On September 26, 2023, Microsoft releases Windows 11 23H2, a new version of the operating system that brings with it plenty of new features and improvements. It is notable for deeper AI integration here and there, including the new Windows Copilot assistant. For the first time in its history, Windows natively supports RAR and 7Z archives, and several other formats.
Windows 11 version 22H3 remains free for existing Windows 11 users. The hardware requirements hasn't changed as well. Finally, by using your Windows 10/8/7 key during installation of Windows 11, you can upgrade your license for free.
Here's the comprehensive review of new features and improvements added to Windows 11 version 23H2. In addition, you may be interested in learning more about the full Windows 11 release history.
New Features in Windows 11 23H2
Windows Copilot is an AI-powered assistant tool that is deeply integrated with the operating system. It can analyze screen content and offer recommendations based on the user's current activities and online browsing. In addition, Copilot has the ability to modify Windows settings, launch applications, and extract text from images. With these functionalities, it aims to replace Cortana as a daily personal assistant for users.
To start, simply click on the new button located on the taskbar or use the shortcut WIN + C to launch Windows Copilot. It will use the same Microsoft account (MSA) or Azure Active Directory (AAD) account that was used to sign in to Windows.
To give Windows Copilot a try, start with these simple requests:
- “Change to dark mode.”
- “Turn on do not disturb.”
- “Take a screenshot”
- “Summarize this website” (Active tab in Microsoft Edge)
- “Write a story about a dog who lives on the moon.”
- “Make me a picture of a serene koi fishpond with lily pads.”
Native 7z and RAR archive support
- And more!
In 2024, the OS will allow creating such archives.
Microsoft has added a new home page in the Settings app that offers quick access to key settings and lets you manage your Microsoft account.
Interactive cards offer various operating system and account settings. Each card is designed to provide the user with up-to-date information and essential options. In this build, up to 7 cards will be displayed on the Home page, but there will be more in the future.
- Recommended settings: This card adapts to your specific usage patterns, providing timely and relevant settings options. It’s designed to streamline your settings management and save you time.
- Cloud storage: Gives you an overview of your cloud storage use and lets you know when you’re nearing capacity.
- Account recovery: Helps keep your Microsoft account more secure by helping you add additional recovery info so you never get locked out of your account, even if you forget your password.
- Personalization: Brings customization to the forefront by offering one-click access to update your background theme or change your color mode.
- Microsoft 365: Provides a quick glimpse of your subscription status and benefits, along with the ability to take some key actions right in Settings instead of going to the web.
- Xbox: Similar to the Microsoft 365 card, you’ll be able to view your subscription status and manage the subscription from the Settings app.
- Bluetooth Devices: To simplify your Bluetooth device management experience, we’ve brought this to the forefront so you can quickly access and connect to your favorite Bluetooth-enabled devices.
Easily view Wi-Fi passwords
Windows 11 23H2 adds the ability to view passwords for known Wi-Fi networks in Settings > Network and Internet > Wi-Fi > Manage Known Networks.
On that page, click on the View Wi-Fi security key option and you are good to go.
End Task option
The "End task" option under System > For Developers no longer requires Developer Mode to be enabled first before it can be used.
Time zone changes in the Settings app
- If the system could not reliably determine the current location, then the time zone setting will not be performed automatically. Instead, the user will receive a non-dismissable notification where they must confirm or cancel the proposed time zone change.
- Improved time zone change in Settings -> Time & Language -> Date & Time. If location is disabled on the system, a notification will appear on the page prompting you to enable this feature to fine-tune the time zone. This warning will provide the user with useful information about why the set time zone might be incorrect and help resolve the issue.
If you're signed into Windows 11 Pro or Enterprise with Microsoft Entra ID (formerly AAD), you'll be able to take advantage of enhanced file previews when you hover your mouse over them in the Recommended section of the Start menu. With this feature, for example, you can quickly view details about a Word document. You can also now quickly share cloud files from recommendations by right-clicking on them.
You can now turn on never combined mode on the taskbar by right-clicking on the taskbar, choosing “Taskbar settings” and under “Taskbar behaviors” simply adjusting “Combine taskbar buttons and hide labels” to never. There's now a separate setting for turning this on for other taskbars (multiple monitor scenarios for example).
