Windows 11 is already a fantastic operating system, and Microsoft consistently adds tons of features, bug fixes, and patches to the Windows Insider channels to bring quality-of-life improvements. Many of these changes eventually make their way to the annual feature update, and this year’s Windows 11 version 23H2 brought an impressive suite of new facilities. While most of these new additions were great in their own right, there were a few noteworthy features that elevated the overall user experience a lot more than the others.
1 Dynamic lighting (RGB controls)
An underdeveloped feature that could (theoretically) unify the world of RGB lighting
If you’re an avid fan of RGB-lit peripherals, chances are you’re familiar with the compatibility issues associated with syncing the lighting effects for devices from different manufacturers. Heck, with Corsair, Logitech, Hyper, and other manufacturers providing their own SDKs, you’ll have to juggle multiple third-party apps just to configure the RGB settings for all your devices.
While there are apps like OpenRGB and SignalRGB that boast compatibility with a plethora of devices, I’m a big fan of the Dynamic Lighting controls that were implemented with this update. Admittedly, Dynamic Lighting is rather bare-bones at the moment and doesn’t support many devices, but it’s still a step in the right direction, as Dynamic Lighting is Microsoft’s first attempt at creating a centralized interface to control RGB peripherals. Plus, compared to most third-party apps, Dynamic Lighting barely consumes any resources and doesn’t bombard you with ads and deals every other minute.
Judging by everything we’ve seen so far, I’d say the future looks bright for Dynamic Lighting. For one, Microsoft says Asus, Acer, HP, and Logitech have agreed to integrate Dynamic Lighting into their products. If Dynamic Lighting adds support for lesser-known and generic brand peripherals, it could very well become the easy-to-use RGB customization interface we’ve been waiting for!
2 Support for multiple archive formats
Unlike Linux distros, Windows operating systems are infamous for their lack of native support for archive files. So, Windows enthusiasts had to rely on WinRAR, 7-Zip, or other third-party applications to extract from any archive format beyond ZIP. All that changed with the 23H2 update. Thanks to the integration of several tools from the Libarchive Project, it’s possible to extract files compressed using GZ, TAR, RAR, and eight other formats straight from the File Explorer.
3 Dev Home and Dev Drive
Built for developers, by developers
First introduced in the Windows 11 Preview Build 23466 back in May, Dev Home serves as an all-in-one hub containing services tailor-made for application developers. Besides providing direct access to GitHub repositories, Dev Home allows you to install tons of extensions, including Android Studio, Visual Studio, and PyCharm, to create and modify your projects from a single interface. Finally, the application also lets you monitor the CPU speed, memory utilization, and a host of other hardware metrics.
On top of that, you can now access Dev Drive, a unique drive format designed to store source code and project data, straight from Dev Home. Built on the Resilient File System (ReFS) instead of the New Technology File System (NTFS), Dev Drive uses Copy-on-Write (CoW) linking and other features from ReFS to optimize performance when building apps.
4 Ability to view Wi-Fi passwords in Settings
No need to spend hours searching the Control Panel for Wi-Fi keys
If you work with multiple Wi-Fi connections, chances are you may not recall the password of all your saved networks. Up until a few months ago, checking the Wi-Fi security involved a series of cumbersome steps, and even the easiest solution required you to run a few commands in the Command Prompt.
Fortunately, viewing your Wi-Fi password is not as annoying as it used to be. With the release of the 23H2 update, you can check your Wi-Fi security key straight from the Settings app, making it easy for folks like me who have a habit of forgetting passwords.
5 Dedicated backup app
That can easily restore your important apps and documents
Microsoft earlier rolled out the Windows Backup app alongside the Dev Drive in Build 23466, and this feature has been implemented in the 23H2 update. The new application allows you to back up all your files and folders to your OneDrive storage with the click of a button. It also lets you load your app preferences, settings, and credentials when you configure a new PC for the first time.
The restore facility has also received a major overhaul: the backup of your old system will retain the location of the apps pinned on the Start menu and Taskbar. Once you’re on your new PC, you can click on the app icons to reinstall them from the Microsoft Store. This functionality also extends to non-Windows Store apps as clicking on their icons will instead direct you to their website.
With the addition of Windows Backup and the improved restore facility, it’s a lot easier to transfer data to another system when you migrate from an older PC or laptop.
What are your favorite features from Windows 11 version 23H2?
The Windows 11 23H2 update included other useful features, such as an overhauled File Explorer, a redesigned volume mixer, and enhancements to Windows Ink. Windows Copilot was also a part of this update, but I didn’t include it on this list because its current implementation is pretty lackluster and feels more tacked on. But that’s a topic for another time.
If anything, I’m more excited about Windows 12. While Microsoft hasn’t even announced the successor to Windows 11, many reports claim the tech giant seeks to deploy Windows 12 in 2024.