Microsoft’s Windows 11 AI love-in looks set to continue – here are 3 big risks it needs to avoid

It looks like Microsoft is doubling down on adding artificial intelligence features to Windows 11, with the newly released schedule for Microsoft’s Build 2024 suggesting that many of the talks and presentations will focus on AI and how it can shape the future of computing.

As Windows Central reports, Build 2024, which runs from May 21 to 23, will feature a session called “Designing for a brand new Windows AI feature” which will highlight “brand-new features that allow users deeper interaction with their digital lives on Windows through advance[d] AI features.”

Some publications, such as Windows Latest, suggest that this new AI feature could be the rumored AI Explorer feature. The event will be hosted by Rebecca Del Rio and Adrienne Pauley, both of whom have previously worked on AI projects at Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Build events are primarily aimed at developers and showcase new features and tools that will help them create cutting-edge apps. However, much like Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Microsoft Build is often of interest to non-developers as well, as it gives us an insight into what the future holds for Windows 11 (or in WWDC’s case, what’s coming to macOS and iOS).

Judging by the released Build 2024 schedule, it looks like the future of Windows 11 will feature AI – a lot of it. Out of 245 sessions, 79 have the topic of ‘AI Development’ or ‘Copilot’ (Microsoft’s AI-powered assistant), and even sessions such as “Introducing the Next Generation of Windows on Arm” that may not initially seem to be focussed on AI will likely have some references. Arm hardware, which is an alternative to AMD and Intel, is getting improved AI support thanks to NPUs (neural processing units).

The fact that Microsoft is continuing to push AI may not be a surprise to many people – the past few months have seen the company adding all sorts of AI features to various parts of Windows 11, and Build 2024 will be a good chance to prove that it’s still committed to its AI push. However, there are three big risks that Microsoft needs to avoid if it wants to achieve its vision.

The three big risks

broken robot on the floor

(Image credit: Charles Taylor / Shutterstock)

1. Failing to show why AI in Windows 11 is worth it

This is perhaps the biggest risk facing Microsoft. While the company has been adding AI to all parts of Windows 11, I really don’t think the company has shown why I should use these new features.

Copilot, Microsoft’s main AI tool, is now integrated into Windows 11, and is undoubtedly very powerful. However, since Microsoft added it to Windows 11, I’ve used it perhaps two times – once to see how it worked, and a second time to generate an image. Since then, I haven't used it – and it’s not because I distrust AI, as I believe it has enormous and exciting potential.

It’s because Microsoft hasn’t given me a reason to use it. I simply do not know how it could make my day-to-day life easier. Regular tasks I perform on my PC could be improved with some AI help, but I can’t see how right now. 

If Microsoft wants to reap the rewards of all the energy and effort it’s been putting into AI, it needs to show its users why we should be as excited as it is about this brave new world. If it doesn’t, then Copilot, and Windows 11’s other AI tools, could soon be forgotten.

2. Forcing people to use it

Another risk for Microsoft is being too overbearing when it comes to encouraging users to try out the new AI tools. As with my first point, Microsoft must show how AI can improve our lives, not just tell us – and force us to try it out.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has a habit of being rather heavy-handed when it comes to trying to get people to use its software and services. Just look at how it tries to get people to stop downloading the Chrome web browser and use Edge instead, or the increasingly invasive pop-ups in Windows 10 that attempt to convince people to upgrade.

Microsoft has already shown a worrying tendency to do the same with Copilot. Earlier this week we reported on the company changing a fundamental touch gesture in Windows 11 to bring up Copilot, and there are numerous rumors that Microsoft could load Copilot and display it on your desktop when you start Windows 11.

Rather than getting more people to try out AI tools, this aggressive behavior could actually put more people off.

Instead, Microsoft should be confident enough in Copilot to allow users to discover it themselves – while highlighting its virtues without interrupting people while they use Windows 11. And, if a user decides Copilot isn’t for them, Microsoft needs to accept their decision, rather than continuing to nag people in the vain hope that they may change their minds.

3. Losing faith too easily

While Microsoft is going all-in on AI at the moment, we’ve been here before, where Microsoft has identified a new flavor of the month, pushed it on its users, and then given up if it’s not an immediate success.

Just look at Cortana – Microsoft’s previous virtual assistant. It came at a time when its rivals were seeing a lot of success with voice assistants like Apple Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa.

