Microsoft cuts another feature from Windows 11 in ongoing drive to declutter the OS

Windows 11 is slowly but surely getting more streamlined, with Microsoft cutting and pruning away some of the bloat in the OS.

The most recent move, as highlighted by Windows Latest, is that the Steps Recorder app is getting its marching orders.

What’s that? We wouldn’t blame you if that was your first thought, because it was ours, as we’d forgotten about the existence of this app, which was brought in with Windows 7.

Steps Recorder, as the name suggests, allows you to record something happening on your screen, and the steps you take when running into a problem – so you can send it to an expert (or support team) who can see exactly where you’re going wrong (hopefully).

This app has just been added to the deprecated features list for Windows 11, on top of a bunch of other functionality that was recently marked for axing (most notably the Tips app).

As Microsoft notes, Steps Recorder won’t be updated any longer and will be “removed in a future release of Windows.”

The reason is that it’s pretty much redundant now with other options present in Windows 11 for screen recording duties. Microsoft points to the Snipping Tool, Xbox Game Bar, and Microsoft Clipchamp as alternatives, though some will miss the lightweight nature of Steps Recorder perhaps.


Analysis: Getting serious about streamlining

As mentioned, this is just the latest move to declutter Windows 11 somewhat, including getting rid of the Tips app as recently announced.

Also of late we’ve seen Microsoft removing the Windows Maps and Movies & TV apps in preview versions of Windows 11, as well as adding in the ability to uninstall more default apps (like Photos, Camera, the ones that all come preinstalled) in testing. Indeed, the latter ability has now progressed from the Canary channel in preview to Dev channel (so is heading for release, by the looks of things).

On top of that, we have other supplementary debloating moves afoot in Windows 11, such as the introduction of the RGB hub to avoid the need to install separate apps to control your peripherals with fancy RGB lighting. That feature is now live in Windows 11 and came in with the update at the end of September.

Considering there appears to be some momentum building around this cleaning up of the operating system, we can likely expect more pruning of Windows 11 from Microsoft going forwards, which can only be a good thing in our books.

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Microsoft starts warning Windows 11 users to upgrade to 23H2

If you’ve stuck with Windows 11 22H2 since it was superseded, you might want to upgrade to 23H2 soon enough, as Microsoft has set a deadline for doing so, at least for those who want to get new (preview) features and fixes as early as possible.

As you likely realize, every version of Windows has an allotted period of time that full support is given and all updates are piped through, and the first stage of the cessation of that support has just been announced by Microsoft.

As Neowin noticed, we’ve been told by Microsoft that: “After February 27, 2024, there will no longer be optional, non-security preview releases for Windows 11, version 22H2. Only cumulative monthly security updates will continue for the supported editions of Windows 11, version 22H2.”

The preview (optional) releases are pushed out near to the end of every month, and come with new features which are still officially in testing, and early fixes for problems with Windows 11.

As Microsoft clarifies, after next February, those on Windows 11 22H2 will still get the monthly updates pushed out on Patch Tuesday (these land on the second Tuesday of every month).


Analysis: So, what’s the big deal here exactly?

This is an important development, and to illustrate why, let’s sketch out a quick example. Say you’ve been hit by a really nasty bug that torpedoes your printer (a not unfamiliar scenario) and you’re desperate for the fix, of course.

Now, the preview update for that month is released, and it has the cure – except you won’t be able to download and use it, because you won’t be offered the optional update. You would have to wait another two weeks (maybe a bit longer) to get the fix, when you’d clearly want it right there and then – as any risks of using a preview update pale in comparison to the problem you’re suffering from already.

Eventually, Microsoft will pull the plug on updates for Windows 11 22H2 entirely, at which point you’ll have to upgrade, or run a vulnerable PC (with no security updates). Indeed, Microsoft will force upgrades at this point to keep the user base safe. That’s what happened with Windows 11 21H2 last month, and the same will be the case come October 2024 for version 22H2.

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Microsoft throws Windows 10 users an AI lifeline and pours in CoPilot

Good news Windows 10 fans, the venerable OS will get another major update before its last hurrah, Windows 10 22H2 Build 19045.KB5032278. Microsoft announced that this new build, coming soon, will introduce Microsoft CoPilot to the OS, similar to how CoPilot currently appears in Windows 11.

