Biggest Windows 11 update in 2 years nearly finalized, enters Release Preview


The Windows 11 24H2 update isn’t scheduled to be released until sometime this fall, but testers can get a near-final version of it early. Microsoft has released Windows 11 24H2 build 26100.712 to its Release Preview testing channel for Windows Insiders, a sign that the update is nearly complete and that the company has shifted into bug-fixing mode ahead of general availability.

Microsoft has generally stuck to smaller but more frequent feature updates during the Windows 11 era, but the annual fall updates still tend to be a bigger deal. They’re the ones that determine whether you’re still eligible for security updates, and they often (but not always) come with more significant under-the-hood changes than the normal feature drops.

Case in point: Windows 11 24H2 includes an updated compiler, kernel, and scheduler, all lower-level system changes made at least in part to better support Arm-based PCs. Existing Windows-on-Arm systems should also see a 10 or 20 percent performance boost when using x86 applications, thanks to improvements in the translation layer (which Microsoft is now calling Prism).

There are more user-visible changes, too. 24H2 includes Sudo for Windows, the ability to create TAR and 7-zip archives from the File Explorer, Wi-Fi 7 support, a new “energy saver” mode, and better support for Bluetooth Low Energy Audio. It also allows users to run the Copilot AI chatbot in a regular resizable window that can be pinned to the taskbar instead of always giving it a dedicated strip of screen space.

Other new Windows features are tied to the 24H2 update but will only be available on Copilot+ PCs, which have their own specific system requirements: 16 GB of memory, 256 GB of storage, and a neural processing unit (NPU) capable of at least 40 trillion operations per second (TOPS). As of right now, the only chips that fit the bill are Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Plus and X Elite processors, though Intel and AMD systems with faster NPUs should be released later this year. Microsoft will maintain a separate list of processors that support the Copilot+ features.

The biggest 24H2 feature specific to Copilot+ PCs is Recall, which continually takes snapshots of everything you do with your PC so that you can look up your own activities later. This comes with obvious privacy and security risks, though Microsoft says that all of Recall’s data is encrypted on disk and processed entirely locally by the NPU rather than leveraging the cloud. Other Copilot+ features include Live Captions for captioning video files or video calls in real time and features for generating new images and enhancing existing images.

Collectively, all of these changes make 24H2 the most significant Windows 11 release since the 22H2 update came out a year and a half ago. 22H2 has served as the foundation for most new Windows features since then, including the Copilot chatbot, and 23H2 was mostly just a version number change released to reset the clock on Microsoft’s security update timeline.

Despite all of these changes and additions, the 24H2 update is still called Windows 11, still looks like Windows 11, and doesn’t change Windows 11’s official minimum system requirements. Unsupported installs will stop working on a few generations’ worth of older 64-bit x86 CPUs, though these chips are old and slow enough that they wouldn’t run Windows 11 particularly well in the first place.

For people who want to start fresh, ISO files of the release are available from Microsoft’s download page here (this is a slightly older build of the OS, 26100.560, but it should update to the current version with no issues after installation). You can update a current Windows 11 install from the Insider section in the Settings app. Microsoft says to expect the full release “later this calendar year.” Based on past precedent, it’s most likely to come out in the fall, but it will probably ship a bit early on the first wave of Copilot+ Arm PCs that will be available in mid-June.

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