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Microsoft begins testing Windows 11 24H2 as this year’s big update takes shape

Enlarge / Windows 11 24H2 has made its first appearance.

Andrew Cunningham

The next major version of Windows isn’t expected until the end of the year, but it looks like Microsoft is getting an early start. The new Windows Insider builds posted to the Canary and Dev channels both have their build numbers set to “24H2”, indicating that these are the first builds of what Microsoft will eventually release to all Windows users this autumn.

The new features in 24H2 include a handful of things that Microsoft has already tested publicly since the big batch of new features dropped last September, as well as a handful of new features. The biggest news is the addition of Sudo for Windows, a version of a Linux/Unix terminal command that was first revealed in a preview build earlier this month. The new version also includes better hearing aid support, support for creating 7-zip and TAR archives in File Explorer, a power saving mode and new protocol changes SMB. This version also removes the WordPad and Tips applications.

Some of these features could be available to all Windows 11 users before the end of the year. In the Windows 11 era, Microsoft used to release new features in several small batches throughout the year.

The early change to 24H2 numbering is a difference from last year, when Windows 11 23H2 only appeared publicly in late October. Even then, it was mostly an update that deferred the version number and Microsoft’s support clock for software updates: most of its “new” features had actually been deployed to PCs running Windows 11 22H2 in the previous month.

There are signs that this update will be quite significant in scope. In addition to all the features Microsoft lists, there are signs that the company is overhauling things like the Windows setup process you go through when installing the operating system from scratch. The current setup screens have remained essentially unchanged since Windows Vista in 2006, with only slight and mostly cosmetic changes since then (and even in the redesigned version, the window borders are still done in the Vista/7 style).

Logistically, this initial build of Windows 11 24H2 allows Windows Insider testers in the more unstable Canary channel to move to the less unstable Dev channel without completely reinstalling Windows. Eventually this… window will close and the Canary channel will move to a new set of build numbers.

Where is Windows 12 going?

Some media and users took the announcement of this update as proof that the rumored “Windows 12” will not arrive this year. The existence of Windows 12, largely inferred based on rumors and stray statements from PC makers and analysts, has never been officially confirmed or denied by Microsoft.

A 24H2 update suggests that Windows 11 will continue to work for at least another year, but that doesn’t necessarily rule out a Windows 12 launch this year. Windows 10 received a 21H2 update the year Windows 11 was released and a 22H2 update the following year (which also didn’t bring any significant new features). Microsoft could decide to rename the next feature update in relatively short order, as it originally did with Windows 11, which started as a design overhaul for Windows 10. Windows 12 could arrive, or not, but I wouldn’t accept that. 11 Update 24H2 as decisive proof one way or the other.

AI would be a major focus for the hypothetical Windows 12, as it has been for the last major Windows 11 updates. Trendforce went so far as to say that “AI PCs” running “the next generation of Windows” would require a “baseline” of 16GB of RAM, but when asked about this, a Microsoft representative told us that the company “does not comment.” on rumors and speculation. Trendforce also said that these AI PCs would need neural processing units (NPUs) that meet certain performance standards.

To date, Microsoft has not mandated any specific system requirements for Copilot or Windows’ other generative AI features, aside from requirements of 4GB of RAM and 720p display for the Windows 10 version of Copilot, but this could change if more Windows AI features debut. by relying on local processing rather than cloud processing.

List image by Microsoft

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