Microsoft’s passion meant Cortana was soon tightly integrated into Windows 10 and Windows 11. It had its own taskbar icon and would pop up unbidden when you first set up your new PC. Despite Microsoft’s fervor, it never convinced enough users that Cortana could help improve their lives, and so it ended up being at best an easily forgotten failure, and at worst a useless annoyance. Sound familiar?

Copilot certainly risks falling into the same trap – and the problem is that Microsoft has a reputation for dropping products that fail to take off. Ask any owner of a Microsoft Phone or Zune media player. Or, just look at what ultimately happened to Cortana: the virtual assistant that was once so entwined in Windows that it would pop up as soon as you turned on your new device was slowly hidden away… until it was finally axed and replaced with Copilot.

To avoid this, Microsoft needs to learn from the mistakes it made with Cortana – especially when it comes to convincing its users that Copilot can make a positive impact on their lives. It also needs to have faith that even if Copilot isn’t an immediate hit,  it should continue to invest and improve it, rather than killing it off quickly and moving on to the next thing.

From what I’ve seen and heard from Microsoft, it seems fully committed to AI and Copilot – for now. However, if it doesn’t find a way to prove that AI is the future of Windows, we may see history repeat itself.

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One of Microsoft’s biggest Windows 11 updates yet brought a massive number of security flaw fixes

Microsoft has issued a mammoth Windows 11 update that brings fixes for around 150 security flaws in the operating system, as well as fixes for 67 Remote Code Execution (RCE) vulnerabilities. RCEs enable malicious actors to deploy their code to a target device remotely, often being able to do so without a person’s consent or knowledge – so this is a Windows 11 update you definitely want to install ASAP. 

This update was rolled out on Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday (the second Tuesday of every month), a monthly update when Microsoft releases security updates. 

Three of these were classed as ‘critical’ vulnerabilities, meaning that Microsoft saw them as posing a particularly hefty risk to users. According to Bleeping Computer, more than half of the RCE vulnerabilities were found in Microsoft SQL drivers; essential software components that facilitate communication between Microsoft apps and its servers, leading to speculation that the SQL drivers share a common flaw that is being exploited by malicious users. 

The three vulnerabilities classed as ‘critical’ had to do with Windows Defender, ironically an app designed by Microsoft to protect users from online threats. 

Windows Defender extension for Chrome

(Image credit: Future)

A possibly record-setting update

KrebsonSecurity, a security news site, claims that this security update sets a record for the number of Windows 11 issues addressed, making it the largest update Microsoft has released this year (so far) and the largest released since 2017. 

The number of bugs is broken down as follows:

  • 31 Elevation of Privilege Vulnerabilities
  • 29 Security Feature Bypass Vulnerabilities
  • 67 Remote Code Execution Vulnerabilities
  • 13 Information Disclosure Vulnerabilities
  • 7 Denial of Service Vulnerabilities
  • 3 Spoofing Vulnerabilities

These spanned across several apps and functionalities, including Microsoft Office apps, Bitlocker, Windows Defender, Azure, and more. 

Two zero-day loopholes that were cause for concern

Two zero-day vulnerabilities were also addressed by Microsoft in April’s Patch Tuesday update, and apparently, they have been exploited in malware attacks. Zero-day vulnerabilities are flaws in software that potentially harmful actors find and possibly exploit before the software’s developers discover it. The zero refers to the proverbial buffer of time that developers have in terms of urgency to develop a patch to address the issue. 

Microsoft hasn’t said whether the zero-day flaws were being actively exploited, but this information was shared by Sophos (a software and hardware company) and Trend Micro (a cybersecurity platform). 

One of these has been labeled CVE-2024-26234 by Microsoft, and it’s been classed as a Proxy Drive Spoofing Vulnerability. The other, CVE-2024-29988, was classed as a SmartScreen Prompt Security Feature Bypass Vulnerability.

You can see the full list of vulnerabilities in a report by Bleeping Computer. Mashable points to the fact that Windows necessitates such a vast number of patches and changes because Windows is used as the operating system on different manufacturers’ machines and has to constantly keep up with accommodating a variety of hardware configurations.   

Some users might find Windows 11’s need for frequent updates annoying, which could lead them to consider alternative operating systems like macOS. If you’re sticking with Windows 11, KrebsonSecurity recommends that you back up your computer’s data before installing the update. I’m glad Microsoft continues to address bugs and security risks in Windows 11, even if that does mean we’re nagged to update the OS more than some of its competitors, and I would urge users to make sure that they install this update, which you can do through Windows Update if your PC hasn’t started this process already. 

