Windows 11 2022 Update is here: new features and everything you need to know

Windows 11 logo on a blue, folded backdrop
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Since its launch in November 2021, Microsoft has been hard at work on the next big update to Windows 11, which was previously codenamed 'Sun Valley 2' and 22H2. However, an accidental leak revealed that the new name would be called 'Windows 11 2022 Update'.

The update has finally arrived, showcasing new features for accessibility and a refined look across the operating system.

An April update showcased the unexpected revival of Windows Media Player and the ability to preview Android apps in the Microsoft Store, another update is already in testing that brings better 'Open With' features, a revamped taskbar, and more.

The 2022 update will mark a paradigm shift for Microsoft, with the company allegedly canceling its major 2023 'Sun Valley 3' update to instead bring substantial features at a faster pace, compared to the six-month schedule that Windows 10 had. These new smaller feature updates will be called 'Moments', and are expected to release every three months.

As an October event is allegedly bringing new Surface products, we could see the 'Moment' update arrive sooner than users think, so tabs in File Explorer could be arriving with a new Surface tablet.

With this in mind, here is everything we know so far about the first major update for Windows 11.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Windows 11 2022 Update is the first major feature update to Windows 11.
  • When is it out? Released on September 20 2022
  • How much does it cost? Windows 11 2022 Update is a free update for all users.

Windows 11 2022 Update release date 

Microsoft announced the availability of the first major update to Windows 11 on September 20, with it since showing up on Windows Update on compatible PCs.

Updated Notepad in Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Start menu showing pinned apps organized into folders.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Android apps coming to Windows 11

Testers in the Beta Channel who have Windows 11 Build and above will be able to try out the redesigned Focus feature, but as of February 2022 users have been able to test out a variety of Android apps.

These originate from Amazon's App Store instead of Google Play, where every app is tested and approved by Amazon, similar to Apple's effort with the App Store.

These will run similar to how iOS apps run on macOS, with apps such as TikTok and Instagram running in a window.

However, it's worth noting that there are already other ways to install Android apps directly, without going through the Microsoft Store.

New OS features for Windows 11 2022 Update

Windows 11 start menu

(Image credit: TechRadar)

This first update to Windows 11 looks to be built on feedback from users, alongside more refinements that Microsoft presumably didn't have time to include in the first release in November.

One feature that's been divided by users has been the taskbar. The start menu has seen a redesign in Windows 11, but while the new look has been a positive, some features that were present in Windows 10, cannot be found here.

In the 2022 Update, the taskbar looks to be bringing back some features and listening to some feedback, with drag and drop coming back to the taskbar.

Other OS improvements are more apps from Microsoft that will be refreshed with the Fluent Design language that's across Windows 11. Notepad is one of the examples for the 2022 Update, gaining dark mode and a re-arranged menu bar.

While Paint is another app to gain from a refreshed look, Microsoft surprised many at the end of 2021 by bringing back Windows Media Player.

It will be replacing the rather basic Groove Music, an app that debuted back in Windows 8 in 2012. This will be available in the Microsoft Store, but will be scheduled to appear as the default app to play media files once the 2022 Update is available to everyone.

Windows 11 updates look to already be about more than visual flair, and 22H2 is set to be no exception. There will be several changes underneath that aren’t user-facing, as always, and a number that will be.

But from what Microsoft is working on and showcasing through the Insider Program, it's clear that the company wants to update the apps of Windows 11, not just the front-facing features.

Windows Media Player on Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

How to test the Windows 11 2022 Update before launch

Before Microsoft pushes out any big update to Windows 11, it passes through the various channels in the Windows Insider Program. There are various channels in the Insider Program which relate to how far ahead of time you’ll be able to test new features, with the most cutting edge being the ‘Dev Channel’, targeted at the most technical users.

The ‘Dev Channel’ was the first place that this update started to appear, with a 2200 build number appearing in November 2021. Other app updates to Paint and Windows Media Player soon appeared in the 'Beta Channel'.

These will be reliable builds tied to a future release with updates validated by Microsoft. Closer to launch, Windows 11 22H2 will hit the ‘Release Preview Channel’ which is the most stable of all in the Insider Program. Builds released to this channel are supported by Microsoft.

If you’re not yet in the Windows Insider Program and you’d like to start testing future updates early you can enroll right from the Settings app on your PC. Head to the ‘Update & Security section, then select ‘Windows Insider Program’ and choose the channel you want to join. You will then begin receiving updates through ‘Windows Update’ on your PC corresponding to the channel you joined.

Daryl Baxter
Software & Downloads Writer

Daryl had been freelancing for 3 years before joining TechRadar, now reporting on everything software-related. In his spare time he's written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', alongside podcasting and usually found playing games old and new on his PC and MacBook Pro. If you have a story about an updated app, one that's about to launch, or just anything Software-related, drop him a line.