break with their loopy updates. There is a lot of great things happening in relation to Windows 11. Now if they could only start using code names that don't require Alan Turing level code breaking skills to figure out. 21H2DanceOnTheHeadOfPinsTossDiceInTheAirSacrificeAGoatEatMoreChickenUpdate is so much better than something like Window 11 2022 Major Update.
  • Great move. More time to deliver meaningful changes, and should result in a far less confusing naming scheme. They need a scheme where it's clear to users what version their aged hardware is limited to, when they can no longer run the latest version. Just like in the good old days of 95/98/2000 year numbers or major version numbers like 7/8.
  • I hope they go by the name Windows 11.1, Windows 11.2 and so on.
  • I wonder if Microsoft copy Apple and do this or continue their quiet releases.
  • So Windows 12 will come only once those updates become lazy? Or when they change a chief in Windows division? That is a seriously bad marketing.
  • What do you mean returning? Windows has never had a one major feature update a year approach before. Great news though. Twice a year was always much to many. They're major headaches for IT departments.
  • removed my comment and posted elsewhere
  • I've said this for years now, that Microsoft should go back to this. All they've ever done is create a mess (IMO) with these nonsensical update every two days it seemed like. Create your stuff, work on it for a year test it, re-test it, then release it and hopefully you'll have less issues.
  • Th idiots at Redmond took 5 years to figure out what Apple and Google invented in 5 minutes!
  • I don't think they struggled with stability, but they did struggle attempting to add enough features to make it qualify as major. There's very little difference between 20H1 and 20H2, but it's considered major.
  • There is a minor downside. In corporate IT, the big-bang, 3 year upgrade was a pain. This is true for any major software. When Win10 went to 2x year, smaller agile updates, this made our jobs much easier. This allowed us to even drop the "upgrade" moniker and stop doing projects. Instead, everything is a stead-state update. You run it rhough pilot testing then release to prod. Much simpler and reliable. Now we have to decide if a once per year upgrade will require us to upgrade projects again - I hope not.
  • I'm not a developer so please excuse my naivete. I've always wondered why new features can't just update when they're ready? I understand this is an operating system so much more complex than an app. Apps don't typically have yearly updates and rather just push new features when they're ready. Why can't Windows do this as well? Is it marketing? Systems integration? I'm not trying to tell Microsoft how to do their job because obviously they do this for a reason. Just more curiosity of the reasons for feature updates only once per year.
  • Unlike MacOS, MSFT is multi-support OS which is why they don't release the public version in an event. Even this time, MacOS has released Preview after WWDC 21 and release for public in Fall
  • Nice to see sanity making a comeback in Redmond.
  • They should provide security updates for 15 years at least for windows 10.
  • "Returning"? It's been the same for a while for Windows 10 as well. And this "one major a year" interpretation is all wrong. Whenever you say "one major a year", think of what is the alternative. It is not "two major updates" a year, but "two updates half as major as that one could be a year". So you could also interpret it as "two minor updates a year". It is not quantity of updates that's the issue, but the quality. If this helps, that is a wrong sign on quality control and process workflow inside Windows Development. Features should be able to come and go with ease when there are good architects.
  • Now thats cool