Microsoft commits to updating Windows 11 once a year, as well as all the time

Increase / A PC running Windows 11.

If we reviewed Windows 11 last fallone of ours biggest concerns was that we’d have to wait until fall 2022 to see changes or improvements to its new — and sometimes crude — user interface:

Throughout the rest of this review, we’ll identify a significant list of early problems with Windows 11. You can probably expect the bugs to be fixed quickly. But when it comes to bigger changes, like restoring lost functionality to the taskbar and system tray, or continuing to modernize the still-intact parts of the user interface, do we have to wait a year for that to happen?

Any design that changes as much as Windows 11 will benefit from lots of small, quick updates and tweaks to address the most common complaints and pain points. I hope that Microsoft will leave themselves the opportunity to make such changes without having to wait until next year to implement them.

Almost a year later, it is abundantly clear that Microsoft does not hold back on changes and new programs for the annual update of operating system features. One notable small number of additions was released back in February along with commitment”continuous innovation.” Other, smaller updates earlier and since (not to mention the ever-updating Microsoft Edge browser) also underscored Microsoft’s commitment to releasing new Windows features when they’re ready.

Chalk speculation that Microsoft may be planning another major change to its Windows update model, ditching annual updates to replace quarterly updates with a shutdown of features allegedly called Moments. These will be followed by larger Windows version updates every three years or so. As part of the PR surrounding the Windows 11 2022 update (aka Windows 11 22H2), the company has made it clear that none of this is happening.

“Windows 11 will continue to receive an annual feature update that will be released in the second half of the calendar year, marking the start of the support lifecycle,” writes Microsoft VP John Cable “with 24 months of support for Home and Pro editions and 36 months of support for Enterprise and Education editions.” These updates will include their own new features and changes, as does the 2022 updatebut you’ll also need to install the latest annual update to continue receiving updates for additional features via Windows Update and the Microsoft Store.

As for the Windows 12 rumors, Microsoft simply told Ars it had “no plans to share today.” This position leaves the company plenty of room to change its plans tomorrow or any day after that. But it’s safe to say that there won’t be a new numbered version of Windows anytime soon.

For smaller changes that aren’t made as part of an annual feature update or through a Microsoft Store update, Microsoft will use what’s called a Controlled Feature Rollout (CFR) to test features with a subset of Windows users, rather than delivering them all at once.

If you check Windows Update regularly (and of course you do, right?), you may occasionally see optional monthly preview updates that don’t install unless you manually run them; new features will be rolled out first to people who install these additional updates. Next month, when this update goes out of preview and goes public, it will be pushed to all Windows 11 PCs (barring show-stopping bugs discovered during the preview phase). The optional preview of the October update, for example, will add tabs to Windows File Explorer, and then the optional November update will bring the feature to anyone who hasn’t installed the preview.

There will also be small changes for Microsoft’s enterprise and education customers, a risk-averse audience that cares more about keeping their systems patched and up and running than minor tweaks to the Start menu and taskbar. By default, the new annual update features will be disabled for Windows Enterprise and Education editions. If desired, administrators can enable these changes manually using Group Policy or mobile device management software. But otherwise, the features won’t be enabled by default, yet the next one annual windows update. Therefore, features included in the 22H2 Windows 11 release will not be enabled by default in Windows Education or Enterprise editions until the hypothetical 23H2 update; features in the 23H2 update will be enabled by default in the hypothetical 24H2 update; and so on.

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