Microsoft put out its initial gambit on a visual redesign of Windows with Windows 11 a year ago and with predictably mixed reactions from users, and the company is back with a follow update attempting smooth over some rough edges a lot of users felt it left untouched.
Starting today Windows 11 2022 Update, or 22H2, begins rolling out to over 190 countries and will be bringing improvements to accessibility features, Snap Layouts, Focus Sessions, File Explorer, Auto HDR, Xbox App, The Microsoft Store, Microsoft Defender, App advertising, Smart App Control, and much more.
Starting with where and how to get the update, Microsoft cautions that the Windows 11 2022 Update is on a rolling schedule and that the "measured and phased rollout will offer the update via Windows Update when data shows that your device is ready, as our objective is to provide a quality experience."
To facilitate that process, users can find out if their devices are eligible for the 2022 Update by opening Windows Update settings (Settings > Windows Update and selecting Check for Updates. For those making a larger leap from Windows 10 to Windows 11, you might want to check to see if your device meets the minimum requirements by utilizing the PC Health Check App. For downloads of the 2022 Update that are less straightforward than what was previously listed, Microsoft suggest visiting the following site, Windows Release Health, to get sorted out.
With the logistics out of the way, here is what's in the update worth keeping an eye out for.
Smaller and faster installation of updates: Microsoft has managed to shrink the download size of its feature updates by 450MB and according to the company, "reclaiming 100s of MB of user resources in the process. While 450MB may seem like a relatively insignificant number, in the grand scheme of things, it represents a concerted effort to make the update process a bit shorter and ideally bearable for most Windows users.
Windows 11 for Commercial Use: For the IT Admin in your life, Windows 11 version 22H2 will be available through its regular enterprise channels such as Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), Windows Update for Business, and the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC).
Admins need to mark their calendars or jump into their favorite reminder app to mark today as the beginning of the end for servicing support for both Enterprise and Educations of version 22H2, for those still on Windows 10 the deadline for mainstream support remains October 14, 2025.
Snap Layouts: The Windows team introduced Snap Layouts last year with Windows 11 and at the time offered four custom options to place applications into split screen configurations. Today, the Windows team is improving the feature by offering more versatility with the support of two more options as well as support for snapping multiple tabs in Microsoft Edge.
Focus Sessions: Depending on how often your screen lights up with notifications during your work hours, Microsoft's new Focus Sessions and Do Not Disturbed may be welcomed new features. Focus Sessions is a modified take on the Clock App that enables users to set timeframes to initiate Do Not Disturbed modes as well as pair Spotify playlists to help users maximize the most out of their productivity hours or even breaks.
Windows Studio Effects: Comes as a refinement to the Windows communication experience by improving the Windows Studio Camera with Background Blur, Auto Eye Contact corrections and Auto Framing. Voice Focus improves audio only-calls new AI-powered filters. The new Windows Studio Effects can also be applied to game streaming and content creators alike, especially as Microsoft adds Clipchamp to its roster of built-in Windows video editing software.
Auto HDR and Variable Refresh Rate: Are two new features that may be a sign of things to come from Microsoft and its manufacturing partners as they put more focus on latency and performance optimizations outside of just GPU specs. Support for variable refresh rates should also help tap into the battery and display options several device makers have been offering for some time.
Xbox App Updates: Microsoft has consolidated the Xbox app and Game Pass interface into simply the Xbox App where gamers can go to download their games, get additional content, start up their xCloud gameplays and more.
Android on Windows: One of Microsoft's flagship features mentioned last year during the roll out of Windows 11 was Android coming to Windows, but the company did not offer specifics on a timeframe. A year later, it looks like Android will finally be an accessible part of Windows, in a limited capacity. By supporting the Amazon Appstore in preview mode, the Windows team is now bringing 20,000 Amazon approved android apps to Windows 11 devices that include games, utilities, books and more. This effort should not be mistaken with the Google led attempt to bring the Android Play Store to Windows through other means.
Microsoft Store Developer Tools: Speaking of storefronts, Microsoft has made strides in helping its own Windows developers make more money through its Store in Windows 11. The Windows team is leveraging the Microsoft Ads team's technology to enable better ad targeting for developers through the Microsoft Store.
Security, Management & Flexibility: Microsoft is updating its Defender SmartScreen identifier to include people who are "entering their Microsoft credentials into malicious applications or hacked websites and alerts them." Windows Hello will begin working a bit more automagically with support for optional presence sensing that could fire up or put to sleep a Windows Hello enabled camera when a user approaches or leaves their workstation.
Microsoft is also introducing Smart App Control which blocks "untrusted or unsigned applications, script files, and malicious macros from running on Windows 11." Smart App Controls use the same security AI as the Windows Defender application present on both Windows 10 and 11, and could use device history to help better assess real-time or repeated threats.
Lower Carbon Emissions: Microsoft is taking the telemetry it has on rising Carbon emissions and is now using that knowledge to better schedule installation of updates.
Windows Update will schedule installation at specific times of the day when doing so may result in lower carbon emissions because a higher proportion of electricity is coming from lower-carbon sources on the electric grid.
Upcoming updates: Unfortunately, some of the more headline grabbing features Windows Insiders have been playing with for a few months require a bit more polish for general consumers and will be rolled out in an additional update next month in October.
- Enhancement to File Explorer: including bringing tabs to File Explorer to help you organize your File Explorer sessions like you do in Microsoft Edge. The new homepage in File Explorer gives you quick access to your favorite and recent files, you can pin important files for quick and easy access –even including information at a glance of colleagues’ actions on your shared files through the power of OneDrive and personalized suggestions based on your Microsoft 365 account.
- Photos App: In an update to the Photos app in Windows 11, we will be introducing a new photos-managing experience that brings a gorgeous gallery, simplifying browsing, finding, management and consumption of your collection of photos. It also allows you to easily backup your photos with OneDrive, enjoy powerful experiences on Windows devices and offers a delightful "Memories" experience.
- Suggested Actions on Copy: Copy phone numbers, future dates and get suggested actions such as making a call with Teams or Skype or adding an event in the Calendar app.
- Taskbar Overflow: Taskbar will offer an entry point to an overflow menu that allows you to view all your overflowed apps in one space.
- Share to more devices: Discover and share to more devices including desktops using nearby share.
Today's advances Windows 11 in subtle but appreciated ways for many, there is still a lot refinement the users would like and that team is working on, but for now, its a welcomed acknowledgement that the operating systems is something the company finds important.