Windows 11 23H2 best features

Windows 11 23H2 best 9 features coming to your PC

These are the biggest features availably with the latest feature update for Windows 11.

  • The best features for the Windows 11 23H2 include Copilot, Dynamic Lighting, Taskbar labels, File Explorer redesign, 7Zip and RAR formats support, Dev Drive, Wi-Fi password finder, and a new volume mixer.

UPDATED 11/10/2023: On October 31, Windows 11 23H2 (2023 Update) became available with several new features, and in this guide, you will learn more about the best ones. The update KB5031455 represents the fourth “moment” update for the desktop version of the operating system in 2023. Although this is technically not a new version, it’s available as a regular cumulative update without reinstallation, and it includes some significant changes and improvements.

For example, starting with the 2023 update, Windows 11 is introducing the Copilot AI feature 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 for creating and managing virtual drives from the Settings app. Also, Windows 11 has a new backup app and volume mixer, and it’s now possible to find your Wi-Fi security key from the Settings app.

It’s important to note that while these features were expected to roll out as part of version 23H2, Microsoft decided to release the update KB5031455 as the “moment 4” update for version 22H2 to forcibly install the new features without an option to opt out since monthly updates are mandatory. After installing the update, the computer also has to install the enablement package KB5027397 to change the version number to 23H2, reset the support cycle, and enable the remaining features and improvements.

This guide highlights the top new features and changes with the Windows 11 2023 Update.

Top 9 features for Windows 11 23H2 

Windows 11 23H3 will start rolling out on October 31, 2023, and these are the top features:

1. New Copilot AI chatbot

One of the best features of the 2023 Update is the “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.

Copilot get anwser

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 Copilot through the Bing Chat plugins to build new experiences.

The 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 to control RGB 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.

Dynamic lighting settings
Dynamic lighting settings

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 grouping and 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. 

Taskbar showing app labels
Taskbar showing app labels

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 rolls out many significant changes that make this new version one of the best features of this feature update. 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).

File Explorer new header
File Explorer new header

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.

File Explorer file recommendations
File Explorer file recommendations / Image: Microsoft

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.

Gallery Manage locations

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.

File Explorer details pane
File Explorer details pane

Finally, starting with the moment 4 update (KB5031354), 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.

File Explorer extract RAR and 7-Zip
File Explorer extract RAR and 7-Zip

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.

Create Dev Drive

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 Windows 11 23H2 is the new “Windows Backup” app, which enhances the “backup and restore” system already available on Windows 11.

Windows 11 backup app
Windows 11 backup app

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 from Settings

After installing the feature update, you will now be able to find your wireless password from the Settings app instead of the Control Panel. 

Windows 11 new find Wi-Fi password option
Windows 11 new find Wi-Fi password option

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 from Taskbar

Another best feature that you will find on the KB5031354 update 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.

New volume mixer
New volume mixer / Image: Microsoft

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 the Windows 11 2023 Update. Do you know other hidden gems in this update that weren’t mentioned? Tell us know in the comments.

Update October 2, 2023: Updated with details to clarify the release process of the new features.

Update October 5, 2023: Updated with more clarification about the KB5031354 update being the package that enables the new changes of version 22H2.

Update October 10, 2023: The language of the writing has been changed to reflect that the update KB5031354 is now the 2023 Update. The September 26 date was the release of the preview version of the update (KB5030310 – build 22621.2361) that didn’t include any of the security fixes. The update rolling out starting October 10 includes all the new features that were previously announced and security fixes.

Update November 10, 2023: The content has been updated to ensure accuracy and reflect changes with the rollout.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].