Microsoft CoPilot is an AI-powered assistant that helps users across a wide berth of apps, features, tools, and programs on Windows 11. This includes programs like Paint, Snipping Tool, Photos, and more. It also works in conjunction with Microsoft's search engine Bing to, for example, help you shop online by taking a picture and having both tools identify where to buy it.

The AI assistant will initially be available for testing for those in the Windows Insider Program for Home or Pro-consumer versions, with some limitations. At first, CoPilot will only be available for Bing chat, with some skills added later on. Eventually, Windows 10 users with Pro Business, Enterprise, and Education versions will have full access to CoPilot.

Because Windows 10 has lower system requirements than Windows 11, Microsoft is specifying slightly higher minimum system requirements for using CoPilot on Windows 10: 4GB of RAM and a 720p display adapter. Of course, once CoPilot is fully rolled out, those requirements and available skills could change later on. 

A Microsoft Copilot page on a blue background

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Why bring the bleeding-edge CoPilot to a platform that, by Microsoft's own admission faces end-of-life (support-wise) on October 14, 2025?

Microsoft says it's because there’s an AI race and that it must ensure that AI features are available to as many of its customers as possible. Therefore, by making CoPilot a part of Windows 10, Microsoft will bring better value to the OS by giving it AI features that are vital to the company’s future. This will then improve engagement, retention, and satisfaction, to eventually incentivize the move to Windows 11.

From our perspective, though, this is an admission that, in order to get CoPilot in front of as many Windows users as possible, Microsoft has to integrate it with its most widely-used version of Windows, and that's Windows 10, which still has, according to StatCounter, almost 70% desktop market share

And in another sign that Mictosot understands Windows 10's important place in its market portfolio, the company is bringing at least one Windows 11 feature down to Windows 10: a toggle for allowing for automatic updates, rather than having to manually enable them.

Speaking of that AI race, Microsoft has sowed a fair bit of confusion between Bing, Bing Chat, and now CoPilot and how these brands overlap (or are sometimes even the same thing).

In a briefing on the updates, Microsoft explained it's also working on its branding strategy, which it admitted initially created fragmentation due to too many names for various products. The tech giant is currently working on consolidating its brands to bring clarity. Though it’s been tight-lipped about how it will go about that change, Microsoft did state that CoPilot and Bing Chat are interlaced but not tied together, which could mean that even through consolidation, those two brands will remain separate.

If you’re looking to download CoPilot for Windows 10, this support page details the entire process. This official page details all the new features coming to Windows 10 once the update drops.

Why is Microsoft putting CoPilot on Windows 10?

Microsoft is still adamant about Windows 11 performing well above its expectations, with the OS closing in on half a billion active users by 2024. On the flip side, the tech giant is a little vaguer about admitting to the massive discrepancy between Windows 10 and Windows 11’s install base, with the former holding a market share of just under 70% and the latter with a market share of a little over 26%.

And it’s clear that discrepancy is what’s driving the tech giant’s decision to give Windows 10 the CoPilot makeover. In its own words, the goal is to give the OS more value through AI, which it believes to be the future of tech. By investing in AI for Windows 10, users will become accustomed to the many features it has and then theoretically switch over to Windows 11 once 10 reaches the end of its life in 2025. Microsoft clearly wants a huge chunk of that massive user base to migrate over to Windows 11 and bolster its numbers.

Will this bold strategy work? Or will users feel that they have less incentive to migrate over to Windows 11? That remains to be seen, but Microsoft is gambling big that it’ll pay off in the long run, which is important if the company wants users to also eventually support Windows 12, which will most likely drop in 2024 according to various reports and rumors.

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Microsoft tests option to make Copilot AI appear as soon as Windows 11 loads

Microsoft could be giving its Copilot AI some new powers in Windows 11 (and maybe Windows 10 eventually), or at least this functionality has been spotted in test builds – including the ability to fire up the AI as soon as the operating system boots.

Windows Latest reported on some fresh options recently brought into testing for Copilot, and as mentioned one is a toggle to ‘Open Copilot when Windows starts’ (tucked away in the Personalization area of Settings).

