Windows 11 23H2 (2023 Update) represents the second feature update for the desktop version of the operating system since the original release. Although this new version will be available as a regular cumulative update without the need for reinstallation, it includes some significant changes and improvements.
For example, starting on version 23H2, Windows 11 is introducing the Windows Copilot AI to replace Cortana. Dynamic Lighting brings a central hub to manage lighting accessories with the option to match the lighting with the system’s accent color. The Taskbar brings back labels and the ability to ungroup apps. File Explorer gets a complete code overhaul. You can now view and extract RAR and 7Zip files without the need for third-party tools. In addition, the update also introduces a new experience to create and manage virtual drives from the Settings app.
Also, Windows 11 has a new backup app, volume mixer, and it’s now possible to find your Wi-Fi security key from the Settings app.
This guide highlights the best features and changes arriving on Windows 11 23H2.
Best features available on Windows 11 23H2
Windows 11 23H2 soon, and these are the best new features and changes:
1. Windows Copilot
One of the best features of version 23H2 is the “Windows Copilot,” a new chatbot AI that integrates with Bing Chat AI and first and third-party plugins. The chatbot appears as a sidebar docked to the right where it won’t overlap with your desktop content and runs unobstructed alongside your apps using the “Copilot” button in the Taskbar or the “Windows key + C” keyboard shortcut.
Similar to the Bing Chat AI on the web and mobile and the AI experience on Microsoft Edge, the Copilot for Windows 11 can help you with complex questions, and you can ask for rewrites, summarizations, and explain content without opening the browser. The chatbot can also help you take action and change settings. In addition, developers can integrate their apps into the Windows Copilot through the Bing Chat plugins to build new experiences.
The Windows Copilot is technically the experience that will replace Cortana since the company already announced that it will retire the digital assistant before the end of 2023.
2. Dynamic Lighting
As part of the Windows 11 2023 Update, the Settings app is adding a new “Dynamic Lighting” page that makes it possible to manage lighting accessories (such as mice, keyboards, light strips, and smart bulbs) without third-party tools.
Currently, accessories rely on third-party apps and integrations that are highly fragmented, and Dynamic Lighting will allow you to effortlessly set up and customize your devices with lights directly from the Settings app.
The new page is available from the “Personalization” section, where you can turn the feature on or off with a toggle switch. After enabling the setting, you will be able to control features like brightness, lighting effects (solid color, breathing, wave, wheel, gradient, and rainbow), speed effect, and color, and you will have the option to match the lighting with the Windows 11 accent color.
Also, developers can use the available APIs to control devices from the background and foreground through a page in the Settings app that users can use to customize how their devices behave.
Microsoft is also partnering with several manufacturers to implement Dynamic Lighting on Windows 11 23H2, including Acer, ASUS, HP, HyperX, Logitech, Razer, and Twinkly.
In the early stages of the feature, Dynamic Lighting only works on a limited number of devices, including keyboads from Razer like BlackWidow V3 (and Pro, Mini, and Tenkeyless), BlackWidow V4 Pro, Razer DeathStalker V2 (and Pro and Pro TKL), Huntsman Mini (and Mini Analog), Huntsman Tournament Edition, Huntsman V2 (and V2 Analog and V2 Tenkeyless), Ornata V2, Ornata V3 (and V3 TKL), and Turret Keyboard Xbox One Edition.
For mice, Dynamic Lighting currently supports the Microsoft Pro IntelliMouse, the Razer Turret Mouse Xbox One, DeathAdder V2 (and V2 Pro), Naga Left-Handed, and Naga Pro.
3. Taskbar labels for apps
Although the ability to show apps with labels and without grouping in the Taskbar is not entirely a new feature, it’s perhaps one of the best changes coming back on version 23H2.
Once you download and install the new feature update, in the “Taskbar” settings page, you will find the “Combine taskbar buttons and hide labels” option to show labels and ungroup apps in different ways, including “Never,” “When taskbar is full,” or “Always.” Also, the system offers a separate setting for turning this feature on for other Taskbars when using a multi-monitor setup.
4. File Explorer new interface
On Windows 11 23H2, File Explorer retains a similar design, but it rolls out many significant changes that make this new version one of the best features for this feature update. For starters, the file manager has been updated with a new codebase using the XAML programming code and the new WinUI 3 from the Windows App SDK (WASDK).
In this new version, you’ll find three main visual changes, including a new “Home” page design, a new “Gallery” view, and improvements in the interface.
One change you will notice immediately is the new header design, which now includes the navigation controls next to the address bar (and the search box on the right side), and the commands now sit under the address bar, blending with the rest of the background instead of the header. In addition, the buttons are also getting visual treatments.
