Windows 12 could be Microsoft’s replacement for Windows 11… in 2024. Yes, it’s still very early to be giving this any serious thought, plus nothing is official yet. But Windows’ long history has us wondering what’s in the queue for the next big update.

Some changes we think Windows 12 could bring include UI enhancements, better Android app support, and increased reliance on the Settings app.

When Will Windows 12 Be Released?

We should start by saying we can’t verify yet that Windows 12 is even real. It’s not that we think Microsoft will pull a Windows 9 move and skip over this version to land on W13—we just haven’t heard anything official from the company.

That said, we do think it's coming. It's just not clear when.

There is one rumor we’ve seen that points to an upgraded OS. Tom’s Hardware spotted a mention by the German website Deskmodder.de that Microsoft would begin working on Windows 12. Remarkably, that was in February 2022, less than six months after Windows 11 was first available to the public!

We're not sure if that source is reliable, but whether this version is being actively developed or not, Windows 12 won't arrive for a while longer, considering how close we still are to the Windows 11 launch.

Looking back at the last several major Windows versions, there isn't a consistent timeline we can use to gauge when Windows 12 will come. But, we can still guess.

Starting with Windows 7 in 2009:

  • Windows 8 arrived three years later (2012)
  • Windows 10 arrived three years later (2015)
  • Windows 11 arrived six years later (2021)
  • Windows 12 might arrive three years later (2024)

This timeline is echoed by Windows Central (which also claims that W12 is called Next Valley internally):

According to my sources who are familiar with these plans, Microsoft now intends to ship “major” versions of the Windows client every three years, with the next release currently scheduled for 2024, three years after Windows 11 shipped in 2021.

Before its public release, Windows 12 will probably follow a similar release structure as other versions of Windows. For example, the first Windows 11 Insider Preview build was available a few days after Microsoft announced the OS and a few months before its public release.

A similar timeline is expected for this version, so you should be able to access a pre-release build of Windows 12 through the Windows Insider Program whenever that time comes.

Lifewire’s Release Date Estimate

We think Microsoft will release Windows 12 in 2024, at the earliest. If another large gap occurs as it did between the last two major versions, we could look at 2026 or later. Watch for a mention of it at an upcoming Windows event.

Windows 12 Price Rumors

There's a good chance Windows 12 will be offered as an optional, free update for Windows 11 users, and possibly Windows 10 users, who have a valid copy of Windows.

If you need a new license, we think you'll be able to get the digital version from Microsoft's website, or through other retailers on a USB device.

The company will probably price it much like they do Windows 11:

  • $139.99 for Windows 12 Home
  • $199.99 for Windows 12 Pro

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Windows 12 Features

As with any big OS update, there will surely be countless minor updates and changes under the hood. This should translate to things like better overall performance, new icons and animations, and additional settings you can tweak.

The 5 Best Windows 11 Features to Know

Nothing is confirmed, and won't be for a while, but here are some bigger ideas that could make their way into Windows 12:

New UI

The 2022 Microsoft Ignite keynote might have given us a glimpse at the Windows 12 user interface.

You can see it has a floating taskbar dock at the bottom, a floating search bar at the top, and various other icons on either corner of the screen.

The taskbar is only a little different from the existing one we've grown familiar with over the years because it's just slightly hovering over the bottom of the screen. The search bar, however, has never existed at the top like that, and definitely not entirely detached from the taskbar.

Windows Central claims that there are plans for other UI changes, too, like a new lock screen and notification center, all in an effort to create a consistent interface across Microsoft's product line that will work for both touch and keyboard users. And that's to be expected with any major release.

Below is a neat look at what Windows 12 could look like from Concept Central. It shows a new Start menu, an idea for a built-in messaging client called Windows Messenger, a redesigned volume hub, and desktop widgets. We also like this W12 concept from designer Kevin Kall.

No More Control Panel

We also expect a further shift (possibly a full withdrawal) away from the Control Panel in favor of Settings. Settings was introduced back in Windows 8 and was intended to replace the Control Panel, but the utility is still available today.

If Windows 12 gets rid of Control Panel entirely, all the Control Panel applets might be moved into Settings. We’ve already seen this start to happen, like with Windows Update, which hasn’t been available through Control Panel since Windows 8.

Animated Wallpapers

Our phones can use animated wallpapers, but Windows has been stuck with static images forever. This is already possible through third-party apps like Desktop Live Wallpapers, but it’d be great for the ability to add live wallpapers to be built right in to Windows.

Android APK Installs

You can already get Android apps in Windows 11, but you’re stuck using Amazon Appstore, so you’re limited to the options available through that store. Windows 12 could improve on this by letting us install Android apps via their APK file.

There are several online stores that let you download these files. Windows just needs to open up the ability for us to run them directly from the download so that we don't have to open them through third-party programs like BlueStacks.

The 9 Best Android Emulators for Windows 10 and Windows 11

MSN Messenger Return

Another Windows 12 feature rumor (first seen on TechRadar) we've seen is for Teams and Skype to merge into a new MSN Messenger. If you're unfamiliar, MSN Messenger was an instant messaging client from Microsoft that was around in the early 2000s but was eventually discontinued in 2013.

Bookmark this page! We'll update it with all the confirmed and rumored Windows 12 features as they come in.

Windows 12 System Requirements

All versions of Windows have a set of minimum system requirements. Your computer must meet them for you to be able to install the OS. We think the requirements for installing Windows 12 will be similar, if not identical, to the minimum system requirements for Windows 11.

We expect something like this, where your computer must have at least the following in order for it to be compatible with Windows 12:

  • 8 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB of storage
  • 64-bit processor
  • 1 GHz CPU clock speed
  • An internet connection and a Microsoft account (for the initial setup)

Windows 11 introduced some specialized requirements that weren’t seen in prior versions of Windows. These include TPM 2.0 and UEFI with Secure Boot. We think Windows 12 will work similarly.

In all likelihood, if your computer can run Windows 11, there's a good chance you'll be able to install Windows 12, too. But, we won't know for sure until we hear something from Microsoft.

View your system hardware info with one of these tools

Windows 12 Download

Windows 12 is not available from Microsoft. It's not accessible in beta form, and there aren't any pre-release builds. At least not yet.

This means it’s too early to find genuine Windows 12 ISO files, so anything you see online that claims to be W12—even if it’s called a leak from MS or is named “Windows 12 Beta” or “Windows 12 Dev Build,” etc.—is in fact not the real deal.

If this OS actually does get released, the official place to get it will be from Microsoft. Much like older versions of Windows, this one will most likely be available as a free update for Windows 11 users. You’ll get it by updating via Windows Update, and, like earlier Windows editions, Microsoft will likely host an upgrade utility and the official ISOs on their website.

Of course, brand-new devices, like the Microsoft Surface line of computers, will ship with Windows 12 preinstalled.

We'll update this page with all the details on how to get Windows 12 as soon as Microsoft reveals these details.

See if you can upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11

The Latest News About Windows 12

You can get more computer-related news from Lifewire; below are rumors and other stories about Windows 12 and the Windows OS in general:

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Source