In short, this means that when your PC first loads up the desktop, the Copilot panel will appear straightaway. This option carries some text notes explaining that this is primarily aimed at those with a wider screen (in other words, with the display real-estate to fit Copilot on as a constant companion).

Another move in testing for Copilot is unpinning the AI’s side-panel. This is a button present on the actual side-bar for the AI, and when clicked, Copilot collapses when you maximize another window.

As it is, the Copilot side-panel stays in place when you make another app full-screen, so you can still see the AI to the right of whatever program is running. When this switch is flicked, though, a maximized app will take up the whole screen, with the side-panel being hidden.

Finally, Microsoft is currently trying out the ability for users to resize the Copilot panel. This has been spotted in testing before, mind you. However, this time around Windows Latest shows us that as you enlarge the side-panel, at a certain point when the interface is big enough, recent activity and active plug-ins are shown.


Analysis: Some useful changes for tailoring the AI

If you’re a Windows 11 tester and you haven’t seen any of these options for Copilot, that’s not too surprising, as Microsoft is only trialing them with a limited set of Windows Insiders at the moment.

As ever with features in preview, they may or may not be carried forward, but if they are, all testers will get them eventually – and then they’ll debut in the release version of Windows 11.

The functionality to unpin, resize, and have Copilot appear by default after boot – if you want to, and perhaps have an ultra-wide monitor – are all choices that will prove useful and add versatility to the way Copilot’s interface works. And given that, we can’t see why they wouldn’t make the cut for inclusion in Windows 11 ultimately.

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Microsoft was quick to drop this Windows 11 pop-up that took annoying to new levels

Microsoft has reversed course to remove a pop-up that it was trying out with some Windows 11 users that attempted to discern why they were quitting out of OneDrive.

Specifically, this move concerned the OneDrive sync client which resides in the system tray on the far-right of the taskbar (the little cloud icon). As the name suggests, this client oversees the syncing of the files on your PC with OneDrive in the cloud.

If you close it, you’ll see a pop-up telling you that your files will no longer be synced to the cloud, which is a fair enough warning to issue – but then Microsoft incorporated something else for some users.

As Windows Latest reports – and Neowin first observed – as November began, Microsoft added a survey pop-up for those shutting down the syncing client which appeared after the aforementioned warning.

That dialog box was piped through to a small group of Windows 11 users, we’re told, and it asked them to give a reason why they were quitting out of OneDrive sync. Reponses included ‘I don’t want OneDrive running all the time’ (which it is, in the background, with this client) and ‘I don’t know what OneDrive is’ among others. (If the latter would be your response, check out our guide to using the cloud storage service).

This annoyed a fair few Windows 11 users as you might imagine, so Microsoft canned the idea.

Microsoft told Windows Latest: “Between Nov. 1 and 8, a dialog box temporarily appeared for a small subset of consumer OneDrive users when closing the OneDrive sync client asking for feedback on the reason they chose to close the application.

“The prompt was removed after a sufficient sample of user feedback was gathered. This feedback helps inform our ongoing efforts to enhance the quality of our products.”


Analysis: Repeated aggravation

Microsoft is constantly testing these kinds of more intrusive elements in Windows 11, whether it’s ‘suggestions’ or ads for its services or polls, and like most people, we find that quite frustrating. Okay, so this was a limited subset of users, and it was quickly reversed – we’re not surprised and can only imagine the reaction (indeed, we’ve seen some of it on Reddit).

What was overstepping the mark here is that not only was this poll sent to users on the release version of Windows 11 (it may have been a test, but it wasn’t deployed in preview builds of the OS), it actually appeared repeatedly.

Yes, Windows Latest tells us that this pop-up would be summoned for affected users every single time they quit OneDrive sync. Surely, when Microsoft got an answer out of the user, that should have been it, done and dusted as they say?

Hopefully Microsoft will learn a lesson from the spicy feedback on this one and not try to insert any more such surveys cluttering up the flow of using the interface (and certainly not outside of preview versions of Windows 11).

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that for OneDrive sync there is a middle-ground in terms of not quitting, but not having it running either – the pause option. Right-click the icon and you’ll find the choice to ‘Pause syncing’ which will do exactly what it says, plus you can set the length of time (to a fairly hefty pause of 8 hours, or even 24 hours, from the drop-down menu). The app will still be running, but doing nothing, and so it shouldn’t be consuming any noticeable system resources.