The bell icon will now be displayed on the taskbar as an indicator of received notifications. When new notifications appear, the bell will change to the system accent color. If there are no notifications, then the icon will not be filled with any color.
The indicator for the number of notifications received is no longer displayed.
An updated application icon pinning API has been added, which was described in a dedicated post.
Virtual Desktop switching animation and notification
When you switch between virtual desktops, Windows 11 will now play a neat transition effect. Also, you will see a notification that shows the current desktop's name.
The Dynamic Lighting feature gives users and developers control over lighting devices that support the HID LampArray standard. Microsoft is committed to improving the RGB device and software ecosystem by improving device and app compatibility. You can manage your device settings through the Settings app.
Several device manufacturers, including Acer, ASUS, HP, HyperX, Logitech, Razer and Twinkly, are partnering with Microsoft on dynamic lighting. Several devices to mention.
- Coming soon: ASUS ROG Scope II Wireless 96 Gaming Keyboard
- Razer BlackWidow V3
- Razer BlackWidow V3 Pro
- Razer BlackWidow V3 Mini
- Razer BlackWidow V3 Tenkeyless
- Razer BlackWidow V4 Pro
- Razer DeathStalker V2
- Razer DeathStalker V2 Pro
- Razer DeathStalker V2 Pro TKL
- Razer Huntsman Mini
- Razer Huntsman Mini Analog
- Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition
- Razer Huntsman V2
- Razer Huntsman V2 Analog
- Razer Huntsman V2 Tenkeyless
- Razer Ornata V2
- Razer Ornata V3
- Razer Ornata V3 TKL
- Razer Turret Keyboard Xbox One Edition
- Coming Soon: ASUS ROG Harpe Ace AimLab Edition Gaming Mouse
- Microsoft Pro IntelliMouse
- Razer Turret Mouse Xbox One
- Razer Death Adder V2
- Razer DeathAdder V2 Pro
- Razer Naga Left-Handed
- Razer Naga Pro
To manage and configure HID LampArray devices, go to Settings -> Personalization -> Dynamic Lighting.
- You can now instantly sync your Windows accent color to your peripherals using the Match Windows Accent Color option under Settings -> Personalization -> Dynamic Lighting -> Effects. This change was introduced in the previous Dev channel build.
- Added the ability to select your own color for the RGB lighting of devices.
Windows Ink improvements
Microsoft has updated the Windows Ink feature so that users can write ink right on top of editable fields. In addition, the accuracy of handwriting recognition technology has been improved and support for the strikethrough gesture has been added, which allows you to make edits to the resulting text. Windows Ink is designed to allow users to use the pen to write anywhere they can enter text.
You can manage the new features in Settings -> Bluetooth & Devices -> Pen & Windows Ink under the Handwriting category.
New Volume Mixer in Quick Actions
An improved volume mixer is now available in the Quick Actions menu. It allows you to quickly adjust the volume for each specific application and switch between output devices. In addition, there is a new keyboard shortcut WIN + CTRL + V to quickly open the volume mixer.
Enabling the Windows Sonic feature has also been simplified. To do this, there is a list of installed surround sound technologies in the volume mixer. You can install Dolby and DTS from the Microsoft Store.
Windows Spotlight improvements
The Windows Spotlight feature now allows you to view the image in full screen mode, get additional information about the photo in the Spotlight window, and also minimize the window to its minimum size. To open the Windows Spotlight window, right-click on its icon on the desktop. Double-clicking on the icon will open a page in Bing with detailed information about the image.
To enable Windows Spotlight, right-click on your desktop, select Personalize, and then enable the new Spotlight Theme. You can also enable Windows Spotlight by going to Settings -> Personalization -> Background and selecting the appropriate option from the Personalize Background drop-down list. Microsoft rolls out this feature gradually.
Screen casting improvements
In this build, Microsoft has enhanced the casting feature to enable wireless display extension from your PC to other nearby devices such as PCs, TVs, or external displays. Their goal is to provide a better user experience by improving the discoverability of the Cast feature and simplifying the overall process. The improvements include:
- When you work with many apps on your PC, you will receive a pop-up notification prompting you to use the Cast feature to better organize them.
- You can now set up your PC to project your screen to another device from the quick actions flyout.
- Installing the optional Wireless Display optional feature.
- Making your PC discoverable by other devices through the "Cast to this device" settings page.
