Microsoft is reportedly working on a new version of Windows to replace Windows 11. In fact, Microsoft has already shown off a prototype new Windows desktop design that could be part of Windows 12 “Next Valley.” Here’s everything we know.
Windows 12 Release Date: When Will It Be?
Microsoft is planning on releasing Windows 12 in 2024, according to credible reports. Microsoft is on a yearly release cycle where major updates are released in the fall, so we would expect Windows 12 release date in fall 2024.
Bear in mind that Microsoft hasn’t yet announced Windows 12 or a release date for it as of February 2023. The 2024 date reflects Microsoft’s internal thinking, and it’s easy to see how it could be pushed back or changed entirely. The operating system may not even be called “Windows 12” and may be called something else—after all, we were expecting Windows 9 after Windows 8, but Microsoft skipped right over Windows 9 and gave us Windows 10 instead. Likewise, the operating system that started as Windows 10X for dual-screen devices evolved into Windows 11.
The 2024 release target for Windows 12 comes from Zac Bowden over at Windows Central, a Windows journalist with a history of accurate reporting, who heard it from his internal sources at Microsoft. According to these internal Microsoft sources, Microsoft is now targeting a three-year release cycle for Windows releases.
If Microsoft sticks with these plans and the sources are accurate, we can expect a Windows 13 in fall 2027 and a Windows 14 in fall 2030.
Windows 12 Is Called “Next Valley” Inside Microsoft
The engineering codename for the operating system that will likely be Windows 12 is “Next Valley,” which makes sense as Windows 11’s codename is “Sun Valley.”
What Will Be New in Windows 12?
As of February 2023, Microsoft hasn’t yet officially announced Windows 12 or its release date. But Microsoft did leak a new Windows desktop interface that the company could be testing for Windows 12.
The leak comes from the Microsoft Ignite keynote held on October 12, 2022. Microsoft momentarily shows an image of Microsoft Teams running on a Windows 11-style desktop. If you look closely, however, you will see the following changes:
- A floating taskbar, rather than an edge-to-edge taskbar.
- A floating search box on the top of the screen, in the middle.
- System icons (like the system tray and notification icons) displayed on the top-right corner of the screen, over the desktop background.
- The weather displayed on the top-left corner of the screen, over the desktop background.
This could be a prototype interface for Windows 12. As it “leaked” during an official Microsoft presentation, it’s almost certainly something Microsoft wanted to tease Windows enthusiasts with.
Zac Bowden over at Windows Central reported that his sources at Microsoft said this image “is representative of the design goals that Microsoft is hoping to achieve with the next version of Windows.” He also reports that Microsoft is working on a larger redesign of other elements of Windows, including a new lock screen and notification center. As usual, Microsoft is attempting to create an interface that balances the needs of a touch interface with traditional keyboard-and-mouse interfaces.
We also expect that floating search box may include AI features. On February 7, 2023, Microsoft announced plans to integrate AI chat features into Bing. And it’s not just Bing—the Microsoft Edge browser will be getting an AI chat sidebar that works a lot like ChatGPT, too. This sidebar will let you use AI chat to interact with your current web page. Microsoft Office is also getting AI features. If this goes well, we imagine Windows 12’s big search bar will integrate an AI chat feature that will interact with other applications on your Windows desktop, too.
Microsoft will surely announce Windows 12 and its features as the company gets closer to releasing it.
Will Windows 12 Be Free? How Much Will It Cost?
We expect that Windows 12 will be a free download if your PC can run it. Here’s why:
Windows 10 and Windows 11 were both free updates for existing PCs. There are some catches: Windows 11 has strict hardware requirements, and many Windows 10 PCs aren’t officially eligible. Microsoft says the Windows 10 free upgrade offer is over, but there are still ways to upgrade a Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC to Windows 10 for free.
We would be surprised if Microsoft began charging for Windows 12 upgrades. After all, the company pushed aggressively to upgrade Windows 7 users to Windows 10, and it’s now pushing to upgrade Windows 10 users to Windows 11, where possible.
If their PCs don’t get an upgrade, most people will get a new version of Windows like Windows 12 when they buy a new PC. If you’re building your own PC, you can buy Windows separately. Microsoft sells Windows 11 Home for $139.99 and Windows 11 Pro for $199.99. (There aren’t many good reasons to buy Windows 11 Pro for home users, however, and we recommend Windows 11 Home for most people.) We expect Microsoft will sell Windows 12 for a similar price.
Note that, if you’re just using Windows in a virtual machine, both Windows 10 and Windows 11 work just fine when you install them without a product key—they just nag you that they’re not activated, and it’s possible to buy an upgrade from inside Windows 10 or Windows 11 to get rid of the nags. The same may be true for Windows 12.
What Will Windows 12’s Hardware Requirements Be?
If your PC can’t run Windows 11, it probably won’t be able to run Windows 12 “Next Valley” either. But what about current Windows 11 PCs?
After the Windows 11 upgrade and its surprisingly strict hardware requirements, we wouldn’t be surprised if Windows 12 also had new strict hardware requirements, preventing some older Windows 11 PCs from upgrading. However, it’s also possible that Microsoft made the big leaps it needed to with Windows 11, and that all or most Windows 11 PCs would be eligible for the upgrade.
If you’ve upgraded an unsupported PC to Windows 11, however, we imagine there’s a good chance your unsupported PC won’t be able to run Windows 12 at all.
How Long Will Windows 11 Be Supported?
We expect Windows 11 will be supported with security updates until at least late 2028. Here’s why:
Windows 10 was released on July 29, 2015. Windows 11 was released on October 5, 2021, more than six years later. Microsoft will continue supporting Windows 10 with security updates until October 14, 2025, which is just over four years after Windows 11 was released. If Microsoft sticks to the late 2024 release plan, the company could end support for Windows 11 in late 2028, four years later.
At any rate, it’s much too early to worry about Windows 11’s support cycle. Microsoft hasn’t announced anything yet, and Windows 11 will continue to be supported with security updates for many years into the foreseeable future. Microsoft will update the official page Windows 11 Lifecycle page when an end-of-support date is available. We’ll be warned years in advance.
Note that the Windows 11 Lifecycle page includes some information about individual versions of Windows 11 and when support will end for them. For example, the page says Windows 11 22H2 will be supported until October 8, 2024. This just means that you’ll have to install a newer update for Windows 11—like 23H2, which is planned for release in the second half of 2023—to keep getting security updates.
How Long Will Windows 11 Get New Features?
Microsoft will be slowly rolling out features to Windows 11 as they’re ready rather than doing huge updates to the operating system every year. Microsoft is still delivering updates like 22H2 and 23H2 every year—those updates are just becoming smaller, with features arriving throughout the year via smaller updates.
Windows 11 got its first major update—version 22H2—in fall 2022. Microsoft has announced these updates will arrive yearly, so we can expect a 23H2 update in fall 2023 and a Windows 12 “Next Valley” release in fall 2024.
After Windows 11 23H2, we imagine Microsoft will stop adding as many features to Windows 11, just as the company stopped adding so many features to Windows 10 when Windows 11 was released.
RELATED: What's New in Windows 11's 2022 Update: Top 10 New Features (22H2)
There’s a lot of time left before Windows 12 will be released. We’ll keep this piece updated with the latest Windows 12 news Microsoft announces—and the latest credible leaks and rumors coming from Redmond.
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