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Windows 11 version 22H2: Everything we know about Microsoft's next big OS update

Windows 11 Update Windowsupdate Estimate New Dark
Windows 11 Update Windowsupdate Estimate New Dark (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Windows 11 version 22H2 is the next major update coming to Microsoft's OS in the second half of this year.
  • Its main focus is on continued polish, OS productivity enhancements, and improvements for tablet users.
  • Version 22H2 will be delivered as a free update for all Windows 11 users.

Microsoft is currently hard at work on the next major version of Windows, which will also serve as Windows 11's first big OS feature update. Known currently as "version 22H2" and codenamed "Sun Valley 2," this next release is set to continue the vision that was first introduced with Windows 11 last year, with the continuation of new features, UI improvements, and much more.

Development on version 22H2 began shortly before Windows 11 was finalized, and it's currently in testing with participants of Microsoft's Windows Insider Program, which see's weekly "active development" builds with new features that we expect will ship as part of the version 22H2 release.

We'll continue to update this post as new features are revealed. Be sure to check out our roundup of best Windows 11 PCs in the meantime.

Version 22H2: What's new? (so far)

Here's the TL:DR:

  • App folders in Start menu
  • Resizable pinned area in Start menu
  • Drag and Drop on the Taskbar
  • Focus Assist integration with Notification Center
  • New "spotlight" wallpaper feature
  • New Voice Access accessibility feature
  • New Live Captions accessibility feature
  • New gestures and animations for touch users
  • New snap layouts bar when moving app windows
  • New Task Manager app
  • Better OneDrive integration with File Explorer
  • Numerous UI improvements and consistency updates

This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a quick run-down of the most notable changes and improvements that are expected to ship as part of version 22H2. Keep reading for a more in-depth breakdown of new features. Of course, there are also hundreds, if not thousands of fixes and under the hood enhancements that Microsoft is baking into the next release that we haven't detailed.

Version 22H2: When is it coming?

Windows 11 version 22H2 is expected to ship in the second half of this year. Our sources tell us that version 22H2 is scheduled to reach a "final build" sometime in May, with work continuing throughout the summer on bug fixes and other improvements that will be delivered via cumulative updates to Insiders and eventually the public once version 22H2 is ready to roll out, likely in the September or October timeframe.

Version 22H2: New features

Here's a more in-depth look at some of the new features coming with version 22H2.

Windows Shell

Windows 11 App Folder Start

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Windows Shell is getting a lot of love with version 22H2. Microsoft is continuing to clean up the UI by updating legacy interfaces with more modern, consistent Windows 11 designs. For example, version 22H2 introduces modern designs for things like the volume and brightness interfaces that pop up when adjusting those controls via physical hardware buttons. Focus Assist is now integrated in the Notification Center for easy access to that feature.

In the Start menu, Microsoft has added back several features that were present on the Windows 10 Start menu, including the ability to create app folders and adjust the size of the pinned apps area. Now, users can choose to have an extra row pinned apps, or reduce the pinned apps area to two rows in favor of a larger "Recommended" area.

The Taskbar has also been updated with the return of drag and drop support, meaning you can drag files into app icons on your Taskbar to paste that file into it. This has been a functionality of the Taskbar for years, but it was missing from the first version of Windows 11. Good to see it's finally back with version 22H2.

Wip 3 Finger Downup Minimizerestore

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

For touch users, Microsoft is introducing several significant new changes designed to enhance the touch-first user experience on Windows 11. There's new gestures for touch users that enable easy access to common areas of the Windows Shell. Users can now swipe up from the bottom of the display to access the Start menu and swipe from the right corner to access Quick Settings. A three-finger swipe down the middle of the screen will minimize your apps, and a three-finger swipe left or right will switch between running apps. All of these animations are also fluid, meaning they stick to your finger when being performed, feeling much more responsive as a result.

Settings

Windows 11 Msa Settings

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

As is the case with every new version of Windows, Microsoft has added several new settings pages to the Settings app with 22H2. There's a new Microsoft Account page in the Accounts area, providing an overview of your Microsoft 365 subscription, with quick access to other online settings and services. There's also a new Family Safety page in the same area, designed to provide quick access to all the Family Safety options if you use that service.

Windows Update can now time itself with your local electricity grid to help reduce emissions. Instead of installing updates when available, Windows Update will attempt to time downloads and installs with your electricity grid to use as much renewable energy as possible.

Other new settings include the ability to adjust how many pinned or recommended rows you see in Start, the ability to set the Bing daily image as a desktop wallpaper, the option to turn off the System Tray overflow menu, and more.

Apps

Newtaskman

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft has updated a number of in-box apps and experiences with version 22H2. Starting with File Explorer, which now has a new "pinned files" section in the Quick Access area when you open the app. Users can pin any files to this area and have them stored permanently for quick access at a later date. The File Explorer now has more OneDrive integration too, with a new drop-down menu that appears when inside a OneDrive directly which shows you how much cloud storage you're using.

Task Manager has been updated with a new interface that brings it more in line with the rest of Windows 11. It has a new sidebar navigation UI that automatically collapses when you shrink the size of the window. There's also a new Sound Recorder app coming that has new output options, an audio visualizer, and a much better UI.