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Bing AI may be getting crushed in the battle against Google search – but Microsoft might not care

Microsoft doubtless hoped that the launch of Bing AI would help attract users to the Bing search site, but that hasn’t happened going by some fresh stats.

Statcounter has just aired some figures on search volume and the bad news (for Microsoft) is that Bing’s share of the search engine market in the US has dropped by half a percentage point.

Bing was on 7.4% this time last year, but is now on 6.9%, whereas Google has notched up from 86.7% in 2022 to 88% now.

Okay, so it’s not a big drop for Bing, but nonetheless, it shows that – at least according to one source – Microsoft’s AI chatbot hasn’t made any difference to its search traffic.

The better news in these stats (spotted by Windows Central) is that Edge is up 1% in the browser market, but it’s only on 5.5% in total, so Google’s Chrome remains just as dominant as its search engine.


Analysis: A reversal of priorities?

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Bing AI not helping Microsoft’s search traffic efforts. A few months ago, Statcounter’s global stats also showed that Bing.com traffic fell slightly (to be fair, by 0.04% which is margin of error stuff, so effectively it stayed the same). The global stats for October 2023 also show a slight drop year-on-year.

The broad conclusion, then, is that Bing AI is not managing to drive any meaningful level of traffic to Microsoft’s search engine.

Does Microsoft really care overly about that, though? Maybe not so much now we’d suggest.

While the initial aim with Bing AI (or a big part of it) was to boost the attractiveness of Bing.com, since the launch of the chatbot, the AI explosion has been so pronounced – and the bandwagon so attention-grabbing – that artificial intelligence has become overrulingly important itself.

By which we mean that Bing search considerations, or persuading folks to adopt Windows 11 to get the Copilot AI (essentially integrated Bing with bells and whistles, though not many of the latter yet), have now taken a back seat.

If a fresh rumor is to be believed, Microsoft is bringing Copilot to Windows 10 – a surprising move after the software giant said that the older OS was no longer getting any new features (except for very minor tweaks – and the AI assistant most definitely is a major upgrade).

What this shows – if true – is that Microsoft is less worried about encouraging Windows 11 adoption (which has been seriously slow) and using Copilot as a carrot to persuade upgrades, and more concerned about getting all the many folks on Windows 10 using its AI, bolstering the figures for that.

We can believe this might be the case, given that in the bigger picture, AI has become such a huge deal – with everyone getting in on the act, and for example the likes of Nvidia making a ton of profit from its AI-targeted GPUs. Team Green is very keenly focused on those products now, to the extent that we even worry about the future of the best gaming GPUs (the GeForce ones, that is).

It’s likely the end goal is shifting to Microsoft advancing its AI tech across web properties and its desktop OS ecosystem alike, getting people used to Bing or Copilot being their everyday helper – and that being the primary goal.

Rather than leveraging AI to push the company’s other products, Microsoft is now prioritizing the other way round, possibly. Maybe also thinking that if its AI systems gain enough clout, users will follow to other products eventually, anyway.

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Microsoft finds a new way to annoy users by forcing survey on users who attempt to close OneDrive app

Oops… Looks like Microsoft’s done it again… and by ‘it’ I mean added another pushy survey on users who try to close OneDrive. You read that right – just trying to close OneDrive in Windows 11 will prompt a survey window to pop up and ask why you’d even think of doing such a thing. 

The pop-up window reads: 

“Quit OneDrive? 

If you close OneDrive, files in your OneDrive folder won’t sync or back up to the cloud so you won’t see your changes across devices. “

You then get a dropdown box titled Select a reason for quitting OneDrive.

There are also two options: Cancel (and to exit out of the termination process, hence continuing to run OneDrive), or to Quit OneDrive which is grayed out until you pick a reason. Microsoft insists on an explanation before letting you quit the app. 

Here are the possible reasons you can choose from:

  • I don’t want OneDrive running all the time
  • I don’t know what OneDrive is
  • I don’t use OneDrive
  • I’m trying to fix a problem with OneDrive
  • I’m trying to speed up my computer
  • I get too many notifications
  • Other

If you’re actually serious about wanting to quit OneDrive, you’ll have to choose one of these. Oddly enough “Because I want to. What kind of question is this?” isn’t an option. Or you might just consider looking for a different cloud storage service altogether.

