Microsoft will release its next big Windows 11 update on September 26th. The update will include the new AI-powered Windows Copilot feature, a redesigned File Explorer, a new Ink Anywhere feature for pen users, big improvements to the Paint app, and much more.
Windows Copilot is the headline feature for this Windows 11 update, bringing the same Bing Chat feature straight to the Windows 11 desktop. It appears as a sidebar in Windows 11, allowing you to control settings on a PC, launch apps, or simply answer queries. It’s integrated all over the operating system, too: Microsoft executives demoed using Copilot to write text messages using data from your calendar, navigation options in Outlook, and more.
This is also Microsoft’s latest attempt to deliver a digital assistant inside Windows after the company shut down the Cortana app inside Windows 11 last month. It might be more successful this time, particularly as it’s powered by the same technologies behind Bing Chat, so you can ask real questions and get answers (that might not always be accurate) in return.
If the idea of an AI assistant isn’t your thing, Microsoft still has plenty to offer with this update. File Explorer is getting a more modern look. The updated File Explorer UI includes a modern home interface with large file thumbnails and a carousel interface that can surface recent files and favorited ones. These changes make File Explorer blend in better with the overall Windows 11 design.
Stylus users are getting a key new feature called Ink Anywhere, which allows you to handwrite with the Surface Pen or another stylus in any text box anywhere in Windows. The OS will convert your writing to text and use it where applicable.
An improved Windows Backup app will now let you back up your PC when you want to migrate to a new device. This tool will automatically apply your existing settings to a new PC thanks to backup to the cloud. Pinned apps on your Start menu and taskbar will also transfer, and any apps from the Microsoft Store will be automatically restored.
Snipping Tool is also getting a new copy text feature that can detect text in screenshots and allow you to share the text in apps. It’s similar to the copy text from images feature found on Android or iOS. Microsoft has also added a feature that allows you to automatically redact and hide emails and phone numbers from images.
If you use the Photos app for Windows 11, you’ll be able to use a new background blur option with this update. Background blur will automatically find the background in a photo and highlight the subject and blur out the background. You can customize the intensity of the blur or even change the areas that get blurred out.
There are a bunch of features that are missing from this update, though. We thought this would be Microsoft’s larger 23H2 update dropping on September 26th, but that’s coming a little later and will include some even bigger changes to Windows 11. A new volume mixer is on the way, alongside native RAR and 7-zip support, Dynamic Lighting for controlling RGB accessories, and even app labels and ungrouping for the Windows 11 taskbar.
Microsoft hasn’t confirmed when it will ship the changes in the 23H2 update, so you’ll need to wait a little longer for that update to drop.
Correction September 21st, 12:15PM ET: Microsoft confirmed in a blog post after its “special event” that its upcoming Windows 11 update will be an update to 22H2, instead of the 23H2 update we were expecting. We regret the error.