Computers with presence sensors that have attention detection capabilities now feature adaptive brightness control. This means that the device can automatically adjust the screen brightness based on whether you are looking at it or turned away. To access the function settings, navigate to Settings -> Privacy & Security -> Presence Sensing, provided that your device supports this feature.
Also, Windows will wake up and lock the device depending on whether you are near it. All of these features can now be enabled during the initial system setup (OOBE) phase.
Windows 365 Switch
Windows 365 Switch is a feature that lets you switch between a Windows 365 Cloud PC and your local desktop with keyboard shortcuts, mouse-click or swipe gesture.
You can now try out Windows 365 Switch, which enables easy switching between a Windows 365 Cloud PC and a local desktop using familiar keyboard commands, mouse-clicks, or swipe gestures via Task View on the Windows 11 taskbar.
- Voice Access is now available on the sign-in screen.
- You can use your voice to move the focus to the password entry field and even dictate your password or PIN to the system.
- You can also say "show keyboard" to open the touch keyboard with number labels and speak the numbers to enter letters. This will hide your actual password, which will be helpful if someone nearby can hear it.
- You can also say "show keyboard" to open the touch keyboard with number labels and speak the numbers to enter letters. This will hide your actual password, which will be helpful if someone nearby can hear it.
- In addition, Voice Access now supports applications that work with Microsoft Defender Application Guard.
Compose texts with Voice Access
Users can now use “correction” commands to correct words that are misrecognized by voice access.
You can say “correct [text]” or “correct that” to correct a specific piece of text or last dictated text. The correction window appears with a list of options labelled with numbers.
You can say “click [number]” to select any option from the list. If you choose an alternate word from the window , the selected text will be replaced by the word. You can also say “spell that” to dictate the correct spelling of the text.
You can now set JXR files as desktop backgrounds. If you are using an HDR-enabled display, then the image will be displayed using this technology.
First, make sure your device has an HDR display or is connected to an external HDR-enabled display. To check, go to Settings -> System -> Display -> HDR. If the technology support is available, then enable it on this page.
After that, download these HDR images in .JXR format. Right-click on the desktop, select "Personalization" -> "Background" -> "Personalize background" and select the file in .JXR format.
New and updated apps
Notepad with tabs and session support
The newest version of the Notepad app comes with tabs and dark theme support. In addition, it now support editing sessions by remembering what documents you were working with and what changes you have done to them, including unsaved changes.
The session state of Notepad will be saved automatically, enabling you to close it without any disruptive prompts. When you come back, you can resume your work from where you left off. The previously opened tabs and any unsaved content or edits will be restored automatically by Notepad.
Paint app with layers, background removal and transparency support
With Windows 11 version 22H3, Microsoft updates the inbox Paint app with a proper dark theme support. Besides, the app now allows removing the background (automatically and manually) of the key object in the picture.
You can now save the result to a PNG file preserving transparency. Editing of transparent PNG files is also supported.
Also, the app now includes the Cocreator feature, based on the DALL-E model. With its help, you can quickly generate a unique image by entering a text query and selecting the desired style.
Finally, Paint now support layers, so you can perform more complex image editing by combining multiple objects in one image.
Snipping Tool with OCR & video recording support
With the latest update of Snipping Tool, you have more options to capture content on your screen.
- The app now supports OCR/text extraction from a captured image. The text will become available for copy and paste.
- The new Text Actions menu let you quickly hide sensitive information when you click the Redact option. Email addresses and phone numbers will be hidden automatically. If you need to hide any other text, simply highlight it, right-click and select the Hide Text option.
- You can now record a video from the screen. The app supports audio and mic capture, making it easier to create engaging videos and content from your screen.
Photos app now supports background blur
You can now enhance your photo's focal point by entering Edit mode and applying the new Background Blur feature. The Photos app effortlessly identifies the photo's background, allowing you to easily emphasize your subject while blurring the background with just one click.
The app now also allows searching for objects and locations in images stored on OneDrive.
The latest update of Clipchamp comes equipped with an auto compose feature that offers scene suggestions, edits, and narratives based on your images and footage. This means that you can effortlessly create and edit videos like a professional, which you can then share with your loved ones, friends, and social media followers. You can save the result to OneDrive, Google Drive, or directly send it to platforms such as TikTok or YouTube.
