Release date, price, and everything else we know

Windows 11 released on October 5th, 2021, over six years after Windows 10 made its debut. Currently, Microsoft is gearing up to release Windows 11 version 22H2, but according to what we’ve heard, the next thing on the cards could very well be Windows 12. It sounds like Microsoft is doing away with major annual updates, and instead, We’re going to get a big new version of Windows every three years, similar to what happened before Windows 10.

Microsoft hasn’t officially announced a new version of Windows, or even this new release cycle, so there’s a lot we don’t know. Still, it’s never too early to start looking ahead, so let’s talk about what we do and don’t know about Windows 12 – if it even ends up existing.

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When will Windows 12 be released?

According to the reports we’ve heard, the next major version of Windows is going to launch at some point in 2024, roughly three years after the debut of Windows 11. That’s all we really have right now, and it might be a while before we have any more information on that front. If past releases are any indication, Windows 12 should arrive in the fall, or at least the second half of the year, but that’s not set in stone.

In the meantime, Windows 11 is going to keep getting updates, and sometimes, it may get some new features so it won’t feel like the operating system is stale. We do have Windows 11 version 22H2 coming up, and that will be a major update, adding things like new touch gestures, Start menu improvements, and much more.

A Windows 11 desktop with the Start menu open and a folder inside expanded to show four apps inside

Start menu with folders in Windows 11 version 22H2

If you’re in the Windows Insider Program, you’re going to see Windows 12 features gradually show up over the next two years, though Microsoft will likely keep labeling them as Windows 11 features until we’re much closer to the release date. Insiders get to try new features early, and with a long release cycle like this, the program makes a lot more sense, too.

Will Windows 12 be a free upgrade?

One of the big questions you’re likely to have is whether you’ll have to pay to upgrade to Windows 12 when (and if) it releases, but thankfully, that’s unlikely. Microsoft has been set on offering major Windows updates for free to existing Windows users for a few years now, and it only makes sense for that to continue. Of course, Windows 12 itself likely won’t be free, so if you don’t have a Windows license at all, you’re still going to have to buy it.

What might get you to spend money is whether your PC is compatible with it, but that’s a different matter worthy of its own section.

Will I be forced to upgrade?

The most likely answer to this is no. Microsoft has significantly eased on its push to get users to install new versions of Windows by force. Windows 11 is still an optional update for Windows 10 users, and most likely, that approach will continue with future releases.

However, updating to new versions of Windows can be mandatory if your version of Windows is nearing the end of its support period. For example, the original release of Windows 11 will be supported for 24 months if you have a Home or Pro edition of Windows. So, while Windows 11 version 22H2 isn’t mandatory, it will probably be installed automatically in 2023, so you can keep getting security updates going forward.

Windows 11 updates

Windows Update in Windows 11

The same logic is probably going to apply to Windows 12, though it remains to be seen how support periods are going to work with the new three-year release cycle. Since major new versions will only be coming every three years, having a two-year support cycle for each version won’t make a ton of sense. We’ll have to wait and see how Microsoft adapts its lifecycle policy for major Windows versions.

Can my PC run Windows 12?

After Windows 11 significantly raised the minimum system requirements compared to Windows 10, this is another great question to ponder. Will Windows 12 leave older PCs behind once again? It’s too early to say, but there’s certainly a chance that some PCs won’t be compatible for one reason or another. Windows 11 currently requires processors released from around 2018 onward, and while we currently don’t see a reason for the next Windows release to require more than that, it’s possible that will happen.

As for any other requirements, again, it’s hard to say. Windows 11 requires 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, so at the very least, Windows 12 will require just as much. You also shouldn’t expect Microsoft to walk back on things like TPM requirements, though you may still be able to install Windows 12 using an ISO file if you don’t meet some requirements.

Either way, almost all of the best laptops you can buy today are very likely to support Windows 12 when it releases.

What’s new in Windows 12?

It’s still very early to know all of the features that might be part of Windows 12. Right now, a lot of features are being tested as part of Windows 11 version 22H2, and those will be coming to Windows 11 users later this year. You can read about everything that’s new in Windows 11 22H2 if that’s what you’re interested in.

Examples of what the search button might look like on the Windows 11 taskbar

Aside from that, we can get a glimpse at what might be coming by looking at the Windows Insider Program. Windows Insiders get new builds every week, many of them with new features and changes, like the new search bar designs above. We expect a lot of these to be part of Windows 12, but a lot of them may also roll out to Windows 11 users, and some may never ship at all, so this is an ever-evolving list until Windows 12 is actually finalized.

You can check out all the Windows 11 features available in preview to know what Windows Insiders are testing right now. Some of those features may be exclusive to Windows 12, others may arrive earlier for Windows 11.

That’s all we can really say about Windows 12 right now. Even the name isn’t necessarily set in stone right now, but this is the easiest way to refer to the next version of Windows. We’ll be sure to add more information as checking it comes over the next couple of years, so be sure to keep back in case there is any other news.

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