A comprehensive look at Windows 11 22H2, the operating system’s first major annual update

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Enlarge / Windows 11 22H2 is rumored to be entering the next stage of development – and the operating system itself.

Andrew Cunningham

Windows 11 has already changed quite a bit since the version we tested back in October, and Microsoft has rolled out a steady stream of redesigned app updates, bug fixes, and user interface improvements.

But the company’s major annual Windows updates still matter. This is where Microsoft makes the key changes to the look and feel and features under the hood of Windows 11. In this week, rumors suggested for Microsoft to complete work on what will eventually be released as Windows 11 version 22H2, the operating system’s first annual update. This build, currently available for the Windows Insider Beta channel as build number 22621.1, will serve as the foundation for the next year of Windows updates.

We cover new Windows Insider builds fairly frequently, depending on how notable the changes are. But to save you the hassle of scrolling through months of articles, we’ve compiled the top differences between the current public build of Windows 11 21H2 (for the record, 22000.675) and the latest beta version of version 22H2.

Annual updates aren’t what they used to be

First, a caveat: Microsoft has intentionally changed how Windows is updated over the last year. The company is now releasing app updates and UI tweaks as they are ready, rather than waiting for a major annual OS update like it would have done in the Windows 10 days. This more flexible schedule has already allowed Microsoft to address some of Windows 11’s early shortcomings, including missing taskbar functionality and apps that haven’t yet been updated with the new look.

It also means that this overview does not include all Windows features that will be part of the 22H2 update when it launches. It is likely that apps like the new Sound Recorder currently in preview in the Dev Channel will be released to the public before the 22H2 update is officially released. Still-in-test features like tabbed file explorer might also be ready in time. These and other changes could be included in the 22H2 update, they could be released before it comes out, or they could never to be published.

So this overview is just a snapshot of Windows 11 22H2 as it currently exists. When it’s released to the public we’ll be taking another look, noting any other new features we see, and spending more time on minor changes that we won’t mention in this roundup.

Mandatory Microsoft account sign-in

The Home edition of Windows 11 (and some of the later Windows 10 versions) all required an internet connection and Microsoft account sign-in upon setup, pushing users to embed themselves deeper into the Microsoft ecosystem. This process offers a few benefits, including automated local disk encryption and recovery key backup, passwordless sign-in, quick access to Microsoft Store apps and services like Microsoft 365 and PC Game Pass, and data syncing for apps like OneDrive and Edge. But if you not If you use these things, want to log in later, or prefer to stick with a good old-fashioned local account, there’s no easy workaround other than logging out or creating a new local account once you get to the desktop.

This didn’t apply to the Pro editions of Windows, which still let you create a local account if you don’t connect to the internet during setup. But that ends in the 22H2 version of Windows 11, which requires a Microsoft account no matter what edition of the operating system you’re using. (Setup also pushes you to sign up for PC Game Pass and Microsoft 365, which I did think is new in this version of Windows but may have been added recently).

The only officially sanctioned exception to this policy is if you choose the work or school option over the personal use option during setup. This allows you to sign in with your work or school Microsoft account, if you have one, and not a personal account. However, if you just need to create a local account or set up a PC without an internet connection, there’s no easy way to do it.

This policy only applies to new Windows installations and doesn’t affect you if you’re upgrading a PC that’s already set up.


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