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Microsoft’s lock screen cards for Windows 11 are about to arrive – and a much-needed addition will follow

Microsoft recently tested a new feature for the lock screen in the form of info cards in both Windows 11 and Windows 10, which are now imminent, but this functionality is missing an important piece of the puzzle – something the software giant is going to remedy, thankfully.

The widget-style lock screen cards give you a snapshot of the current weather, or stocks (finance), local traffic, and so on, but the problem was you could either switch them all on, or all off – with no fine-tuned control.

So, if you wanted weather and sports scores, but not traffic updates and stocks, you were stuck with the latter two.

However, according to a report from Windows Latest, Microsoft has told the tech site that you’ll be able to customize which cards appear on the lock screen in the future. However, no timeframe was mentioned for when this might happen.


Analysis: Get on with it (please)

Do this already, Microsoft. We made the observation before that it seemed pretty odd to introduce lock screen cards as an all-or-nothing affair, because many folks won’t want a load of these – and will regard that as clutter – but might be happy with one or two tucked away on the lock screen.

So, this was an obvious – and very necessary – move in our books. And hopefully, it won’t take long to usher in this change, as we can’t see that it’ll be all that complex to implement a choice here. Maybe the feature will arrive with the 24H2 update, at the latest we’d hope.

Meantime, all Windows 11 users will get the new lock screen cards later today in the cumulative update for April, or they almost certainly will, unless Microsoft delays the rollout if any problems were encountered in the March preview update (we haven’t heard about any issues in testing). And the same is presumably true for the Windows 10 update also coming today.

Speaking of the Windows 10 incarnation of these lock screen cards, something else we’d like to see is Microsoft working on the layout and presentation here, so it looks neater like the Windows 11 design. The reality may be that Windows 10 is not that high a priority any longer, though (when you consider that for a time, Microsoft froze all feature development on the older OS, before having a rethink).

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Microsoft’s Notepad goes from a simple text editor to a mini-Word thanks to spell check and autocorrect – but could it lose its charm?

The once-unloved Microsoft Notepad app continues to get new features, with spell check and autocorrect reportedly coming to the Windows staple next. Originally debuting as a heavily stripped-down version of Microsoft Word, Notepad is now beginning to resemble Word more and more with each successive update. 

This latest Notepad update is currently only available in Windows 11 Preview Build 26085, which you can get through the Windows Insider Program, Microsoft’s community for professionals and Windows enthusiasts to try out new Windows versions and features before they’re released to the wider user base.

According to MSPowerUser, the upgraded Notepad app (version 11.2402.18.0) is available in both the Dev and Canary release channels of the Windows Insider Program. Apparently, the update will also allow users to customize how these new features are used. This is good news, as Notepad is widely known as a simple text editor, and I’m sure many users will prefer to keep it that way.

Windows Insider @PhantomOfEarth shared the Notepad upgrade on X (formerly Twitter), where he noted that the features are currently being tested by Microsoft ahead of a wider rollout. He also shared a screenshot of what Notepad’s settings page will look like and some of the new settings that users will be able to adjust (specifically, being able to turn autocorrect and spell check on and off).

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While not seen in this screenshot, MSPowerUser claims that additional settings will allow users to tailor their feature preferences even further by selecting which file types the new features apply to. It also reports that beyond Notepad, Microsoft is experimenting with new sections in the Windows 11 settings menu and new user interface (UI) animations that will be included in this Windows preview build.

Early user reception of the new Notepad

The introduction of spell check and autocorrect into Notepad follows the recent introduction of Cowriter, an artificial assistant (AI) writing assistant, which was seen in a previous preview build.

Cowriter didn’t get the warmest user response, as again, Notepad is Windows’ staple ‘simple text app’, and many users aren’t interested in additional bells and whistles. It’s also a pretty overt attempt by Microsoft to carry out its promise to inject AI into as much of the user experience in Windows as possible, which has rubbed some users the wrong way. 