Young woman with cat using laptop

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Trying to make sense of Microsoft's decisions

First spotted by Neowin, this dialog box appears every single time you try to quit OneDrive from your taskbar. 

While this development is baffling, it’s not a huge difference from how annoying it was to close OneDrive before this update. The action was hidden as the confusing option of Pause syncing in the menu that appears when you right-click OneDrive in the taskbar. 

Microsoft has been propping up OneDrive as the new default central location for file management, absorbing both the Documents and Pictures libraries and syncing them to Microsoft's cloud storage in Windows 11. If you haven’t set up OneDrive yet and this syncing hasn’t happened by default for some reason, Microsoft will continue to remind you to do so while you use Windows 11. For example, one such prompt appears when you try to change your desktop wallpaper. 

Tsk tsk, Microsoft. I don’t know why you would think this was a good idea. The amount of feedback Microsoft might gather about this just doesn’t seem worth the bad will of users that increases with each development like this. Just a little while back, we wrote about how Microsoft persistently polled users who used Edge to try and download Chrome, demanding to know why they were making the switch. A sidebar window would literally display a poll right on the download page of Chrome.

Now, you need to justify your decision to close out OneDrive or you won’t be allowed to pause it. 

Tom Warren of The Verge has a great tip if you want to circumvent this silliness altogether – you can open Task Manager, look for Microsoft OneDrive (or perform a search), and stop it running by ending the task. This is a little tedious, but it also allows you to bypass the Microsoft inquisition. Warren jests that we might see Microsoft put a poll ahead of us trying to shut down our Windows machines, asking why you’d even want to turn off your computer. With every story like this, a joke like that becomes all the easier to imagine. 

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Microsoft wants people to love Windows 11’s Outlook app again – even if they have an iPhone

Microsoft has given Windows 11’s desktop email app, Outlook, a major revamp with the addition of Apple iCloud functionality for people who use iPhones or other Apple devices, plus other features. This upgrade is available to all Windows 11 users and you can add your iCloud account to your Outlook app by doing the following: 

1. Click the cog icon in your Outlook menu, which should open your Email accounts setting. This is where you can see all of the accounts that are connected to your Outlook and manage them. 

2. Select Add account and sign into your Apple iCloud account. This should connect your iCloud account. 

The Outlook app had supported Apple’s email service in the past before Windows 11’s launch, but according to Windows Latest, Microsoft is in the process of deploying a new Outlook app in place of the old one. Apparently reception has been lukewarm from users, but Microsoft is adding lots of new features with every new version.

One of the biggest complaints users have with the renewed Outlook app has been that it launches in a web wrapper. The old app was a fully functional UWP app, with both online and offline support. However, the new app only got offline support very recently. User complaints about the new app persist, and Microsoft is continuing to develop the app to hopefully improve users’ experiences and improve their opinion of the new app.

The latest in a string of new developments

This development follows shortly after Microsoft also added compatibility with Gmail, Google Calendar, and contacts to Outlook. iCloud support is also now available to all Windows 11 users, and Microsoft is reportedly working on extending offline support for more parts of the Outlook app, including events and Calendar. 

One feature that users have to look forward to as part of Microsoft’s new Outlook is being able to RSVP to meetings. Windows Latest spotted this as an upcoming update in the Microsoft 365 roadmap, which details what Microsoft has in store for various Microsoft 365 apps. This will help users receive information about the nature of any specific meeting and better decide if they would like to attend. This development is expected to debut in March 2024.

Another feature that has been added will help users understand their meetings and schedules. Microsoft explained on its Tech Community blog that users will be able to track declined meetings better in the Outlook calendar. This will be useful  for many users, especially those who have overlapping or densely-packed meetings, and want to better understand what they are and aren’t attending.

meeting

(Image credit: Bild von Free Photos auf Pixabay)

How to turn on visibility for declined meetings

The above is now available within the most up to date version of Outlook, but is disabled by default. You can enable it through the following steps: 

1. Open the Outlook app. 

2. Go to: Settings > Calendar > Events & Invitations > Save declined events

3. Tick (Click) the Show declined events in your calendar box. 

This should turn on the feature and declined meetings should begin to be displayed in your Calendar. 