The new Windows Backup app
Microsoft is introducing new system settings backup and restore options to make it easier to migrate to a new PC and help developers retain customers. The goal of the changes is to provide users with a familiar desktop so that you can return to work on another device in minutes.
- The Windows Backup app is a new app that lets you quickly back up your PC in preparation for migrating to another device.
- Pinning apps - Your Microsoft Store apps from your previous PC will be pinned to the same places where you had them. This applies to both the taskbar and the Start menu.
- Settings - Settings from your previous computer will be restored to your new device so you can get back to work faster.
After creating a backup, either using the new Windows Backup app or under Accounts -> Windows Backup, you can try out the restore feature during the Windows 11 Initial Setup (OOBE) on a new PC or after a factory reset on your current device.
- Users will see restored desktop app icons in the Start menu and taskbar, even if those apps weren't installed from the Microsoft Store.
- Those applications that are available from Microsoft can be easily restored by clicking on the icon.
- If the app is not in the Microsoft Store, you will be redirected to a web page where you can manually download the installer.
NOTE: An easy way for Insiders to try this experience out is by running the Windows Backup app on a PC running this build and choosing “Reset this PC” under Settings > System > Recovery and then going through OOBE for the new restore experience.
The Task Manager settings page has been redesigned to match the style of Windows 11. The page now looks more like the Settings app and offers a cleaner user interface with categories separated into separate sections. The change will also become available on the Dev channel shortly.
File Explorer improvements
File Explorer is now built on top of the Windows App SDK, that allows Microsoft to bring more changes to its look and features. It now sports a redesigned Home page that is built using WinUI. This page displays a strip of recommended files for users signed in with Azure Active Directory (AAD). File thumbnail support will be coming soon.
The updated "Favorites" and "Recent" sections, that appear for Microsoft Account users, are also made using the WinUI library.
In addition, Microsoft introduced a redesigned address bar and an updated search field in File Explorer. The address bar automatically recognizes local and online folders. OneDrive users will notice that the address bar will now display sync status and available cloud space.
The address bar will also show an option to start a backup of your important files to OneDrive. A glowing button will invite you to try the new feature. It is worth noting that the same option is available now on Windows 10 too.
Finally, a modern File Explorer Details panel has been added to help you quickly access related content, stay up to date on file activity, and collaborate without having to open the file itself. This panel can be opened with the button on the toolbar, and with the ALT + Shift + P hotkey.
The new Details panel will display contextual information about the selected file, including a thumbnail, status, share button, file activity history, related documents and emails, and more.
To enable the panel, click on the "View" button, select "Show" > "Details Pane". After that, you can control the display of the panel using the button on the right side of the Explorer toolbar. The modern Details panel replaces the legacy Details Pane.
Local File Sharing improvements
Windows 11 Build 23506 includes some improvements to the built-in Windows share window and nearby sharing for sharing local files from your PC.
- A redesigned the Windows share window to better match the Windows 11 design principles.
- Everyone will now be able to email their files through Outlook directly within the Windows share window. Just click on the Outlook icon under the “Share using” section of the Windows share window.
- The Windows share window now has a search box so you can now search for contacts across Outlook to share a file and the Windows share window will now display 8-10 suggested contacts to quickly share to – including emailing yourself a file.
- Instead of a dropdown, you will see a button to turn on nearby sharing.
- For nearby sharing, you will find your own PCs at the top of discovered devices under “Nearby Share”.
- Files will share faster from one PC to another using Wi-Fi Direct.
- Added “Share” to the context menu in File Explorer in addition to having the share icon at the top of the context menu.
Dev Home is a brand new app that aims to make it easier to set up a device as a developer workspace. With it, you can connect to GitHub, perform basic settings, load the WinGet configuration to automatically download developer tools and programs, and use the Dev Drive feature to create a separate disk partition with the ReFS file system. The Dev Home app comes preinstalled. You will find it in Start > All apps > Windows Tools.
Dev Drive is a new feature in Windows 11 designed to improve the performance of key developer workloads. With it, you can create a separate partition on your hard drive that will use the Resilient File System (ReFS) file system, which provides better performance and security. The feature is designed to meet the needs of developers to host the project's source code, working folders, and package cache. It is not suitable for typical consumer workloads, whether it be storing documents, installing applications, and so on.