It does seem that Microsoft may have taken note of this backlash in its attempts to try and flesh out Notepad further, with it giving the users options in settings to turn the new features on and off, and tailor what file types they apply to. I think this is wise and Microsoft would do well to keep this behavior up, especially if it insists on changing and removing apps that users love and have gotten used to over decades.  After all, Microsoft killed off WordPad just a few months ago – but that doesn’t mean we all want Notepad to simply replace it. Sometimes, simplicity is better. 

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Get ready to learn about what Windows 11 of the future looks like at Microsoft’s March 21 event

We’ve begun getting hints of what Microsoft is gearing up to announce for Windows 11 at its March event, and now we’ve got new pieces of the puzzle. We’re expecting information about a new feature for the Paint app, Paint NPU, and about a feature that’s being referred to as ‘AI Explorer’ internally at Microsoft. 

Microsoft has put up an official page announcing a special digital event named “New Era of Work” which will take place on March 21, starting at 9 PM PDT. On this page, users are met with the tagline “Advancing the new era of work with Copilot” and a description of the event that encourages users to “Tune in here for the latest in scaling AI in your environment with Copilot, Windows, and Surface.”

It sounds like we’re going to get an idea of what the next iteration of Windows Copilot, Microsoft’s new flagship digital AI assistant, will look like and what it’ll be able to do. It also looks like we might see Microsoft’s vision for what AI integration and features will look like for future versions of Windows and Surface products. 

A screenshot of the page announcing Microsoft's digital event.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

What we already know and expect

While we’ll have to wait until the event to see exactly what Microsoft wants to tell us about, we do have some speculation from Windows Latest that one feature we’ll learn about is a Paint app tool powered by new-gen machines’ NPUs (Neural Processing Units). These are processing components that enable new kinds of processes, particularly many AI processes.

This follows earlier reports that indicated that the Paint app was getting an NPU-driven feature, possibly new image editing and rending tools that make use of PCs’ NPUs. Another possible feature that Windows Latest spotted was “LiveCanvas,” which may enable users to draw real-time sketches aided by AI. 

Earlier this week, we also reported about a new ‘AI Explorer’ feature, apparently currently in testing at Microsoft. This new revamped version which has been described as an “advanced Copilot” looks like it could be similar to the Windows Timeline feature, but improved by AI. The present version of Windows Copilot requires an internet connection, but rumors suggest that this could change. 

This is what we currently understand about how the feature will work: it will make records of previous actions users perform, transform them into ‘searchable moments,’ and allow users to search these, as well as retract them. Windows Latest also reinforces the news that most existing PCs running Windows 11 won’t be able to use AI Explorer as it’s designed to use the newest available NPUs, intended to handle and assist higher-level computation tasks. The NPU would enable the AI Explorer feature to work natively on Windows 11 devices and users will be able to interact with AI Explorer using natural language

Using natural language means that users can ask AI Explorer to carry out tasks simply and easily, letting them access past conversations, files, and folders with simple commands, and they will be able to do this with most Windows features and apps. AI Explorer will have the capability to search user history and find information relevant to whatever subject or topic is in the user’s request. We don’t know if it’ll pull this information exclusively from user data or other sources like the internet as well, and we hope this will be clarified on March 21. 

Person working on laptop in kitchen

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What else we might see and what this might mean

 In addition to an NPU-powered Paint app feature and AI Explorer, it looks like we can expect the debut of other AI-powered features including an Automatic Super Resolution feature. This has popped up in Windows 11 23H4 preview builds, and it’s said to leverage PCs’ AI abilities to improve users’ visual experience. This will reportedly be done by utilizing DirectML, an API that also makes use of PCs’ NPUs, and will bring improvements to frame rates in games and apps.

March 21 is gearing up to bring what will at least probably be an exciting presentation, although it’s worth remembering that all of these new features will require an NPU. Only the most newly manufactured Windows devices will come equipped with these, which will leave the overwhelming majority of Windows devices and users in the dust. My guess is Microsoft is really banking on how great the new AI-driven features are to convince users to upgrade to these new models, and with the current state of apps and services like Windows Copilot, that’s still yet to be proven in practice.

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Microsoft’s Copilot AI can now read your files directly, but it’s not the privacy nightmare it sounds like

Microsoft has begun rolling out a new feature for its Copilot AI assistant in Windows that will allow the bot to directly read files on your PC, then provide a summary, locate specific data, or search the internet for additional information. 

Copilot has already been aggressively integrated into Microsoft 365 and Windows 11 as a whole, and this latest feature sounds – at least on paper – like a serious privacy issue. After all, who would want an AI peeking at all their files and uploading that information directly to Microsoft?

