Microsoft reveals AI-powered ‘Recall’ feature to transform Windows 11’s searchability, while confirming hardware requirements

Microsoft’s annual developer conference, Build, has only just kicked off but we’ve already learned lots of exciting things, including the company showing off a new AI-powered ‘Recall’ feature to be integrated into Copilot+ PCs with Windows 11.

Copilot+ is a new software platform that was introduced yesterday, aiming to infuse Windows 11 with new AI features, ushering in a raft of new devices with more advanced AI functionality.

You’ve doubtless already heard of AI PCs, but the new breed of portables, which are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X chips with an integrated Neural Processing Unit (NPU), were officially debuted yesterday. Windows 11 Recall will be exclusive to PCs that have Snapdragon X processors as the current generation of Intel and AMD mobile CPUs don’t have a powerful enough NPU to deal with the feature. (It needs an NPU capable of 40 TOPS, or trillions of operations per second). 

This isn’t the only hardware requirement that the Recall feature will necessitate, with the full spec requirements being as follows:

  • Snapdragon X Elite or X Plus processor
  • NPU capable of 40 TOPs
  • 225GB storage
  • 16GB RAM

While these new Qualcomm chips are the only mobile silicon that can drive the Recall feature (and other AI capabilities in Copilot+ PCs) right now, future generations of Intel and AMD processors will be on board (Intel’s Lunar Lake for example, or AMD’s Strix Point chips).

Windows Latest notes that the above hardware requirements are not only needed to ensure a quality experience – with enough performance to drive snappy responses with these AI features such as Recall – but also for data security reasons.

Microsoft unveils new Surface Laptop and Surface Pro on a stage

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

So, how does Recall work? 

In the past we’ve seen reports of a rumored feature, often referred to as ‘AI Explorer,’ that would enable you to search through your past activity on your PC. It looks like this has manifested as the Recall feature, and it’ll be privy to all the activity on your PC including what apps you use, how you use those apps, and what you do in them (for example, conversations in WhatsApp). Recall will record all of this activity going forward, saving snapshots of it in your PC’s local storage. 

Additionally, the Settings app will have a dedicated update history section for Recall, and a toggle for new Privacy and Security settings. You’ll be able to update Recall for Windows 11 and other AI features besides using the Windows Update app. 

If you’re feeling wary about allowing Recall to access everything, and concerned about having control over what it records and stores, Windows Latest reports that you’ll be able to delete snapshots manually from Recall’s storage, and set Recall to exclude certain apps and websites from its recording activity. In your device’s Settings, you’ll also be able to adjust the time ranges over which Recall stores snapshots, or indeed pause Recall altogether by clicking on its icon in your Taskbar. 

In practice, Recall is designed to help you go back in time and find elements of your past activity. So for example, if you previously had a conversation with a colleague on a certain topic, but couldn’t remember the details, you could ask Recall to go and find it within Windows 11.  Recall would then comb over your past conversations with the colleague, searching across all of your apps, open tabs within apps, and more besides.

Recall will also be able to help you find files you’ve lost, and to search your browser history, and so forth. You’ll be able to ask for Recall’s assistance using natural language, the way we converse with one another in real life, instead of having to use precise commands. 

All of this will run natively on your PC and won’t have to tap the cloud for computing power, meaning your data will be more secure, as everything can be kept locally, and nothing is sent to an external data center. It’s all happening right there on your Copilot+ PC with the help of that powerful NPU.

Microsoft presenting Surface Laptop and Surface Pro devices.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

When can you try Recall for yourself? 

The hubbub and excitement of Recall is just one of many things that have been revealed at Microsoft Build 2024 already, but you’ll have to wait until the Windows 11 24H2 update to try the feature (and don’t forget, you’ll need a PC that meets the hardware requirements). The 24H2 update is expected to arrive in September or October, or thereabouts.

If Recall and other AI features, deliver on all that’s promised (or even most of it), we think many people will be impressed and it could convince them to try to adapt to the new way of computing that Microsoft is trying to usher in.

Right now, Copilot isn’t regarded as particularly impressive, but in some ways, that’s due to the hardware needed to facilitate Microsoft’s plans for its AI assistant not being available – until now. We’re excited to get our hands on all these new AI features, as we’re one of those people that floods our PC with media – and we’d imagine Recall could be very handy for us indeed.


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Microsoft’s AI Copilot could transform Windows 11 – but not everyone can get it

Microsoft wants its new AI-powered Windows Copilot to become your new universal assistant, but there’s one big problem: at the moment, Copilot is only available in the United States (and North America), the UK, and some Asian and South American countries. 

Noticeably missing from that list is Europe, and as Microsoft told Windows Latest, this is because of the European Union's extensive privacy protection regulations. The tech giant has also confirmed that it’s working on a version of Copilot that’s compliant with EU laws and intends to “add additional markets over time.”

Copilot is the latest big project in Microsoft’s AI vision, joining Bing Chat, which integrates the popular ChatGPT, and its other large language models (LLMs). Copilot makes use of Bing Chat and Microsoft’s other AI-assisted tech, and is built to integrate deeply within Windows 11, along with Windows apps and features. 

Microsoft reveals now Copilot branding ahead of general availability and rollout

(Image credit: Microsoft)

How can you get Windows Copilot?

If you’re in a region where Copilot is now live, you can get it by updating Windows 11 to the Moment 4 (22H2) feature update, which is an optional download that you should be able to see in the Windows Update app. You may need to turn on the “Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available” setting. If you can’t see the Moment 4 update, it’s probably because you live in an area where Copilot isn’t available yet. 

