June 20, 2024

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The biggest Windows 11 update in two years is almost here, and it’s entering Release Preview

The biggest Windows 11 update in two years is almost here, and it’s entering Release Preview

Microsoft

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

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

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

There are more changes visible to the user as well. 24H2 includes Sudo for WindowsThe ability to create TAR and 7-zip archives from File Explorer, Wi-Fi 7 support, a new Power 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 characteristics System requirements: 16GB memory, 256GB storage, and a neural processing unit (NPU) capable of performing at least 40 trillion operations per second (TOPS). As of now, the only chips that fit the bill are Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Microsoft will maintain a separate list of processors that support Copilot+ features.

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The biggest 24-hour feature of Copilot+ computers is the Recall feature, which constantly takes snapshots of everything you do with your computer so you can look up your own activities later. This comes with obvious privacy and security risks, though Microsoft says all Recall 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 videos or video calls in real time and features to create new images and enhance existing images.

Collectively, all of these changes make 24H2 the most important Windows 11 release since the 22H2 update was released 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 build number change released to reset the clock on Microsoft’s security update timeline.

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

For people who want to start over, release-specific ISO files are available from Microsoft’s download page here. You can update your current Windows 11 installation from the Insider section of the Settings app. Microsoft says it expects the full release “later this calendar year.” Based on previous precedent, it will likely launch in the fall, but will likely ship a bit early for the first wave of Copilot+ Arm computers that will be available in mid-June.

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