Language pack handling in Windows 11 continues to evolve

The later Windows 10 releases were shifting to using Language Experience Packs (LXPs), which had a variety of limitations. So it wasn’t terribly surprising when Windows 11 shifted back to focusing on language pack CAB files (LP.CAB) for the 38 full languages that Windows 11 supports, along with five “special” language interface packs (LIPs) which are installed over the top of a language pack. These changes were described in this Microsoft blog post.

The only downside of that change: The other 67 LIP languages can’t be included in Windows 11 21H2 images; they can only be installed by the end user using Settings (which works even if they don’t have admin rights). You can see the list of languages and LIPs here.

But there were still challenges. A language in Windows isn’t just the LP.CAB, it’s also a set of optional components to handle handwriting, speech, OCR, typing, fonts, etc. Windows would try to install these automatically from the cloud if it could (not always possible due to network firewall considerations), or you could install them yourself. If you didn’t do that, the OS would still work, but you’d run into situations where features in the OS wouldn’t be able to handle the language.

There are further improvements to this coming in Windows 11 22H2 later this year. Now you can manage languages using PowerShell, as announce here:

Here’s an example showing the installation of an additional language:

Notice that it also took care of all of those extra pieces — one command did all of that, downloading all the pieces (probably from Windows Update, and hopefully then leveraging Delivery Optimization) and installing them. The process took 2-3 minutes on my VM (with a gigabit internet connection).

Strangely, even after adding the Spanish language pack and rebooting just in case, I still couldn’t actually use that language pack. Windows knew that it was installed — it showed up in the “Windows display language” list in Settings. But it didn’t show up in the “Preferred languages” list. I had to (re-)add it:

After doing that, the the language choice item (not sure of its official name) showed up on the task bar (you can see it above, “ENG”). That’s what enables you to switch:

And most importantly, I wasn’t able to choose a language from the logon screen until doing that too:

So there are still some bugs to work out, but at least conceptually it seems to be heading in the right direction. End users can still add languages through Settings (with the same end effect), and IT admins can do it with a single PowerShell command.

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