Not all hope is lost if you live in an ineligible area. You can follow the steps below to get Copilot if you live in an unsupported region:

1. Open up Notepad or a similar simple text editor. Make a new file and name it “Copilot.exe“.

2. Pin the new “Copilot.exe“ file to your taskbar or make a shortcut to it on your desktop. Hover over it and right-click your file. Don’t just drag the file from your File Explorer – this just moves the file. We need it to be a shortcut specifically.

3. Choose Properties from the menu. This should open a (Shortcut) Properties window for the file. 

4. In Properties of your “Copilot.exe” file, go to the Shortcut tab, and change Target to this address: 

C:\Windows\explorer.exe “microsoft-edge:///?ux=copilot&tcp=1&source=taskbar”

5. When you click your created shortcut for Copilot.exe, this should launch Windows Copilot.

There’s even a workaround to change the file’s basic icon to the Copilot icon.

Screenshot of Windows Copilot in use

(Image credit: Microsoft)

How is Copilot currently doing?

Right now, Copilot runs in a similar way to Bing Chat on Windows 11, functioning in WebView (the framework within which apps can display native content in Microsoft’s Edge browser). It’s still early days for Copilot as a fully-fledged AI assistant, and many users are looking forward to seeing Copilot evolve, but the current version certainly has room for improvement. Many users have been reporting buggy performance, and as Windows Latest puts it, “achieving a ‘useful’ result isn’t easy.”

For example, Copilot struggles when users submit several prompts or when they switch between Bing Search and other apps. The preview version of Copilot also doesn’t have the deeper Windows integration that Microsoft spoke about at length, or the ability to access third-party apps and plugins, but Microsoft reassured users Copilot will function as promised in the future when speaking to Windows Latest.

Copilot has been presented as “Your everyday AI companion” and I believe Microsoft has the means to achieve this, but there’s a long way to go. I doubt Microsoft wants to retire another digital assistant so soon after axing Cortana, and the competition is hot, with Amazon investing in Anthropic and having the market-standard digital assistant, Alexa.

Anthropic is an AI-oriented company, like OpenAI, focused on safety and research, and has recently seen a $ 4 billion investment from Amazon. Combined with Amazon’s expertise in personal home assistance with Alexa, Microsoft could have something to worry about.

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Beyond copy and paste: Microsoft set to debut Bing Chat feature to help transform your writing

Microsoft is preparing to introduce a new feature to its AI-powered Bing Chat in Microsoft Edge, offering users a quick and easy way to rewrite any text they write on the internet (such as in forms).

As spotted by Leopeva64 on X (formerly known as Twitter), Microsoft’s latest attempt to add OpenAI’s GPT technology into its Bing and Edge products is accessible only to users who have access to the Canary Channel, which gives them a chance to try out experimental new features that need more extended preparation and development time ahead of their introduction to the broader user base. The feature will include options to adjust settings like text length, the tone of the text, and the format. 

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 Resemblances to Bing AI’s inclusion in SwiftKey 

This feature update follows Microsoft incorporating a similar feature into the SwiftKey keyboard on iOS and Android devices. The feature also allowed users to rewrite text in different styles with Bing AI, and it seems like Microsoft is looking to bring this ability to Microsoft Edge. 

According to Neowin, the SwiftKey version of the feature lets you choose from four tones: professional, casual, enthusiastic, and informal. You can then change the format to suit a paragraph, an email, a blog post, or an ‘idea’. Finally, you can choose a length to your preference: short, medium, and long. Hitting the ‘Rewrite’ button will apply these preferences to your highlighted text and prompt Bing AI to generate a rewrite. 


(Image credit: Future)

Bing Chat, now with added functionality and accessibility 

Bing Chat is Microsoft Edge’s AI sidekick that can assist you while browsing, and has seen ongoing updates and improved functionality. 

Another recent feature has been the inclusion of voice input support, offering more options for how users can use Bing Chat. Windows Central speculates that this is because Microsoft wants to get Bing AI in front of more and more users with each update. 

Microsoft is clearly trying to capitalize on the recent surge in interest and hype with AI chatbots such as ChatGPT. I'd wager that it wants to be able to say it offers an operating system and browser that has the best integration of both ChatGPT itself and with generative AI technology in general.

There’s a lot more information to come as Microsoft hasn’t officially announced when this feature will officially debut. Again, if you sign up for the Canary Channel and get early access to the Windows Insider Program, you can try it on your Windows device early. It’s still in a “controlled rollout” phase of its development, however, so access isn’t guaranteed even if you sign up. 

 Rephrase your text instantly: How it works 

GIFs posted by Leopeva64 show how you can access the feature by highlighting the text you’d like to reword and clicking Rewrite.

You can also press the Alt + I keys to activate the feature. Once the feature is selected or activated, you’ll see Bing Chat pop up, and the text will be rewritten. Then you’ll be met with a Replace button, which when selected, will swap your text for the generated newly reworded text. 

You’ll always be presented with an Adjust button, and this will give you options to calibrate the rewritten text where you can alter its tone, length, and format. 

Bing AI chat YouTube script generation

(Image credit: Future)

Exciting potential 

This feature could be a very effective tool for those who write and edit writing, especially if you’re looking to get some help with creative undertakings. It can reword things to possibly help when you feel stuck in your writing, helping your writing flow, and even help write better to meet specific deadlines. 

One of my concerns, however, is perhaps one of the broader ones; I’m not sure it helps improve individual originality in writing, especially as Bing Chat and OpenAI’s models were trained on online data and existing written works. There's a danger that relying too much on a relatively small pool of writing could lead to a lack of innovation, and could strip the personality from people's writing. The quirks, jokes, and even mistakes that make our messages unique could be eradicated. From a creativity perspective, that could prove to be too high a price to pay.

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