Windows 11 has really changed quite a bit since the build we reviewed was released in October, and Microsoft has released a steady stream of redesigned app updates, bug fixes, and UI improvements.
But the company’s big annual Windows updates still matter. They’re still where Microsoft is making the most significant changes to the look, feel, and features of Windows 11. this week, Suggest rumors That Microsoft is wrapping up work on what will eventually be released as version 22H2 of Windows 11, the operating system’s first annual update. This build, currently available to the Windows Insider Beta channel as build number 22621.1, will serve as the basis for next year’s Windows Updates.
We cover new Windows Insider builds frequently, depending on how important the changes are. But to save you the trouble of scrolling through months of articles, we’ve rounded up all the most important differences between the current public release of Windows 11 21H2 (for the record, 22000.675) and the latest beta build of 22H2.
Annual updates are not what they used to be
First, a warning: Microsoft intentionally changed how it updated Windows last year; The company now releases app updates and UI tweaks when they’re ready instead of waiting for the major annual OS update as it would back in the Windows 10 days. This more flexible schedule has already allowed Microsoft to fix some early shortcomings in Windows 11, including Missing taskbar and apps features that are not yet updated with the new look and feel.
This also means that this overview will not include all of the Windows features that will be part of update 22H2 when it is launched. Apps like the new Voice Recorder, currently in preview on the Dev Channel, will likely be released to the public before the 22H2 update is officially released. Features still being tested like tabbed file explorer can be done in time as well. These and other changes may be included in the 22H2 update, and may be released prior to its release, or it may be released never is released.
So this overview is just a snapshot of Windows 11 22H2 as it currently exists. When it’s released to the public, we’ll take another look, note any other new features we see, and spend more time on subtle changes we won’t mention in this roundup.
Mandatory Microsoft account sign-in
The Home Edition of Windows 11 (and some later versions of Windows 10) required an Internet connection and sign in to a Microsoft account upon setup, prompting users to embed themselves deeper into Microsoft’s ecosystem. There are some benefits to this process, including automated local disk encryption and recovery key backup, passwordless login, quick access to Microsoft Store apps and services like Microsoft 365 and PC Game Pass, and data syncing for apps like OneDrive and Edge. But if you no Use them, want to sign in later, or prefer to stick with a good old local account, there is no easy workaround, except to sign out or create a new local account once you get to the desktop.
This was not true for Pro versions of Windows, which will still allow you to create a local account if you are not connected to the Internet during setup. But that ends with the 22H2 version of Windows 11, which requires a Microsoft account no matter what version of the operating system you’re using. (Setup also prompts you to sign up for PC Game Pass and Microsoft 365, which is what I Think New in this version of Windows but may have been added recently).
The only officially permitted exception to this policy is if you choose the “work or school” option during setup instead of the “personal use” option. This allows you to sign in with your work or school Microsoft account, if you have one, rather than a personal one. But if you just want to create a local account, or if you need to set up a PC without an internet connection, there is no easy way to do it.
This policy applies only to new Windows installations, and will not affect you if you are upgrading a computer that has already been set up.