Microsoft Releases Windows 11 Version 22H2

The latest version of Windows 11, known as "version 22H2," officially has been released. 

Several announcements were issued on Tuesday that described the various aspects and features of this latest Windows 11 release. Additionally, Microsoft is planning to release Windows 10 version 22H2 "next month," according to John Cable, vice president of program management for Windows servicing and delivery, in a "How to get" Windows 11 announcement.

Microsoft issues new Windows 11 releases once per year, in the second half of each year. These "feature update" operating system releases trigger support clocks for organizations. OS support varies per the edition used, as follows:

  • Windows 11 Enterprise and Education editions are supported for 36 months.
  • Windows 11 Pro and Home editions are supported for 24 months.

Organizations may be familiar with those feature update cycles, but now Microsoft is saying that it plans to issue new Windows 11 features more frequently than just once per year.

More Frequent Windows 11 Feature Updates
Perhaps the most notable thing described was that Windows 11version 22H2 is kicking off a more frequent update scheme that brings new features to the operating system. The OS will get new features through the Windows Update service and the Windows Store, as described in this support document.

Some of the new features described in Microsoft's various announcements will be coming in October. When available, they'll arrive like a monthly quality update.

Windows Update is typically used to deliver quality and security patches each month, but Microsoft also will now use it to deliver new Windows 11 features. These new OS features arrive via a "phased and measured approach" using the "Controlled Feature Rollout (CFR) technology" that's also used with the Microsoft Edge browser and Windows Insider Program releases, the support document explained.

Windows 11 enterprise and educational users, and those using domain-joined Pro editions, will get these new Windows 11 features turned "off by default." After November, these organizations also will have policy options to turn the features on, which "will be done as a set, and not for individual features or individual releases," the support document explained.

Windows 11 2022 Update Highlights
The new Windows 11 version 22H2 operating system is getting released in more than 190 countries, noted Panos Panay, executive vice president and chief product officer for Microsoft's Windows and Devices segment, in Microsoft's main announcement.

Panay suggested that Windows 11 was easier and safer for end users, while also supporting organizational security and management needs. He pointed to a "new Microsoft Defender SmartScreen" feature, which alerts people when they are "entering their Microsoft credentials into a malicious application or hacked website."

Windows Hello, Microsoft's biometric authentication scheme, has an optional "presence sensing" capability that will lock a PC if a user leaves the area.

One other notable security feature in version 22H2 is Smart App Control, which "blocks untrusted or unsigned applications, script files and malicious macros from running on Windows 11." It uses artificial intelligence and Microsoft's security "signals" information to "predict if an app is safe," according to an announcement about Windows 11 security by David Weston, vice president of enterprise and OS security at Microsoft.

Weston further explained that "Smart App Control is built on the same OS core capabilities used in Windows Defender Application Control." To use Smart App Control, a clean installation of Windows 11 version 22H2 needs to be performed, Microsoft indicated.

Other notable security perks in Windows 11 version 22H2 include:

  • Hypervisor-protected code integrity to protect against kernel modifications by drivers.
  • A Microsoft vulnerable driver block list for known vulnerabilities.
  • Windows Defender Credential Guard (with the Windows 11 Enterprise edition) to address credential theft techniques.
  • Local Security Authority turned on by default to "load only trusted, signed code, making it significantly more difficult for attackers to steal credentials."

Secured-core PCs specifically are getting the Config Lock feature, which "helps prevent the configuration drift that occurs when users with local admin rights change settings and put devices out-of-sync with IT security policies," Weston explained.

Microsoft had described many of these security features back in April.

Windows 11 version 22H2 users are getting "Focus sessions" and "Do Not Disturb" feature that will silence notifications popping up from the taskbar. The Focus feature works with Microsoft Clock App, allowing users to set events like break times.

A "Windows Studio effects" capability improves conference call aspects, such as filtering out background noise or blurring visual backgrounds, and keeping views at eye level.

Microsoft expanded its partnership with the Amazon Appstore to bring "more than 20,000 Android apps and games to Windows 11 devices that meet the feature-specific hardware requirements," Panay noted. A Game Pass Xbox app addition to Windows 11 connects PC games to the Xbox console.

A "tabs in File Explorer" feature in Windows 11 was a top request, Panay noted. It'll be coming to Windows 11 version 22H2 users in October, though.

Getting Windows 11 Version 22H2
Windows 11 version 22H2 is getting released in a phased manner and just gets offered to devices that are deemed ready for it via Microsoft's "signals" information. If a device is not ready, then Microsoft blocks the update's arrival via a "Safeguard Hold," explained Cable in the "How to get" announcement.

It's possible for individual users to use the "Check for updates" command under Windows Update settings, which is one way to install Windows 11version 22H2. Individuals uncertain if their devices meet Microsoft's system requirements for Windows 11 can use the PC Health Check app. Microsoft doesn't recommend trying to install Windows 11 on machines that don't meet the requirements, as explained in this support document.

Organizations can use "the built in Windows 11 Readiness report in Microsoft Endpoint Manager and/or Endpoint Analytics to help identify eligible devices that meet the Windows 11 minimum system requirements for an upgrade," Cable noted.

Microsoft also released Windows 11 version 22H2 via venues such as "Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), Windows Update for Business and the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC)."

The announcement by Cable confirmed an earlier Microsoft assertion that it will require Windows 11 Pro editions users to use a Microsoft account for setup, but only when the device is for personal use. This point was explained in footnote No. 6 of Cable's announcement, as follows:

Starting with Windows 11, version 22H2, the Pro edition will require internet connectivity during the initial device setup only, and if you choose to setup the device for personal use, a Microsoft account will also be required for setup.

A list of tools for deploying Windows 11 version 22H2 can be found in this Windows IT pro blog post, which also includes a discussion about the shift from Windows 10 to Windows 11.

Microsoft is claiming to have greatly reduced the size of Windows 11 version 22H2. Relative to Windows 11 version 21H2, this version of Windows 11 has a download size that's 14 percent smaller (about 450MB smaller). The improvements are made possible by Microsoft's Unified Update Platform improvements, explained Steve DiAcetis, a member of the Windows fundamentals team, in this Window IT pro blog post.

Other Perks
Some other perks for IT pros were described in this announcement by Microsoft General Manager Wangui McKelvey. The announcement also pointed to a Forrester "Total Economic Impact" report suggesting financial benefits from using Windows 11.

Organizations with E3 licensing can use Windows Autopatch to update "Windows, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Edge and Microsoft 365 apps." E3 licensees that use Microsoft Endpoint Manager have access to "application and driver compatibility insights" for moving to Window 11.

It's also possible to use Azure Workbooks for Update Compliance to get reports on organizational compliance with Windows updates and patches.

Organizations using Microsoft Endpoint Manager can send "organizational messages" to end users, which appear "above the taskbar, in the notifications panel, and in the Get Started application," McKelvey added.

Universal Print, Microsoft's scheme for dispensing with print server management, is now available for Azure Virtual Desktop users.

Microsoft is also working on integrating the Microsoft Store app catalog into the Microsoft Intune management solution to improve "app deployment and update controls," which will be discussed at the upcoming Microsoft Ignite event.

More about Windows management and Intune will be discussed in a four-day online sessions program called "Microsoft Technical Takeoff: Windows and Microsoft Intune," happening from Oct. 24 to Oct. 27, where questions can be asked.