Also, there’s a new spinning animation in tabs to indicate that the location is loading. In addition, the address bar will now display the sync status for OneDrive files, and as you hover over the icon, a new flyout will open to show the correct storage quota.
The redesigned “Home” page has been updated to use the Windows UI Library (WinUI) framework. Also, the “Quick Access” folders (for Microsoft accounts), “Favorites,” and “Recent” sections are getting visual treatments using the same framework.
On devices using an Azure Active Directory (AAD) account, the page will now show file recommendations in a carousel view with support for thumbnails.
File Explorer is also getting a new “Gallery” page to view and manage images that you can customize to include different locations. The new page includes a view for pictures similar to the one available in the Photos app, including larger thumbnails, rounded corners, hiding the file name, and using chronological sorting.
In this feature update, there’s a new “Details” pane that offers more information and actions for a particular file, folder, or drive you select. For example, when selecting a drive, the details pane on the right side will surface sharing options, activity details, file information, related files, and related conversations.
Finally, starting with version 23H2, you can now drag a tab out of a window to create another instance of File Explorer.
5. 7Zip and RAR archival formats support
The Windows 11 2023 Update is bringing native support for RAR and 7Zip archival formats with the new integration for the “libarchive” open-source project.
The viewing and extracting experience for the new archival formats is the same as managing Zip files through File Explorer. The support adds seamless integration to open and extract many archival file formats (such as “.tar,” .tar.gz,” “.tar.bz2,” “.tar.zst,” “.tar.xz,” “.tgz,” .tbz2,” “.tzst,” .txz,” .rar,” and “.7z”).
The support is currently only available through File Explorer, but it’s also possible that Microsoft will add support to manage RAR and 7Zip with commands using PowerShell and Command prompt.
6. Virtual drives manager in Settings
In this new feature update for 2023, the development team is adding the ability to create and manage virtual drives, including VHD, VHDX, and Dev Drives.
The settings are available from the “Disks & volumes” page, where you will be able to create and attach existing virtual hard disks that will be accessible from File Explorer.
The wizard makes creating a “VHD” or “VHDX” easy since it walks you through every step, from selecting the virtual drive format, size, and partition type to the format settings.
The “Dev Drive” feature is similar to the traditional virtual drive. However, it allows developers to create virtual hard disks using the Resilient File System (ReFS), which, combined with a unique performance mode capability in Microsoft Defender for Antivirus, offers up to 30 percent file system improvement in build times for file I/O scenarios. The new performance mode is more secure than a folder or process exclusions.
7. New Windows Backup app
Another great feature arriving with version 23H2 is the new “Windows Backup” app, which enhances the “backup and restore” system already available on Windows 11.
The new app allows you to back up the apps you acquired from the Microsoft Store and backs up your account folders, settings, and credentials.
Alternatively, you can also configure the backup settings through the “Windows Backup” settings page in the “Accounts” section of the Settings app. If you previously configured the settings through the “Windows Backup” page, the app will label the setting as “Backed up.”
The application is simple to use, but it doesn’t create an actual backup of your applications. Instead, it remembers your apps and their settings, and then, when you restore them, the system will download and install a fresh copy of the apps from the Microsoft Store and restore the settings.
Once you configure the backup settings, when setting up a new device or clean installation, the out-of-the-box (OOBE) experience will prompt you if you want to restore the apps (and settings, folders, and credentials) on the new setup.
If you accept, the system will restore the apps from the Microsoft Store, and the process will even pin the apps again in the Start menu and Taskbar. However, the app won’t install until you click the app on the desktop.
It’s important to note the ability to backup apps is only available for Microsoft Store apps, not legacy Win32 applications. However, the system will be able to remember the non-Microsft Store apps (Win32 programs), but instead of restoring them, when clicking the app icon after the restoration, you will be directed to download the installer from the app’s website.
8. Wireless password finder
Starting on version 23H2, you will now be able to find your wireless password from the Settings app instead of the Control Panel.
If you have to view the wireless password to connect other devices to the same network, you can now open Settings > Network & internet > Wi-Fi and “Manage known networks,” you will find a new option to view the Wi-Fi security key for your known networks.
9. New volume mixer
Another best feature that you will find on version 23H2 is the new enhanced volume mixer in Quick Settings. The new experience brings a modern volume mixer that allows quick audio customization per app, with additional control to swap devices on the fly.
In addition, Microsoft is adding a new “Windows key + Ctrl + V” keyboard shortcut to open the volume mixer for faster control of the experience.
Furthermore, you will also find that enabling the Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos experience is easier with a quick access list of installed spatial sound technology.
These are some of the best features and improvements for Windows 11 23H2. Do you know other hidden gems in this update that weren’t mentioned? Tell us know in the comments.
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