Pre-loaded with version 22H2 are two new apps called Clipchamp and Family Safety. Family Safety is a web app that gives you quick access to your family overview, including the locations of your children, upcoming activities in your shared family calendar, and other tools to manage your household. This service is great for families who use Windows and Xbox PCs, or Android devices with the Microsoft Launcher and Family Safety app installed.

Clipchamp is a new web-based video editor, also shipping with Windows 11 moving forward. While it has a basic free tier, it demands a monthly fee, should you want to render videos above 480p. It's a strange app that feels like it's been designed primarily for school kids in the classroom, costing $19 a month if you want to render videos in 1080p resolution.

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

30 Comments
  • If you want to improve OneDrive in File manager, let me see more than one personal OneDrive.
  • Agreed but aren't they all like this?
  • Google drive can for sure have multiple accounts.
  • Did they fix launched app not being focus window? This is super irritating and I can't believe they have not fixed it yet. Note, this bug does not happen with all apps. It does happen with Office Win32 apps though. If I could do it over, I would not have upgraded to Windows 11. This not because of Windows 11, it is because my computer did not have all Windows 11 compatible drivers. I wish there was a warning during upgrade that some drivers may not work properly in Windows 11. I now have a touchpad that works very sluggishly at random times. Almost makes my laptop useless. Next time, I will only upgrade to major OS updates when I buy a new computer. A new computer will have vetted drivers.
  • Suggestion: I've often updated touchpads with the latest drivers from Synaptics to resolve that. They seem to work with most touchpads whether or not they make them and should be compatible.
  • What is launched app not being the focused window? Don't believe I've had this on Windows 11 but not sure what it is.
  • Press Start key. Type name of app. When highlighted, press Enter. App launches, but is not the focus window (e.g. app window does not have keyboard focus).
  • I have tried several programs on three different W11 PCs, and they are all the focus window. I am not sure I have ever encountered what you are describing.
  • To be clear, what you type in the Start menu is a name of a document that will then launch an app. For example, type "MyWord.docx" in Start. Press enter to launch the document in Word. The Word document will then be the last window in the stack (instead of the first). Windows 10 does not do this. I tend to open Office this way. I more likely go to an existing document.
  • Clipchamp should cost 5 monthly. By their focus, is nonsense ask for 20 per month
  • Android app support and outside of one country surely?
  • Nothing but "consistency updates" for the next 10 years or until complete... which ever is sooner.
  • Explorer Tabs though 👀
  • Yes you are right. Just this one thing and then UI consistency.
  • Oddly, I cannot see the explorer tabs but perhaps Start11, Fences or Files blocks the capability. Files performs fine it is occasionally needed so no great loss.
  • Please raise your hand if you use focus assist? Beuler? Beuler? Beuler? It's a ghost town of a feature nobody needed or wanted. Another "update" with features that should have been included in the original release of a version number change. Yet the OS is still a downgrade from 10 and so far...just a wallpaper update and a dumbed down macOS-wannabe start menu change. ...still waiting for real features that make the current downgrade to 11 an actual upgrade. ...and for the entire Windows management team to be replaced with people that actually LISTEN to their user base.
  • Agreed. Panoy should be sacked for his effort. This does not feel like "home" and the product did not live up to the hype. No matter; the business community will continue to keep MS afloat.
  • Whaaaaaaaaa, I don't like stuff... 👶
  • I use focus assist when I’m in meetings or screen sharing, like all the time. So yeah.
  • All of a sudden my beta copy says evaluation copy. why is that? do you know what that is about?
  • It was an omission all along; even pre-releases are evaluation copies and not generally available released code.
  • Stay away from this update if you use Edge for any streaming services. I haven't been able to stream NBC Peacock or You Tube TV, I keep getting error messages on a Surface Pro X and it won't stream. Firefox works ok though for streaming.
  • will never update to this without being able to put the bar at the Top of display instead of bottom
  • Start11 will do that for you. Won't do sides though.
  • There is one change that wasn't mentioned in the article, you can no longer move icons around in the system tray regardless of the type of device Windows 11 22H2 is working on. The amount of backlash the change has received on the feedback hub https://insider.windows.com/FeedbackHub/fb?contextid=63&feedbackid=f810c... might force Microsoft to revert the change
  • Zac, you should update this article now that Clipchamp is rendering in 1080p for the free tier now.
  • Indeed. This is a pretty big business practice update for those who would consider using it for video editing. Basically went from a major liability and a net negative to a solid positive feature addition.
  • Somehow this release is actually pretty light in regards to changes. There are some rather significant and very useful like added Snap Assist bar and Touch that follows the fingers, but touchpad still doesn't unfortunately. Start menu folders is great with ability to name, though needs polishing. Still no groupings, ability to resize the Start menu, Jump List and Notification Badges are still missing. It seems that the apps are the more highlight in this release, and some changes like the new Task Manager and possibility the Tabs in File Explorer will be a huge deal. Widgets are minor and still disappointing and not much useful. No hint of 3rd-party apps yet if this will come in this release and can't use offline.
  • I think I will stick with windows 10
  • Yeah
    My thoughts either