Well, fortunately, Copilot isn’t just going to be snooping around at random. As spotted by @Leopeva64 on X (formerly Twitter), you have to manually drag and drop the file into the Copilot chat box (or select the ‘Add a file’ option). Once the file is in place, you can proceed to make a request of the AI; the suggestion provided by Leopeva64 is simply ‘summarize’, which Copilot proceeds to do.

Another step towards Copilot being genuinely useful

I’ll admit it, I’m a Copilot critic. Perhaps it’s just because I’m a jaded career journalist with a lifetime of tech know-how and a neurodivergent tilt towards unhealthy perfectionism, but I’ve never seen the value of an AI assistant built into my operating system of choice; however, this is the sort of Copilot feature I actually might use.

The option to summarize alone seems quite useful: more than once, I’ve been handed a chunky PDF with embargoed details about a new tech product, and it would be rather nice not to have to sift through pages and pages of dense legalese and tech jargon just to find the scraps of information that are actually relevant to TechRadar’s readership. Summarizing documents is already something that ChatGPT and Adobe Acrobat AI can do, so it makes sense for Copilot – an AI tool that's specifically positioned as an on-system helper – to be able to do it.

While I personally prefer to be the master of my own Googling, I can see the web-search capabilities being very helpful to a lot of users, too. If you’ve got a file containing partial information, asking Copilot to ‘fill in the blanks’ could save you a lot of time. Copilot appears capable of reading a variety of different file types, from simple text documents to PDFs and spreadsheets. Given the flexible nature of modern AI chatbots, there are potentially many different things you could ask Copilot to do with your files – though apparently, it isn’t able to scan files for viruses (at least, not yet).

If you’re keen to get your hands on this feature yourself, you hopefully won’t have to wait long. While it doesn’t seem to be widely available just yet, Leopeva64 notes that it appears Copilot’s latest new skill “is being rolled out gradually”, so it’ll likely start showing up for more Windows 11 users as time goes on.

The Edge version of Copilot will apparently be getting this feature too, as Leopeva points out that it’s currently available in the Canary prototype build of the browser – if you want to check that out, you just have to sign up for the Edge Insider Program.

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Microsoft’s Windows 11 nagging is set to hit new heights – so Windows 10 Pro users prepare yourselves

It looks like Microsoft is trying to unsubtly encourage Windows 10 users into upgrading to Windows 11, again. This isn’t the first instance of Microsoft trying to goad users into using Windows 11 or another of its products – recently, Microsoft’s been getting called out both by users and competitors for trying to push people to use its browser, Edge. If you’re not a fan of this behavior, unfortunately it looks like Microsoft isn’t going to let up. 

In what could strike some users as a rather tone deaf move, Microsoft recently put out a Windows IT Pro blog post proclaiming that it has “good news” for users who use devices running Windows 10 Pro or Pro Workstation. 

In the post, Microsoft announced that what it calls ‘an invitation’ will appear after a user signs in (often following a restart) that will prompt these users to opt in to get Windows 11. If you have a suitable machine that’s eligible for the Windows 11 upgrade and it’s not managed by an IT department, it’s likely that this notification will appear for you. Microsoft doesn't hide that it very much wants users to use Windows 11.

Windows 10 Pro users – brace yourselves

Here is an image of the notification that users can expect to see:

Expected user interface view of the Windows 11 in-product landing page

(Image credit: Microsoft)

In the page that prompts users to upgrade their operating systems to Windows 11, users can choose to install Windows 11 right away or to schedule the install for a later time. The option to continue using Windows 10 is also there, but you might not have noticed it in the image above – it’s pretty deliberately put at the bottom of the page and doesn’t look like a button. BetaNews goes as far as to argue that this is possibly deceptive.

I don’t see this paying off for Microsoft, which is clearly eager to convert more of the Windows 10 user base, which happens to still be the most-used version of Windows. There are multiple reasons why Windows 10 is still so beloved, and why users are reluctant to use Windows 11, and with policies like this, Microsoft looks like it’s simply ignoring its customers’ preferences, and just trying to push users to do what it wants. 

Users want to have choices, and while they do have some tolerance for what they perceive as annoying behavior from Microsoft, that will only last so long. Perhaps Microsoft feels a boosted confidence after it recently reached the status of being the most highly valued company in the world, but if it keeps burning through user goodwill, it could push away a substantial number of users.

