Though it has only been over a year since the release of Windows 11, rumors of the next release, Windows 12, have already started floating around on the internet. There have been reports that Microsoft is planning to switch to a new update cycle for Windows, and there will be no Windows 11 23H2 or 24H2 builds released in the coming months. In fact, the Windows 11 23H2 “Sun Valley 3” update has reportedly been stopped, and work on Windows 12 (codenamed: Next Valley) has already begun. So to learn more about Windows 12’s release date, expected features, hardware requirements, and more, follow our in-depth article below.
Windows 12: Everything We Know So Far (2023)
In this article, we have discussed Windows 12’s release date, why Microsoft is switching to a new 3-year major Windows update cycle, the features we expect to come in Windows 12, and much more. Windows 11 22H2 is still on track, and we expect the update to roll out to all users in September – October. That said, expand the table below and read everything you need to know about Windows 12.
Note: This article was last updated on 3rd February 2023 to include the latest details about leaked new Windows 12 features, release date, pricing, and more.
Windows 12 Release Date
If you’re wondering when Windows 12 will be released, then you first need to understand Microsoft’s new Windows development roadmap. According to a report by WindowsCentral, it appears Microsoft is doing away with the long development cycles of its desktop OS. With the release of Windows 11, the company has already given up on its Windows-as-a-service dream and is ready to release more new iterations of its desktop OS.
Based on the new update roadmap, Windows will move to a 3-year release cycle. Since Windows 11 was released in 2021 (5th October, to be specific), it means Windows 12 should launch sometime in 2024, most probably in the fall, just like Windows 11.
Windows 12: History of Microsoft’s Update Roadmap
For Microsoft, the 3-year update cycle is not new. In fact, Microsoft followed this update cadence after the release of Windows Vista in 2006. After 3 years, Windows 7 was released in 2009, and Windows 8 was rolled out in 2012. After another 3 years, Microsoft released the most popular Windows version, Windows 10, in 2015.
It was with Windows 10 that Microsoft broke its traditional 3-year update cycle and serviced Windows 10 for 6 years before Windows 11 came out in 2021.
If you look at Microsoft in 2015, it seems the company was trying to focus on Windows 10 after Windows 8/8.1 was not received well. In fact, in 2015, one of its engineers went on to say that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows, and Microsoft never dismissed the statement. Not to forget, Microsoft was itself propagating the idea of “Windows as a service“, and that future branding was something Microsoft was not eager to talk about. Basically, the idea of version numbers was dead and Microsoft wanted its users to settle for just “Windows” instead of worrying about the version number.
Under the supervision of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Windows 10 was released with the Windows-as-a-service approach to “deploy, update, and service” the operating system for years to come. Instead of releasing a new version of Windows every 3 to 5 years, as the company did in the past, Microsoft decided to update Windows 10 continually.
Fast forward to 2021, and things changed for the better. Microsoft finally unveiled the next version of Windows, and it is called Windows 11. And now that Microsoft is well-poised with its product, it wants to go back to its traditional 3-year update cycle. So the idea of Windows 12 in 2024 is not entirely unfounded, and we have good reasons to believe that Windows 12 is coming.
How New Features Will Be Released on Windows 12?
Along with the new 3-year update cycle, Microsoft is also changing how features will be delivered on Windows 12. On Windows 10, major feature updates used to come twice a year (as H1 and H2). Things changed with Windows 11, and the update cycle was recently switched to an annual feature update. In fact, the first Windows 11 22H2 feature update is almost here and it will arrive in September or October. If you are on the Windows 11 Release Preview channel, you can install Windows 11 22H2 update right now and explore all the new Windows 11 22H2 features.
Now, on Windows 12, Microsoft is reportedly doing away with the annual update cycle as well. Microsoft has developed a new engineering effort called “Moments” that will bring new features throughout the year, similar to Pixel’s Feature Drop. It’s being said that at least four such feature drops will be delivered in a year on Windows 12.
The interesting part is that Microsoft is not waiting for Windows 12 to get ready to test the Moments feature drop. In fact, there will be no Windows 11 23H2 update in 2023 as Microsoft has scrapped the Sun Valley 3 release. Instead, Windows 11 users will get the new Moments feature drops in 2023, right before Windows 12 releases in 2024.
For more information and speculation on Windows 12 features, check our video linked below:
Windows 12 New Features (Expected)
Microsoft has not confirmed Windows 12’s existence, but there have been some crucial leaks here and there. And if we go by recent builds released to Windows Insider users, especially in the Dev channel, we see that Microsoft is experimenting with several new features and prototypes. For example, the 25158 build (July 13) brought different kinds of visual treatments to Search in the Taskbar.
Not to mention, Microsoft is testing notification badges for the weather widget in the Windows 11 Taskbar. Apart from that, the Redmond giant is experimenting with another smart feature where you can copy a date, time, or phone number, and Suggested Actions offer quicker inline actions to complete the task through a dedicated app.
