Microsoft released the latest annual update to its flagship Windows operating system today. It might be the least exciting launch in the 30-plus-year history of Windows. And that’s just fine.
Technically, today’s release marks the general availability of the Windows 11 2023 Update (also known as Windows 11, version 23H2). In a blog post, John Cable, the Microsoft VP in charge of making the Windows trains run on time, described the new version thusly: “We are providing a limited scope of new features and functionality delivered via a familiar, fast, and reliable update experience.”
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For those who don’t speak Microsoft, allow me to translate: This update is extremely minor, in terms of the impact on your PC. If you’re running last year’s Windows 11 release (version 22H2), this one will arrive as a small package that turns on a handful of new features, increments the build number, and then closes. As far as core operating system files are concerned, there’s no difference between the 2022 and 2023 versions. If you’re still running the original 2021 release of Windows 11, though, your installation experience will be noticeably more intrusive, requiring a full Windows Setup that might take an hour or more.
Most of the new features that are turned on with the new update have already been released and are available for version 22H2 as well. The one Microsoft is pitching most prominently is Windows Copilot, which adds an AI prompt in a sidebar on the right side of the Windows display. For a full list of those previously released features, see “The latest Windows 11 update is rolling out now. Here’s what’s new.”
The new features that are exclusive to this release aren’t exactly groundbreaking. The Chat app has been renamed Microsoft Teams (Free) and is now pinned to the taskbar by default. Microsoft promises it will offer “a mini communications experience that makes it possible to chat, call, meet, and create a space for community groups to come together, organize, and share ideas in just a click or two.”
In addition, a half-dozen or so apps that are included with Windows 11 are getting a new System tag on the All Apps menu. They’re also getting their own page in Settings > System > System Components. The list includes the Microsoft Store app as well as Game Bar and Phone Link….