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Windows 11 with no taskbar? A crucial part of Microsoft’s OS has gone missing for some thanks to new update

Windows 11’s latest cumulative update comes with an odd bug, it seems, one that reportedly causes the taskbar to disappear – or rather, to become blank space.

The February patch (KB5034765) for Windows 11 23H2 (and 22H2) has seen a number of complaints from users who have witnessed their desktop being affected by this apparent glitch, which as you can imagine is pretty frustrating.

As Neowin flagged up, there are reports on Microsoft’s Feedback Hub and the Reddit mega-thread on said patch from folks who have been hit by this problem.

One Redditor wrote: “Yay, both my Win11 23h2 workstations have no taskbar after updates and a reboot… have to kill explorer and relaunch.”

Somebody replied to that: “This is happening to me as well I thought something broke, but removing KB5034765 resolved it for me. I don’t even see explorer.exe in my running tasks when that happened, though.”

There are a number of other reports, as mentioned, with those affected not able to launch their taskbar pinned apps (as the icons aren’t there, of course), or see the system tray, access Quick Settings and so on. The basic ability to see your running apps and switch between them on the bar is obviously missing in action, too.


Analysis: Have a little patience?

We should note that in the interest of balance, a lot of folks on that Reddit thread are saying they had no issues with KB5034765. It’s not clear how widespread the vanishing taskbar gremlin might be, and Microsoft has not acknowledged the problem yet in its known issues – but we get the feeling it has a limited impact, looking at the overall feedback on this patch.

As noted above, the only solution seems to be uninstalling the February cumulative update, which certainly works to return the taskbar to its normal state.

The slight twist here is that this problem has been seen before, and another Redditor offers up a theory as follows: “The taskbar missing thing is part of the EU policy updates. Taskbar is not showing for up to 10 minutes, it’s normal and has been in the Release Preview Channel for 2-3 months.”

This makes some sense, as there’s some heavy duty work on the taskbar going on with those EU regulation-related changes, like unhooking Bing from the search box on the bar.

So, in theory the taskbar may reappear soon after applying the update – maybe. But we presume given the number of affected folks, with no one else observing said reappearance that we can see, there could be more to this issue than merely this. Unless everyone hitting the snag is uninstalling KB5034765 pretty sharpish, which seems unlikely across the board.

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Microsoft’s Sticky Notes teases upcoming upgrade: will it impress users with sparkly new features or another sticky situation for Microsoft?

The Sticky Notes app for Windows is about to get possibly its most significant update yet. The default Windows app functions similarly to how most people use post-its in real life – you can quickly jot down notes and make them visible on your desktop. It’s been four years since we’ve seen any major updates to Sticky Notes, and Microsoft is promising that it’s got big things in mind for the handy app. 

The update was announced by the official Microsoft Sticky Notes account on X (formerly Twitter), the first post from the account since April 2020. The post generated buzz from users who quickly got to speculating about what Microsoft might be cooking, with many users being quick to express concern that the new Sticky Notes will be a web-based app.

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Windows fans launch into speculation 

Some users guessed that the app was getting an AI-powered injection similar to those seen in apps like Notepad and Paint, and in line with Microsoft’s great AI-aided tool push. In fact, our own Muskaan Saxena wrote about her hopes for an AI-powered Sticky Notes app earlier this year. It looks like neither this nor the notion of a web-based version is the case, however, with the @stickynotes profile replying to its first announcement post that the Sticky Notes app will not be a web app (for now, at least).  

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It then followed with a number of playful posts teasing users about the upcoming upgrade, including one that looks like a screen grab of the app that reads: 

“Lots of rumors swirling about our update. Can you guess what it is?

Wrong answers only. 

We’ll go first… 

Sticky Notes AI upgrade.” 

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Right now, Sticky Notes seems to enjoy a good reputation among users and Windows fans – even if it does have a relatively basic feature set. Neowin says the app has “reliability and simplicity,” and Microsoft would do well to prioritize and preserve these aspects of the app.  

Microsoft logo

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Microsoft's recent track record

Microsoft recently launched the new web-based Outlook app, replacing existing desktop apps like Mail, with a less-than-enthusiastic reception. Users have expressed their disappointment with the new Outlook app's feature-related shortcomings and its functioning as a powerful data harvester for Microsoft, as reported by Proton AG (a company offering online services with an emphasis on privacy). This recent Outlook-related news has users skeptical about future developments that come from Microsoft.

