- Windows 11 23H2 and version 22H2 are identical operating systems.
- They both include the same set of features, improvements, and fixes.
- The only difference is the end of support date.
The short answer is that Windows 11 23H2 and version 22H2 are technically identical. On October 31, 2023, Microsoft officially began the rollout of version 23H2 (also known as the Windows 11 2023 Update) for compatible devices, but there has been a lot of confusion with this release regarding features, changes, and differences with version 22H2.
Windows 11 23H2 is based on the core system of version 22H2, meaning that both operating systems share the same system files. As a result, the updates for version 23H2 will always contain the new features and improvements for both versions, but version 22H2 will only include the changes for this version. However, many of the improvements for version 22H2 will always align with those available for version 23H2.
The only real difference is that version 23H2, as the newer release, will be supported until November 1, 2025, while version 22H2 is expected to reach the end of support on October 8, 2024.
Windows 11 23H2 original plan
Originally, Microsoft was supported to release Windows 11 23H2 as a completely new version of the operating system with a bunch of new features and improvements. However, the company then decided to roll out all the innovations as a cumulative update for version 22H2.
The reasoning behind this approach was to get the new scope of features (primarily Copilot AI) to as many people as possible quickly because, as a cumulative update, Microsoft can make the update mandatory. If the company had made it available as an optional feature update, users would have the choice to skip the new version.
The update containing the new features is the KB5031455, which became available on October 26 as a non-security update (preview), then again on October 31, and again on November 14, but now as the security update KB5032190 for version 22H2. (The update is also available for version 23H2)
Also, since the update is cumulative, it means that the package installs as any regular monthly update, and complete reinstallation is not necessary for devices running version 22H2. The benefit of this approach is that it minimizes disruption to the end user and reduces the number of installation problems.
Windows 11 22H2 to 23H2 upgrade
Since both versions of the operating system are identical, a device running version 22H2 needs to install the update KB5032190 to add new features, improvements, and security fixes. After this installation, the “Windows Update” settings page will display the option to download the “Windows 11, version 23H2,” which is simply an enablement package (KB5027397) that changes the version number from 22H2 to 23H2 and resets the support cycle to 24 months for the Home and Pro editions and 36 months for the Enterprise and Education editions. The package may also enable any remaining features as necessary.
Microsoft made it impossible to rollback
Although Windows 11 23H2 is an optional install, it doesn’t really make a difference because the innovations are already available for version 22H2. For instance, if you don’t want to use Copilot, removing version 23H2 won’t remove it or any of the new features. You could uninstall the KB5027397 package and update KB5032190 (or KB5031455), but in the following monthly update, the features will be installed again.
As for the new features and changes, this update introduces Copilot, the new digital assistant powered by AI that replaces Cortana. You get an updated version of File Explorer with new visual designs, a new Gallery page, an updated Details pane, native support for RAR, 7z, GZ, and TAR file formats, and changes to Nearby Sharing. The update also supports controlling RGB lighting with dynamic lighting and passkeys and changes to the Taskbar and Start menu. In addition, Windows 11 23H2 introduces a new Windows Backup app, a redesigned Outlook email client application, and updates for Paint, Photos, Snipping Tool, Clipchamp, Notepad, and more.