In order for a meeting to be classified as declined, you will have to have declined the meeting in all Outlook clients and Teams, with the exception of the original Windows Outlook client. 

It’s going to take a little more to win over Windows users it seems, but these seem like some solid steps. These are available to all Windows 11 users with a valid copy of Outlook as far as we know and if you don’t have these features yet, you may need to update your Outlook app. It is to be confirmed if this extends to free users who use Outlook online.

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Microsoft has tossed a Windows 11 help feature on the scrapheap – probably because of Copilot

Windows 11’s 23H2 update has recently been released, and while that annual upgrade obviously adds features, some have also been dropped by Microsoft.

PhantomOfEarth picked up on this, spotting that Microsoft just added the latest round of cutting to its list of deprecated features for Windows 11, and posting on X (formerly Twitter) to let us know.

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The big move here – and the only one that’ll affect consumers (the others are business-related) – is the deprecation of the Tips app in Windows 11.

This means that Tips will remain in Windows 11 for now, but in stasis, with no further development – and it’s scheduled to be removed in a future update of the OS.

Microsoft does, however, observe that in this case the app will continue to get (small) updates with info about new Windows features.

The Tips app provides help for Windows 11 users regarding customizing the interface, as well as imparting useful keyboard shortcuts and other miscellaneous tips, and highlighting new features that have arrived in the operating system.

PhantomOfEarth also recently tweeted about another interesting change for Windows 11, namely the ability to make custom commands for the Voice Access feature. This is still a long way off, as it’s not even live in testing, but hidden in the background – even so, it’d be an excellent addition on the accessibility front.

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Analysis: Clearing the way for Copilot?

It’s likely that with the next major update for Windows 11 – which could turn it into Windows 12, maybe, later next year – the Tips app will get the axe and be fully removed.

In fairness, this app isn’t the greatest help resource anyway, but nonetheless, for those new to Windows, it could be useful. That said, we’re betting there’s a reason for it being ditched now – namely Copilot.

Remember that in a year’s time, a fully developed Copilot AI – which will doubtless have been considerably bolstered over the course of 2024 – will be able to handle all help duties ably. We’d imagine that’s the plan, anyway.

Microsoft appears to be on a spree of tidying up Windows 11 of late, as we recently saw the Windows Maps and Movies & TV applications being removed from default installations of the OS.

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Latest Microsoft Edge update comes with new features – and a strange case of missing sidebar settings

Microsoft released a new update for its web browser, Edge 119, through its Stable Channel (one of Microsoft’s release channels for new versions of Edge) on November 3. 

This update introduced many new features, including SplitScreen and an improved Sidebar app. Microsoft has also snuck in an interesting quirk into the settings of the sidebar: the toggle for turning Edge's sidebar on and off has seemingly disappeared. This has caused alarm for some users as some think this means that you can’t disable (or enable it) in some cases.

Before this update, there was an “Always Show Sidebar” setting that allowed you to enable or disable the sidebar in Edge which would be found by entering edge://settings/sidebar into Edge’s address bar. Version Edge 119 moves this toggle to Copilot’s settings. Windows Copilot is Microsoft’s new AI-fuelled assistant that the company is positioning to function all throughout Windows and many Microsoft products, including Edge. 

There does appear to still be a way to be able to turn the sidebar on and off by turning on the Show Copilot option. You can keep the sidebar on and choose to turn off Copilot, which should remove the Copilot icon, but doing that will hide the “Auto-hide Sidebar” option. You will not be able to toggle the sidebar as that specific setting will no longer be accessible. 

Microsoft put out the following description about this sidebar toggle change, according to NeoWin

“Always show sidebar: 

This setting is not available when Copilot in Edge is off”

This could be confusing to some users, especially if they don’t want to use Copilot at the moment. You can still disable Copilot, but it seems like it disables even the ability to enable and disable the sidebar, which many users (including those who aren’t sold on Copilot yet) like using. NeoWin goes as far as to posit that moving this setting to the Copilot settings feels like Microsoft is trying to push users towards using it to grow engagement. 

Regardless of where you stand on Copilot, there is still a way to turn the sidebar on or off (although, a roundabout one at that). To do this, go to:

Settings > Sidebar > Copilot > Always Show Sidebar

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