Fans and watchers of the Sticky Notes app are evidently open to seeing what Microsoft has in store, while not hiding their strong potential concerns, and Microsoft might just pull something truly impressive out of the bag. Some users have raised the question of whether Sticky Notes actually needs new and fancy features, but perhaps it’ll be easy enough to just not use whatever they don’t need.

Personally, I agree that an app like Sticky Notes might be best fit for purpose when kept simpler, and even if Microsoft adds features, there’s probably plenty of scope for development without needing to invoke AI. We’ll have to see just how exciting this upgrade is when it actually arrives, but till then, we’ll just have to wait and hope Microsoft hears the very much available user feedback.

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Microsoft’s official PC Cleaner app is now on the Microsoft Store – and makes big promises about speeding up your PC for free

Microsoft is making its powerful clean up tool PC Cleaner easier to install by adding it to the Microsoft Store (which is built-in to Windows 11) – and it could be a handy tool for speeding up your computer and fixing issues.

The tool is similar to CCleaner, a long-established third-party system cleaner for Windows (now also available for Mac, Android, and iOS). Apps like CCleaner aim to clear out clutter from Windows system folders and improve your PC’s performance due to the cleared space.

Microsoft has been testing its own system cleaning and maintenance software since 2022. Originally, Microsoft’s PC Manager app was being developed and tested by Microsoft’s for the Chinese market. Now, Windows Latest has spotted that the PC Manager app is available for download from the Microsoft Store and is also available in more regions including the US. You can use PC Cleaner in both Windows 10 and Windows 11 as it’s supported on both operating systems. It didn’t come up on either of my Windows 11 devices in the Microsoft store, but have a look for yourself. It seems like if you can’t get it yet, it is coming soon according to an official Microsoft PC Cleaner page.

A screenshot of the official Microsoft PC Cleaner page

(Image credit: Future)

What features and tools users can expect

The latest version of PC Cleaner introduces a floating toolbar which allows you to quickly access PC Cleaner’s tools. These include:

  • PC Boost which deals with unnecessary processes and deletes temporary files, along with a Smart Boost option for spikes in RAM usage and temporary files that exceed 1 GB file size.
  • Deep Cleanup that seeks out older Windows update files, clears out recycle bin files, your web cache, and application caches. However, you can select what you’d like to keep or remove.
  • Process which provides a view of all of the processes currently running on your PC, allowing you to end any process in PC Cleaner without opening up Task Manager.
  • Startup that allows you to manage the apps that launch on start-up
  • Large Files which locates large files on any of your drives more quickly than if you had to find them manually using File Explorer.
  • More tools like Taskbar Repair to revert it to its original state and Restore Default Apps to restore all default app preferences. In true Microsoft fashion, it looks like the company will apparently use this feature to encourage you to use Microsoft apps such as Edge, according to Windows Latest.

Man using download manager on laptop

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Microsoft's take on third-party system cleaner apps

Microsoft has spoken less than favorably about third-party PC cleaner apps and sometimes called them harmful. It would warn users that these apps would be more likely to delete crucially important registry files by accident to clean up as much ‘junk’ as possible. CCleaner even got Microsoft’s potentially unwanted program (PUP) stamp of disapproval. A PUP is a piece of software that may be perceived as unwanted, unnecessary, or harmful by users. While Microsoft has its own vested interest to have people use as many in-house apps as possible, CCleaner has had legitimate security concerns in the past because of malware-related incidents. 

However, it should be noted that while Microsoft has labeled CCleaner a PUP, it’s available to download from the Microsoft Store as well.

Microsoft’s PC Manager is free to use and it can be set to correspond with your Windows theme. It’s got a host of useful tools designed by Microsoft itself for Windows, and the company promises it won’t delete any necessary system files. While options like third-party apps are good to have, this seems like a solid bet and I’ll be installing it myself when it's available to me. It’s less likely to come with malware since it comes straight from Microsoft, and will be able to be downloaded via the Microsoft Store. It also has features for free that you have to pay for in other apps like CCleaner. If you can’t see it in the Microsoft Store yet (like me), there is an official Microsoft page for PC Cleaner that indicates a direct download link is coming soon. 

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