You can create a Dev Drive partition from free space on your disk or use VHD/VHDX virtual hard disks. To do this, go to "Settings" -> "System" -> "Memory" -> "Advanced storage settings" -> "Disks and volumes" or use the command line. The Dev Drive partition must be at least 50 GB. More than 8 GB of RAM is also recommended.
Microsoft believes that in the future users have to stop using passwords. Instead, one should use access keys that are resistant to phishing attacks, can be recovered, and are generally more user-friendly. As a result, it will be more difficult for attackers to steal and use credentials to log in to a website or application.
Register and use access keys for authorization on sites and applications
You can now sign in to any app and website that supports passkeys, create and set up a sign-in using this feature, and then sign in with Windows Hello (face, fingerprint, or PIN). You can also complete the login process using your smartphone.
Create and sign in using passkeys saved on your Windows device
- Go to a website that supports the Windows passkey feature (example: bestbuy.com, ebay.com, google.com).
- Create an access key in your account settings.
- Sign out of your account and sign in with your key.
Login with keys stored on your smartphone
- Go to a website that supports the mobile passkey feature (example: bestbuy.com, ebay.com, google.com).
- Create an access key in your account settings.
- Go to the website in Windows and sign in using the passkey you saved on your mobile device.
Manage access keys stored in Windows
Users can now view and delete access keys saved for apps and sites using the Settings app.
- Go to "Settings" -> "Accounts" -> "Passkeys".
- A list of all keys stored on the Windows device will appear on the screen.
- You can find and remove any password from the device.
ℹ️ If Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome displays the browser passkey selection interface, switch to the Windows Hello or Foreign Security Key option. Also you can use Google Chrome Canary where this function works properly. Over time, changes from Google Chrome Canary will be carried over to Microsoft Edge.
Unsafe password copy and paste warnings
In Windows 11, version 22H2, Microsoft Defender SmartScreen's Enhanced Phishing Protection now safeguards Microsoft school or work passwords from phishing attacks and unsafe usage on websites and applications. A new feature being tested in this build involves displaying a warning message to users who have activated the warning options for Windows Security under App & browser control > Reputation-based protection > Phishing protection, informing them of the risks associated with copying and pasting passwords on unsafe sites. This warning will appear in the same manner as when users enter their password.
Added new natural voices in Japanese and English (UK) to enable Narrator users to comfortably surf the web, read and send mail, and more. Natural voices use modern text-to-speech technologies and work without an Internet connection after downloading the package to your device.
Narrator users interacting with traditional Chinese characters can now work with them with confidence using Narrator and the Windows IME suggestion box. This was made possible by the creation of a Traditional Chinese dictionary for more accurate reading. Narrator now uses a dictionary to uniquely identify each Traditional Chinese word. This feature is only supported in the Taiwanese language pack. The Hong Kong language pack is not supported in Narrator.
Better Excel support in Narrator
Narrator will now announce concise but informative data when working in Microsoft Excel. Message priorities are determined based on the information needed to quickly familiarize yourself with the contents of the book, and are configured using convenient keyboard shortcuts.
To enable the improvements, you need to install the latest builds of Windows Insider and Office Insiders, and then launch Narrator with Control + Windows + Enter. The enhancements will be downloaded from the Microsoft Store, so it may take a few minutes before they become available on your computer.
- Verbosity level 3 is now the default instead of 2. This means that Narrator will now automatically announce the “Current context name and type” when you navigate to a bulleted list or toolbar. This will allow users to understand which control has focus. The approach is similar to JAWS and NVDA.
- Improved Narrator experience for Traditional Chinese users. From now on, they will not have to manually enter characters in this language, as the corresponding dictionary has been added to the system for greater accuracy of voice acting.
- Braille has also been improved for Narrator:
- Now, when you navigate to any attachment in Outlook in scanning mode, Narrator will announce the presence of the attachment. This information will also be displayed on a Braille display.
- When navigating to different headings in scan mode using the down arrow or Space + 4 combination on a braille device, information about heading to the heading will be shown on the braille display.
- As you navigate through a numbered list, Narrator will announce the index with the name of the item, and these index values, such as "1 of 4", will appear on the Braille display.
Finally, I would like to note that some of these features may not be available immediately when Windows 11 version 23H2 releases in September. This is typical Microsoft behavior: the company may delay some of them for several weeks or even months, or phase them out gradually.
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