Here’s what you should know about Microsoft’s Windows 11 2022 update

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Thankfully, the same can’t be said for your computer.

After launching Windows 11 last fall, Microsoft is refining it with the first of many regular “feature updates” that the operating system will receive during its lifecycle.

Panos Panay, chief product officer of Microsoft Windows and Devices, said the update was designed to make our PCs “easier and safer to use,” and that on Tuesday the new software began rolling out to more users. 190 countries. But what is really waiting for you on the other side of that update? And what if your computer isn’t compatible with it?

Here’s what you should know about how Windows is changing.

People who already use Windows 11 on their PCs can install this new update for free. Some people who still use Windows 10 on their PCs may be able to upgrade to this updated version of Windows for free as well. To check, open the Settings app on your PC, click Windows Update, then click Check for Updates.

Lots of small tweaks and tweaks, many of which you’d have to be a true power user to notice. But some of the changes Microsoft made here are a little easier to spot – and perhaps more impactful – than others. Here are a few you might want to keep an eye out for:

  • System-wide live captions. Videos, podcasts, live radio streaming – if you’re meant to hear it, Windows 11 will try to transcribe it to the screen for you. Features like these, which can be extremely useful for deaf people and people who always leave subtitles on, are more common on smartphones than computers, but thankfully they are starting to change. (A similar feature will arrive in Apple’s macOS Ventura software update in October.)
  • Customizable start menu. Right now, the Windows 11 Start menu shows you a mix of files and software it thinks you should see, plus apps you may have “pinned” there for quick access. But in this update, you will be able to tell Windows which ones you would like to see more of.
  • Voice control for your PC. This feature isn’t technically over yet – Microsoft calls it “preview” – but Voice Access was created to help people control their computers with spoken words, not keystrokes or mouse clicks.
  • New tactile gestures. If your computer has a touch screen and / or turns into a tablet, these new gestures, like swiping up to open the Start menu, can help you get around Windows a little faster.
  • Built-in camera effects. Not all PCs will support it, but some of you will be able to use the new “studio” effects to customize your look on video calling and streaming without having to rely on the tools built into third-party apps. (Think blurring the background, for example, or editing your video to make it look like you’re making eye contact.)

Not all of the new features in Windows 11 are as easily accessible as others.

Some, like a smart app control feature that uses artificial intelligence to determine if an app you just installed is legitimate or malware, require you to perform a clean install rather than updating your PC like you always have. This means having to clear your PC memory and install Windows 11 from scratch or buy a new computer with updated software already installed.

In the meantime, you won’t find some other features Microsoft discussed integrating into Windows 11 if you install the update too soon. Added as a new Photos & Tabs app in Windows File Explorer, which should make jumping to different folders on your PC much faster, won’t actually be available for use until October.

How can I get the update?

If you’re already running the latest version of Windows 11, you should be able to get the update pretty quickly – check the Windows Update section in your computer’s Settings app. the update does not appear for a while; Microsoft says its “measured and phased implementation” process may take some time and, at times, boils down to when the company believes your computer is “ready”.

But what if your computer is still running on Windows 10?

First of all, there is no shame in this: mine is too. And if your PC is compatible with this new software, there’s a good chance the Windows Update section of the Settings app will let you know.

Windows 11 is out now, but not everyone will have an easy upgrade

But here’s the hard truth: Not every PC out there running Windows 10 can upgrade to Windows 11. (For many people, myself included, it’s because of stricter hardware security requirements.) And judging by how Microsoft likes to check the names of new model PCs when it announces big updates like these, it’s pretty clear they’d like you to fork out for a brand new computer.

If it’s something you were thinking of doing anyway, sure, do it. But if your current PC still does everything you need to, don’t feel the pressure to buy new hardware just to use new software. Microsoft has said it will continue to support Windows 10 until October 2025 and that includes regular updates with new features, not just security patches. (In fact, the Windows 10 equivalent of this update will be available next month.)