Microsoft Releases Windows 11 Version 23H2 with a Copilot Preview
Microsoft on Tuesday announced the release of Windows 11 version 23H2, which includes a Windows Copilot preview.
The new operating system, available for businesses and consumers, can be downloaded from the usual venues, although it "may take a few days" for it to be available from Microsoft's Volume License Servicing Center. It's also possible for users to just seek it via the Windows Update function in Windows.
Microsoft will block the arrival of Windows 11 version 23H2 if its telemetry signals detect possible issues for users, though.
How To Get Windows 11 Version 23H2
The various ways to get Windows 11 version 23H2 are expounded in this Windows Experience blog post.
It noted that organizations with Windows 11 version 22H2 already have the same code base as Windows 11 version 23H2. Many of the new features in version 23H2 are already present in version 22H2 but are in a dormant state. The new features get turned on via Microsoft's "enablement package" updating approach, which results in faster installation times.
Microsoft noted that today's announcement of the release of Windows 11 version 23H2 signals the start of the support clock, which varies based on the particular Windows 11 edition used.
"This new version [Windows 11 version 23H2] resets the 24 months of support for Home and Pro editions and 36 months of support for Enterprise and Education editions," noted John Cable, vice president of program management for Windows servicing and delivery, in the Windows Experience post.
Copilot in Windows Preview
Perhaps the most intriguing feature to come in Windows 11 version 23H2 is Copilot in Windows, although Microsoft said very little about it in today's announcements. This generative artificial intelligence Copilot in Windows tool is released, but it's still at the preview stage.
Microsoft had showcased an early preview of Copilot in Windows 11 back in June. Back then, Microsoft suggested it could be used to get responses to questions, summarize text and create images. Microsoft also floated the notion that users could ask Copilot to perform actions in Windows 11, such as changing the screen theme for an application to dark mode or taking a screenshot. Tests by Microsoft MVP Brien Posey, though, found this latter experience to be a bit uneven (see this September Redmond article).
Copilot in Windows was also said back then to have support for some Microsoft plugins. It's unclear if Microsoft added support for non-Microsoft-built plugins with this release.
The Copilot in Windows 11 preview is just available in "North America and parts of Asia and South America" right now. It has the following licensing requirements:
Copilot in Windows with Bing Chat Enterprise requires Windows 11 and the user to be licensed for Microsoft 365 Business Standard, Business Premium, Enterprise E3 or and E5, A3 or A5 for faculty, or a standalone license + Entra ID.
If IT pros want to turn off Copilot in Windows, Microsoft published the Group Policy setting to use in this document.
Other Notable Features
Another notable feature in Windows 11 version 23H2 is the ability to set up a Dev Drive on Windows 11, which creates a Dev Home space optimized for developers. Microsoft had showcased Dev Drive, along with Copilot in Windows 11, during its Build 2023 event in May. Users set up a virtual hard disk space based on the Resilient File System, which is described as enabling "faster performance, and customizable settings that are optimized for development scenarios."
Microsoft Chat becomes "Microsoft Teams (free)" with this Windows 11 version 23H2 release. It's described as a "minicommunication experience" for chatting, calling and meeting. Microsoft added a new People experience to Teams (free) that lets users more easily discover Teams users. It also has a Channels capability for better organizing community conversations.
Windows 11 version 23H2 also adds an easier way for users to go passwordless. It brings a new "security policy that promotes a user experience without passwords on Microsoft Entra joined devices," per this Microsoft document description. Instead, users will "sign in to websites or apps using face, PIN, or fingerprint," Microsoft explained. It's also possible to remove the use of passwords when unlocking devices. Microsoft also noted that Windows Hello, it's biometric authentication solution, now works with "Enhanced Sign-in Security (Secure Biometrics)."
IT pros may be happy to use a new Windows Local Administrator Password (LAPS) solution that's now more fully enabled. Microsoft had actually rolled out Windows LAPS in April, but it recently got more complete this month with Entra ID and Microsoft Intune support. The new Windows LAPS works with Windows 10 and Windows 11 clients, plus Windows Server 2019 and Windows Server 2022.
Among the many new features in Windows 11 version 23H2 are a few "Enhanced Windows Firewall" capabilities. It's possible to perform application ID tagging using "Windows Firewall rules through Intune" via "Application Control for Business (previously known as Windows Defender Application Control)." Microsoft explained that this capability permits the targeting of Windows Firewall rules to "specific applications without an absolute file path."
Organizations can also "determine when a Microsoft Entra Join device is on your on-premises domain subnets," which may be helpful in properly applying firewall rules. Microsoft enabled "more granular Windows Firewall logging for domain, private and public firewall profiles" as well.
Microsoft has released a new security baseline for Windows 11 version 23H2. Organizations can "test the recommended configurations, and customize/implement as appropriate" using the Microsoft Security Compliance Toolkit.
A bunch of other tools for Windows 11 version 23H2 are available as well, such as Administrative Templates, a Group Policy settings reference (in spreadsheet form) and the optional Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 11.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.