- Windows 12 is rumored to be officially released in mid-2024.
- Some rumored Windows 12 features include Desktop UI with a floating Taskbar, a new Topbar, a newly designed Edge browser, and a host of AI features.
- Ideally, it will be free to upgrade from Windows 11 to Windows 12, but for a new license, Microsoft might charge a fee of $139 for Windows 12.
It’s been almost three years since Windows 11’s release and if you’re familiar with Microsoft’s release schedule, you may know it is almost time for a new Windows version. Lots of Windows 12 leaks have surfaced so far. Microsoft is planning to switch to a new Windows update cycle, and there will likely be no Windows 11 24H2 build release in the coming months. In fact, work on Windows 12, which is codenamed: Hudson Valley has already begun. So to learn more about the Windows 12 release date, expected features, hardware requirements, and more, follow our in-depth article below.
Windows 12 Release Date
Judging by the release of Windows 11 and other major Windows releases, Windows 12 will probably be released in 2024 fall, and we have a few other reasons to back the claim. First is the report from Windows Central that Microsoft is doing away with the long development cycles and has given up on Windows-as-a-service in favor of a three-year release cycle.
The second is a brief look at a “new” Windows experience Microsoft unexpectedly showcased during the Ignite Keynote in 2022, which implies work is being done on Windows 12, and it’s coming soon.
The 3-year update cycle is not new. In fact, Microsoft followed this update cadence after the release of Windows Vista in 2006. Windows 7 was released after three years in 2009, and Windows 8 was rolled out in 2012, after another 3 years, followed by Windows 10 in 2015. And for those unaware, Windows 11 was released in 2021.
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 the Windows 12 release date falling sometime in 2024 is not entirely unfounded, and we have good reasons to believe that Windows 12 is coming soon.
Windows 12 Moving Back to Yearly Updates?
Earlier, we reported that Windows 11, under Panos Panay’s leadership, would be moving to smaller “Moments” updates throughout the year. However, Panos left Microsoft in September 2023, and the new Microsoft executives overlooking Windows development are keen to move back to annual feature updates.
Per Windows Central’s recent report, Windows 12 will be returning to an annual release cycle, which will pack all the big feature updates. These changes will apply after the launch of Windows 12. It means the release of one more smaller update is likely left for Windows 11, which may be released in February or March of 2024.
Windows 12 New Features
Although Microsoft hasn’t yet confirmed the existence of Windows 12, a few leaks have popped up. Here’s everything we know about upcoming Windows 12 features and changes.
1. A New Desktop User Interface
New reports suggest that Microsoft is working on a completely new AI-powered Windows Shell with an advanced version of Copilot deeply integrated into the shell. Windows 12 won’t have a static desktop interface. Copilot will always be active in the background and help in searching, finding projects, and understanding context so that you can do more with minimal user input.
Microsoft had added a Timeline feature on Windows 10, but it was removed in Windows 11. It seems like it’s also making a comeback with Windows 12. It will allow you to jump back in time and find apps, websites, and projects that you were working on earlier. Users can also search for files in natural language with context and Copilot can quickly show the file without even mentioning the exact file name.
Besides that, the new user interface may likely feature a floating Taskbar. It’s also being said that the Taskbar may be placed on top of the screen, but the new interface is highly experimental and may not be ready for release in 2024. Apart from that, Microsoft plans to make Windows 12 more palatable for touch input and mouse and keyboard interaction.
The chances that we may get a separate Taskbar are high because rumors suggest Microsoft plans to decouple the desktop (including the taskbar, notification center, and more) from explorer.exe for Windows 12. The fact that Microsoft has already started the process of separating the “Immersive Shell” from File Explorer adds to the possibility.
2. AI, AI, AI, and AI – Copilot
Windows 12 is going to be all about AI, and Microsoft is reportedly working on the next generation of Surface laptops and calling them true AI PCs. Windows 12 will debut next year and it will bring several new AI experiences. We’ve already talked about the AI-powered interactive shell, but there is more to it.
It’s being reported that Windows 12 might come with an AI-powered Super Resolution feature. It will use the on-device NPU to upscale the graphics content in videos and games. In addition, Live Captions will be improved and can support translation from other languages in real-time. Live Captions will also work in video calls.
Next, Microsoft is said to be working on AI wallpapers that use ML to create a parallax effect on your existing wallpaper. Moreover, Copilot is set to get more advanced and can modify Windows settings and resolve issues with a simple input in natural language.
3. Faster and Seamless Updates
With Windows 12, it’s rumored that Microsoft is planning to introduce seamless and faster updates, something we saw Google do in Android and ChromeOS using Project Mainline and Treble.
Microsoft has been working behind the scenes to make Windows 12 a modular operating system. It will be based on the principles of Windows Core OS (WCOS) where system elements like OS files, drivers, and apps are isolated and read-only from the user.
We also know how annoying updates on Windows can be; seamless updates using different partitions should help Windows install updates faster and roll back effortlessly in case something goes wrong. So Microsoft will be moving to a modern update method with FFU images for faster update installation and quick reset of the PC, similar to ChromeOS.
4. New Edge Experience
Microsoft is internally testing a completely radical concept for its Edge browser. Under the 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.
5. Boosting Windows on ARM
After the launch of Snapdragon X Elite, Microsoft, OEMs, and developers are finally taking the ARM platform seriously. Qualcomm’s new ARM processor for Windows is truly a powerful chip and competes against Apple’s best M-series processors. So the Windows on ARM (WoA) platform is finally getting huge upgrades with better driver compatibility and software makers are working to make ARM-compatible apps. Windows 12 will become the best OS to experience Windows on ARM.
It’s being said that OEMs are ready to launch consumer products with the Snapdragon X Elite chipset in June 2024. They are likely to come with Windows 12 installed out-of-the-box with new AI experiences. The NPU on the Snapdragon X Elite SoC is plenty powerful and it will deliver fast and smooth on-device AI features.
Windows 12 Features and Improvements Wishlist
- A bloatware-free experience
- Improved Context Menu to avoid extra clicks
- Better Widgets and customization. Flexible Widgets to the Windows Desktop like Vista and Windows 7
- Enhanced Start Menu search experience. Ability to choose your own search engine
- A UI wrapper for handhelds like the Steam Deck and ROG Ally
- Unified Control Panel and Settings experience
- More Windows-Android ecosystem features, independent from the Phone Link app.
Windows 12: Hardware Requirements
Microsoft is off to a shaky start as a source suggests Windows 12 will require a built-in Neural Processing Unit (NPU). However, that may not be true because if it turns out to be, more than 95% of current consumer PCs would be doomed as none of them have an NPU.
The TPM requirement will surely still be there, as Microsoft is getting serious about security on Windows computers. If the news about the NPU requirement is not true, we are 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 explainer linked here. 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 account: 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 to help you bypass this requirement. Here’s how to create a local account in Windows 11.
Windows 12 Price: Will Windows 12 be a Free Upgrade?
Looking at Microsoft’s history, upgrading from Windows 11 to Windows 12 will be free, just like it was from 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 a fresh Windows 12 install on your brand-new 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. You could still download and install Windows 11 for free and then update to Windows 12; Although by doing that, you’d be missing out on some features.
And that’s everything we know about Windows 12 so far. Stick around and bookmark this if possible because we shall update this article regularly as more news or leaks pop up. If you want to find out the hidden Windows 11 features, head to our linked article. Let us know if you have any questions in the comment section below.