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Microsoft adds features to Windows 11 monthly – managing it is your problem

'Continuous innovation' means it's time to refine your WSUS skills unless you want users doing all sorts of weird stuff

Microsoft has quietly announced a change to the feature release cadence for Windows 11: it will add features every month, if it wants to.

News of the change came in a February 28 post titled "Continuous innovation coming to Windows 11 in March."

In the post, product marketing manager for Windows Commercial, Harjit Dhaliwal, explains that "Windows 11 will continue to have an annual feature update cadence, with a new version released in the second half of the calendar year."

But features can be added with the monthly "quality updates" to Windows. Some have already landed, such as the Bing Chatbot that appeared this week.

The good news is that most of these additions won't be enabled by default – if you set the right policies.

"If your organization uses Windows Update for Business or WSUS to control which Windows updates are offered to your managed devices, you can use a new client policy to control the rollout of select features introduced via servicing," Dhaliwal's post explains.

On February 9, Microsoft detailed a "commercial control for continuous innovation" that lets Windows admins define which of the features in monthly quality updates make it to managed PCs.

According to Dhaliwal, "By default, all features introduced via servicing that are behind this commercial control will be off for Windows-Update-managed devices until they are released as part of the next annual feature update."

Confusingly, the continuous innovations delivered in monthly updates aren't reflected in a change of the name of each Windows release: Windows 11's current version 22H2 moniker will remain, even though it adds plenty of features across many months of monthly updates. Its successor – presumably to be known as 23H2 – will get the name change.

Dhaliwal's post also previews the additional features in the monthly quality update to Windows 11 due on March 14, which will bring:

  • New accessibility features – Seamless switching between Narrator and other screen readers when using braille display; voice commands work across apps and File Explorer;
  • Energy use recommendations – Greater control over defaults plus tips to help decrease energy usage;
  • Snipping Tool enhancements – Built-in screen recorder with autosave functionality;
  • Windows Studio Effects improvements – Find and adjust quick settings (eye contact, background blur, voice focus, and automatic framing) directly from the taskbar.

None of those are startling or dangerous – other than perhaps the autosave screen recorder.

But the post doesn't say whether those additional features will be typical, or if Windows admins will need to pay closer attention to Microsoft's continuous innovation plans.

Admins will also have experience of Microsoft's security patches regularly bringing unintended and unpleasant consequences – usually breaking third-party products. Nailing down PC fleets to ensure these features aren't automatically active therefore looks like an excellent idea. ®

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