Improvements in security, productivity, collaboration, and future updates themselves are all included in a milestone for the operating system
Microsoft has released the first major update to Windows 11, bringing with it a host of new features to improve security and the overall Windows experience.
The Windows 11 2022 update, also known as the 22H2 update, focuses on four key areas of innovation, said Panos Panay, EVP, chief product officer at Microsoft’s Windows & Devices division.
Microsoft wanted to make the PC experience easier and safer for everyone, deliver productivity improvements, introduce new features for communications and gaming, and improve security controls for those working in hybrid environments.
There are numerous features that will appeal to the everyday consumer such as; B. Faster and more accurate search in the Start menu, improvements to snap layouts, and improved accessibility features like system-wide live captions.
There are also several business-focused features that users will appreciate, including productivity, collaboration, security, and the updates themselves.
New focus functions such as focus sessions are intended to reduce the distraction of the PC for work phases that require greater concentration.
Starting a Focus session enables Do Not Disturb mode, which removes notifications and taskbar badges. It also syncs the time with the Windows Clock app, from which it can be configured to pause work periods and small breaks as needed.
Snap layouts have been part of Windows 11 since its inception last year, but small changes in the new update aim to make the feature a bit more user-friendly.
In addition to the various Quick Select layouts that Windows 11 users are used to, when you drag a window, a new bar that looks like Apple’s Mission Control appears at the top of the display.
The small new feature gives users an additional method of snapping windows to their desired position on the screen, which some users might find easier and more intuitive.
Collaboration and video calling improvements
Business users familiar with collaboration apps and tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Zoom will be familiar with the built-in settings, which can be tweaked to add blurred backgrounds and other enhancements to enhance virtual meetings.
The latest Windows 11 update adds similar features to the operating system (OS) settings itself under the Windows Studio Effects name. Camera effects can be configured, such as These include auto-framing, background blur, and a setting where the front-facing camera uses AI to morph the image to always make eye contact, even when you’re looking elsewhere on the screen.
AI is also used with the Voice Focus feature, which computationally removes background noise to make the speaker’s voice clearer.
Microsoft made the caveat in the fine print that some of these features will only be available to a few users who have the necessary hardware to support them.
Anti-phishing and other new security tools
New improvements to Microsoft Defender SmartScreen offer a number of new benefits, including new protections against phishing attempts.
Phishing remains the most popular credential-stealing attack technique to penetrate an organization’s IT assets, and a new SmartScreen feature aims to automatically detect when users enter their Microsoft credentials on a malicious website, and then provides clear prompts to explain the threat.
Another hardware-dependent feature is presence detection in Windows Hello for Business. Devices equipped with the necessary hardware can be set up to securely log on and off as the user approaches and leaves the device.
Smart App Control now also blocks the execution of untrusted or unsigned applications and script files. Supporting this year’s push by Microsoft to crack down on VBA Office macros, Smart App Control adds another layer of protection by blocking execution of macro commands on Windows 11.
“As a result, your employees can use the tools they want and need, while you can relax knowing your business is protected,” Panay said. “Smart App Control is built on the same AI used in Windows Defender Application Control and can predict the security of an application in real time before it runs on your device.
“This is a great solution for organizations that are not yet using a modern device management (MDM) tool like Microsoft Intune.”
Microsoft will enable several other features by default for business users. For PCs and laptops equipped with 8th Gen Intel CPUs and above, Virtualization-Based Security (VBS) and Hypervisor Protected Code Integrity (HVCI) will be enabled by default after applying the update.
Neither are new features for Windows, but both aim to provide better protection against malware and vulnerability exploits.
VBS is a feature that allows users to take advantage of hardware virtualization and put certain apps, such as security tools, in a “virtual safe mode” that protects against exploits through security vulnerabilities.
HVCI is a type of security tool that uses VBS, sometimes referred to as “memory integrity,” and works in tandem with VBS to create a secure, isolated environment.
“VBS uses the Windows Hypervisor to create an isolated virtual environment that becomes the root of trust of the operating system, which assumes that the kernel can be compromised,” Microsoft explained in the technical documentation.
“HVCI is a critical component that protects and hardens this virtual environment by executing kernel-mode code integrity within it and limiting kernel memory allocations that could be used to compromise the system.”
There are numerous other security controls that Windows 11 now supports that are designed specifically for hybrid workers and are detailed in a separate blog post.
Microsoft aims to make its updates more efficient and powerful for users by making changes to its features and monthly cumulative updates.
A “significantly reduced download size” and a “more streamlined” approach are the two main ways Microsoft has improved its updates, it said.
“We’ve significantly reduced the download size for feature updates by redesigning how we handle the ‘in-box apps’ that come with Windows 11,” Microsoft said.
“We estimate that these and other changes, such as the restructuring of Unified Update Platform (UUP) files, reduce the overall download size by [around] 450MB. We’ve also streamlined cumulative updates by downloading them smaller, installing them faster, and using less disk space.”
Microsoft has also rolled out “carbon-conscious” updates to the operating system as part of its big 2022 update. Windows now schedules update installations at times that it calculates will result in lower CO2 emissions.
If devices are connected to the Internet and can retrieve carbon intensity data, Windows may attempt to install updates that typically use more power when power is sourced from lower-carbon sources.
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