Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Microsoft said on Tuesday that it is starting to release the first major update to Windows 11, the current version of its PC operating system. Installing the free update could make PCs more accessible, more affordable, safer, and possibly even greener.
Over the past decade, Microsoft has diversified its business away from Windows by expanding the Azure public cloud and acquiring resources like the corporate social network LinkedIn, but Windows still generates 12% of the company’s revenue.
The updates help Microsoft show that it hasn’t given up on modernizing Windows, which dates back to the 1980s and is more popular than any other personal computer operating system. But the company only provides one sizable update to Windows every year, compared to two per year for Windows 10, the predecessor of Windows 11.
“Our work is never done to ensure that Windows evolves and adapts to you,” Microsoft product chief Panos Panay wrote in a blog post about the changes.
Among the versions of Windows, Windows 10 remains the most popular, with about 72% share, according to data collected by StatCounter, a private company. Support for that operating system ends in 2025, and many companies still rely on it for their PC fleets. But Windows 11, first released in October 2021, is growing in popularity, with a 13% share in August, up from 2.6% in January.
The Windows 11 2022 update, as the new version is called, includes a video editing program, new customization options for the Start menu, and access to additional Android apps. Here are some of the biggest changes:
Boot menu changes. People have been able to pin apps to the Start Menu, which now appears in the center of the screen. Now it’s becoming possible to create an app folder on that Start menu, by dragging an app icon on top of the other. Also, the density of the app grid in the Start menu can change. In the Start section of the Settings app, you can click a button that says “More Pins”. Alternatively, you can click “More Recommendations” to view other suggested files in the Start menu.
A new way to organize windows. Windows 11 offers a way to organize windows neatly on the screen. The new update goes further. Instead of hovering over a window’s maximize button to see what Microsoft calls Snap Layout options, you’ll be able to drag a window to the top of the screen and then drop it onto an area that appears on the screen. You can then insert additional windows in other areas. This feature now works with a touchscreen.
New video editing app. A year ago, Microsoft acquired Clipchamp, a startup that created a video editing app. It is now pre-installed in Windows. The free version will allow you to rotate and crop videos, apply a variety of filters, draw on stock images and videos, and generate watermark-free exports.
The Clipchamp video editing app now comes with Windows.
Energy saving. Windows Update, the tool for downloading and installing operating system updates, can schedule the installation of updates when local utilities rely on energy resources that generate lower emissions. To use this feature, your PC must be plugged in, turned on and connected to the internet and there must be information on the carbon intensity in your area. Microsoft said it has also updated the default power setting for “Sleep” and “Screen off” modes which will reduce emissions when PCs aren’t doing anything.
Extended access to the Android app. One of the most notable features of Windows 11 is its ability to run Android apps, thanks to the inclusion of the Amazon Appstore. It is now available in 31 countries, with over 20,000 Android apps, Microsoft said. The company promises improved graphics performance for Android apps.
Don’t open that app! A feature called Smart App Control can automatically prevent you from opening an unsafe application or file. You can disable the feature, but Microsoft does not recommend it and you won’t be able to enable it again without reinstalling Windows.
Microsoft’s Windows 11 can now block unsafe files and applications.
Better graphics for older games. Graphical gains will also be displayed for games that rely on earlier DirectX 10 or DirectX 11 application programming interfaces and do not run in full screen mode. This includes a variable refresh rate, which can result in multiple new images per second being displayed for devices with higher refresh rates.
Better video calling with advanced PCs. Some new PCs have built-in AI chips, and if you have one, Windows 11 will be able to remove background noise during video calls, have the camera follow you as you move during calls, and change the video feed so it looks like you’re making eye contact with others during your calls.
If you have a compatible PC, Windows 11 can make it seem like you’re always looking in the eye during video calls.
Better research. When you search for apps and settings in the search box on the taskbar, the results will appear faster and will be more accurate.
Close caption all things. People turn subtitles on more and more when watching videos, and a new accessibility feature in Windows called Real-Time Subtitles makes this possible for audio or video in any application.
Windows 11 can provide subtitles for video and audio.
Voice commands. Another accessibility feature, Voice Access, gives you a way to control your PC by talking. Sometimes it may be an easier way to navigate than typing on the keyboard or clicking the mouse.
More voice choices. Not everyone liked the sound of the voice reading text on the screen in the accessibility feature of Windows Narrator, so Microsoft now offers three natural-sounding voices that rely on artificial intelligence.
How to get the Windows 11 2022 update
People running Windows 11 can install the new update by opening the Settings app, going to Windows Update, and clicking the “Check for Updates” button. Those on Windows 10 can see if their PCs can run Windows 11 using the PC Health Check app, and Windows Update will show them if they’re eligible to upgrade to Windows 11 2022 Update, also known as Windows 11, version 22H2.
Not all of the Windows features that early adopters accessed through Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program will be immediately available. The ability to view multiple folders as tabs in File Explorer, a feature that arrived on Apple’s MacOS in 2013, is expected to arrive in October.
LOOK: The influence of Apple and Microsoft on the market