Since its launch in November 2021, Microsoft has been hard at work on the next big update to Windows 11, tentatively called Sun Valley 2, due for later this year.
While a February update was recently released, showcasing the return of Windows Media Player, and the ability to preview Android apps in the Microsoft Store, another update is already in testing that brings better ‘Open With’ features and more.
With the company’s effort to bring substantial features at a faster pace, compared to the six-month schedule that Windows 10 had, we may see Sun Valley 2 arrive sooner than later.
As we begin to build a picture of what to expect, here is everything we know so far about the first major update for Windows 11.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Windows 11 22H2 ‘Sun Valley 2’ is the first major update to Windows 11
- When is it out? Windows 11 22H2 ‘Sun Valley 2’ is expected sometime in the second quarter of 2022
- How much does it cost? Windows 11 22H2 ‘Sun Valley 2’ will be a free update for all users
Windows 11 22H2 ‘Sun Valley 2’ release date
Right now there is no confirmed release date for the Windows 11 22H2 ‘Sun Valley 2’ update. Microsoft’s release schedule for Windows 11 updates is now once a year, compared to two a year with Windows 10 previously.
There have already been plenty of improvements in the Windows Insider channels, which allows users to test features in development. But it looks like Microsoft is rolling all of these into the first major update of Windows 11.
While the operating system was released in November 2021, it was announced in June, which would be a good time to release Sun Valley 2 with some tentpole features.
Windows 11 22H2 ‘Sun Valley 2’ speculation
After months of speculation, Microsoft confirmed the ’22H2′ name in a recent update, released to all users in March 2022.
The codename for this update is ‘Sun Valley 2’, which is unlikely to be its release name. This is an internal codename for parts of the next version of Windows 11 which is being worked on and has been outed to the public by way of leaks from those with insider knowledge of Microsoft’s workings.
As Windows 11 was a significant upgrade from Windows 10, such as a refreshed look, a redesigned Microsoft Store, and the return of widgets, Sun Valley 2 looks to build upon Windows 11 but also improve certain aspects that users have been sending feedback over.
In the Insider builds, users have spotted more apps gaining the new Fluent Design, which is the overall look for Windows 11. These apps feature rounded corners, lesser reliance on the Ribbon view that’s been across the operating system since Windows 8, and a more vibrant color scheme. There have also been features announced last year that have yet to come to every Windows 11 user.
Android apps coming to Windows 11
Testers in the Beta Channel who have Windows 11 Build 22000.xxx and above will be able to try out the redesigned Focus feature, but a February 2022 update is out, where you can already test out Android apps.
These originate from Amazon’s App Store instead of Google Play, as every app is tested and approved by Amazon, similar to Apple’s effort with the App Store.
These will run similar to how iOS apps run on macOS, with apps such as TikTok and Instagram running in a window.
However, there are already other ways to install Android apps directly, without going through the Microsoft Store.
New OS features for Windows 11 22H2 ‘Sun Valley 2’
This first update to Windows 11 looks to be built on feedback from users, alongside more refinements that Microsoft didn’t have time to include in the first release in November.
One feature that’s been divided by users has been the taskbar. The start menu has seen a redesign in Windows 11, but while the new look has been a positive, some features that were present in Windows 10, cannot be found here.
In Sun Valley 2, the taskbar looks to be bringing back some features and listening to some feedback, with drag and drop coming back to the taskbar.
Other OS improvements are more apps from Microsoft that will be refreshed with the Fluent Design language that’s across Windows 11. Notepad is one of the examples for Sun Valley 2, gaining dark mode and a re-arranged menu bar.
While Paint is another app to gain from a refreshed look, Microsoft surprised many at the end of 2021 by bringing back Windows Media Player.
It will be replacing Groove Music, an app that debuted back in Windows 8 in 2012. This will be available in the Microsoft Store, but will be scheduled to appear as the default app to play media files once Sun Valley 2 is available to everyone.
Windows 11 updates look to already be about more than visual flair, and Sun Valley 2 is set to be no exception. There will be several changes underneath that aren’t user-facing, as always, and a number that will be.
But from what Microsoft is working on and showcasing through the Insider program, it’s clear that the company wants to update the apps of Windows 11, not just the front-facing features.
How to test the Windows 11 22H2 Update before launch
Before Microsoft pushes out any big update to Windows 11, it passes through the various channels in the Windows Insider Program. There are various channels in the Insider Program which relate to how far ahead of time you’ll be able to test new features, with the most cutting edge being the ‘Dev Channel’, targeted at the most technical users.
The ‘Dev Channel’ was the first place that Sun Valley started to appear, with a 2200 build number appearing in November 2021. Other app updates to Paint and Windows Media Player soon appeared in the ‘Beta Channel’.
These will be reliable builds tied to a future release with updates validated by Microsoft. Closer to launch, Windows 11 22H2 will hit the ‘Release Preview Channel’ which is the most stable of all in the Insider Program. Builds released to this channel are supported by Microsoft.
If you’re not yet in the Windows Insider Program and you’d like to start testing future updates early you can enroll right from the Settings app on your PC. Head to the ‘Update & Security section, then select’ Windows Insider Program ‘and choose the channel you want to join. You will then start receiving updates through ‘Windows Update’ on your PC corresponding to the channel you joined.