I am not saying these features are coming to Windows 12, but of late, Microsoft has been pretty open to experimenting with new features in its Insider builds. Recently, Microsoft even said that Insiders in the Dev channel “may get to try out new ideas, longer lead features, and experiences that are intended to help validate concepts“. Sure, some features may arrive as part of Windows 11 (find upcoming Windows 11 features in preview here), but others may be shelved for a later release, hopefully with Windows 12. We are sure that Windows Insiders will be the first ones to test the new Windows 12 features. Among the many expected features of Windows 12, here are some interesting ones.
New Desktop User Interface
At the Microsoft Ignite 2022 event, Satya Nadella revealed a new UI prototype that we have not seen before. The new user interface has a floating taskbar with a status bar similar to macOS on top. Many believe that it’s one of the prototype designs that will make its way to the official Windows 12 release. Microsoft is planning to make Windows 12 more palatable for both touch input and mouse and keyboard interaction.
This speculation is in line because the Redmond giant is decoupling the desktop (including the taskbar, notification center, and more) from explorer.exe for Windows 12. Microsoft has already started the process to separate the “Immersive Shell” from File Explorer.
Phoenix Version of Microsoft Edge
Microsoft is also internally testing a completely radical concept for its Edge browser. Under project “Phoenix“, the company’s in-house browser has been completely reimagined from the ground up and somewhat looks like the Arc browser. There’s now a split-screen mode being tested in Microsoft Edge, along with a new UI/UX with many tab management features, Tab Activity Center, and integration with features similar to Digital Wellbeing/ Screen Time. It seems Microsoft will launch the Phoenix version of Edge with Windows 12.
Deeper AI Integration with Windows 12
We already know that Microsoft has heavily invested in OpenAI, and its products like ChatGPT and DALL-E 2 have surprised us with their powerful capabilities. It’s expected that Microsoft will integrate many of the OpenAI tools into Windows 12, and they have already started doing that with Microsoft Teams. Be it your Office apps, Microsoft Designer, or VSCode, you will find meaningful AI features on Windows 12. It’s already being planned that Bing will be powered by ChatGPT in the near future, so search on Windows 12 will improve as well.
During the AMD keynote at CES 2023, Panos Panay stated, “AI is going to reinvent how you do everything on Windows, quite literally. Like these large generative models, think language models, code gen models, image models, these models are so powerful, so delightful, so useful, and personal. But they are also very compute intensive, and so we haven’t been able to do this before. […] It’s gonna need an operating system that blurs the line between cloud and edge, and that’s what we are doing right now.” All in all, expect to see more AI-driven features on Windows 12.
Windows Explorer and Notepad Improvements
Microsoft has already added tabs to File Explorer, but a recent leak by a Microsoft employee confirmed that tab support is coming to Notepads as well. You can open multiple instances of Notepad in a single window and edit multiple text files on the fly. Apart from that, Microsoft is overhauling Windows File Explorer and integrating many new features. There is a new Details pane where you can find information on its recent activity and also manage its access.
Next, the home page will have integration with Microsoft 365 along with recommended files on top. People can view email threads linked to the document right from File Explorer. We are not sure if the revamped File Explorer and Notepad will be delayed for Windows 12. It might release early as well with the Moment 2 or 3 updates in 2023.
Windows 12: Hardware Requirements
As far as Windows 12’s hardware requirements are concerned, I think Microsoft might not add more stringent policies to cut off older PCs. The TPM requirement will surely still be there, as Microsoft is getting serious about security on Windows computers. That said, you could see the company raise the upper ceiling on processors that can run Windows 12, but we can’t say that for sure right now. But we’re certain that if your current machine can run Windows 11, it can very well run Windows 12 as well.
To get a detailed idea about the hardware requirements to run Windows 11, go through our linked explainer. We have written the Windows 12 expected hardware requirements here to give you a brief idea:
- Processor: 1GHz or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
- Memory: at least 4 GB RAM
- Storage: 64 GB or larger storage device
- System firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable
- TPM: TPM Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
- Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver
- Display: High definition (720p) display, greater than 9-inch diagonally and 8 bits per color channel support
- Internet connection and Microsoft accounts: Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft account to complete device setup on first use. Now, Windows 11 Pro also does not allow local account creation, but we have a guide in place to help you bypass this requirement. Follow the linked guide to learn how to create a local account in Windows 11.
Windows 12 Price: Will Windows 12 be Free?
If we look at Microsoft’s past history, everything suggests that upgrading from Windows 11 to Windows 12 will be free, just like it was for Windows 10 to 11. Moreover, eligible PCs that are already running Windows 10 might also see the option to install Windows 12 without any charge.
However, if you want to run Windows 12 on your custom-built PC, you may have to buy a retail license for the upcoming desktop OS from Microsoft. That means you may have to pay $139 to get an official copy of Windows 12, which is the same as the price of Windows 10 and 11 Home.
Windows 12 Next Valley Update Coming in 2024
So that is everything we know about Windows 12 so far, but we will be updating this article regularly as new leaks and rumors emerge on the internet. While Microsoft may not officially comment on Windows 12 right now, it seems like the next version of Windows 11 will likely be Windows 12. Anyway, that is all from us. If you want to find out the hidden Windows 11 features, head over to our linked article. And if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section below.