Today, Microsoft is beginning to roll out a major batch of new Windows updates, including its Copilot generative AI assistant, wide-ranging improvements for built-in apps, and other user interface tweaks. Normally, updates of this magnitude would only arrive in one of Windows’ big yearly feature updates, but the company said last week that all of these changes would be added to the current revision of Windows 11, version 22H2.
In a blog post released today, Microsoft said that Windows is getting its yearly update later this year but that the Windows 11 2023 Update won’t include new features or fixes. Instead, it’s what Microsoft calls an “enablement package,” which will essentially will bump up the version number without making any other changes to the underlying code or turning on new features.
Microsoft says that this 23H2 update “will be cumulative with all the newly announced features,” so any new install media created with Windows 23H2 will include Copilot and all the other updates that Microsoft is rolling out today. It’s just that the new features and the new version number are technically arriving separately instead of being grouped together as they would have been in past years. Microsoft says people running Windows 11 22H2 can get most of the new features by manually installing the optional October update that’s available in Windows Update today or by enabling the “get the latest updates as soon as they’re available” toggle in Windows Update. The non-optional November update will enable all these features on all Windows 11 PCs.
Why care about the version number change at all? Aside from being an opportunity for Microsoft to distribute updated ISOs and other install media, Windows’ yearly version number bumps also reset the clock on security updates and other support. The Home and Pro versions of Windows are supported for 24 months after their release, and the Enterprise and Education editions are supported for 36 months.
That means that Windows 11 22H2 is around halfway through its support window for most PC users, while the initial Windows 11 21H2 release will be unsupported starting on October 10. Windows 11 23H2 will be supported until sometime toward the end of 2025.
The other new piece of information in this post, plus a separate one Microsoft published to enumerate today’s new Windows features, is that the new Windows Backup app will also be available for Windows 10 and 11. This should make the upgrade path easier for people moving to a Windows 11 PC from an older model that doesn’t officially support Windows 11.