Windows 11 fears over watermark for PCs that don’t meet AI Explorer requirements are unfounded, leaker clarifies

Windows 11’s next big feature is rumored to be AI Explorer – indeed, it’s strongly rumored – and there’s been some controversy stirred up over how this might be implemented in the OS recently.

This was caused by a recent post on X (formerly Twitter) from well-known Microsoft leaker Albacore, who dug up clues in Windows 11 code that suggest AI Explorer checks the PC’s system components and warns if they don’t meet the requirements for the AI feature.

Some folks took this as a hint that maybe Microsoft could put a watermark in Windows 11 somewhere to enact this warning, but Albacore just tweeted again to clarify that this definitely won’t be the case.

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As you can see, the leaker clearly states that any warning about the system not hitting the necessary requirements would be purely placed within the AI Explorer interface itself. This means you’d open the AI Explorer app (it will be a standalone app, not to be confused with File Explorer), and it’d just present you with that info (“you can’t run this” essentially).

As Albacore says, there’d be no OS-wide nag flagging this up, such as a watermark or other banner elsewhere in the broader Windows 11 interface. This would just be confined to the AI Explorer app, so it wouldn’t bother you if you never went near it.

Analysis: Exploring an ARM-first strategy?

A further reminder Albacore provides here is that the requirements themselves for AI Explorer – which are, according to the info the leaker previously dug up, an insistence on 16GB of system RAM and, more controversially, an ARM CPU – could change.

That is, of course, something we pointed out back at the time when we reported on this. Not only are these requirements just in preview builds of Windows 11, but they’re tucked away in testing to boot. They could easily be altered later in the year when Windows 11 24H2 finally arrives with AI Explorer on board. (If the rumors are right – indeed, we don’t know for sure that will happen even. Microsoft could delay the implementation, after all, if AI Explorer isn’t working well enough by the time 24H2 rolls around).

Mind you, we can see why AI Explorer might have to be ARM-only to begin with – mainly because it leverages a powerful NPU (to presumably be responsive and nippy enough), and only Snapdragon X chips will have that to begin with. Intel Lunar Lake and AMD Strix Point mobile CPUs with equally beefy NPUs won’t be too far behind, mind you, and at that point, Microsoft will presumably open up AI Explorer more – if this is the path it takes in the first place.

It's not unthinkable that Microsoft might want to use AI Explorer to help shift units of its incoming Surface devices for consumers – running ARM (Snapdragon X) chips – either, at least to begin with. After all, Surface sales have been lackluster of late, and this could be a good way of firing up some enthusiasm for the range again, at least for a short time.

Yes, there are a lot of ifs and buts here, which is why we always advise a good dollop of caution with any leak. It’s good to hear the clarification that any AI Explorer warning won’t be a system-wide nag, though, even if we didn’t believe Microsoft would go that far in the first place – though some folks did, or at least theorized about that possibility.

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Windows 11 hack removes watermark from desktop, but should you do it?

Microsoft has recently added a ‘feature’ to Windows 11 that will show a watermark message on the desktop if the PC it’s running on does not meet the system requirements, but there’s already a hack available to get rid of it.

Windows 11 has some weird system requirements that has meant some perfectly powerful and relatively modern PCs are deemed unable to run the new operating system. However, it’s relatively easy to get Windows 11 to run on these devices anyway, and while it all seems to work fine, Microsoft has warned against doing this.

The company now seems even more determined to dissuade people from running Windows 11 on unsupported hardware by adding a watermark that appears on the desktop that says “System requirements not met.” While this doesn’t prevent the PC from being used, it’s pretty annoying, so it comes as little surprise to find that someone at has already found a way to remove the watermark.

How to remove the Windows 11 watermark

If the watermark appears on your PC, here’s the steps you need to take to remove it. This process involves editing Windows 11’s registry, and if this is done incorrectly, there’s a danger your PC may not work correctly – so only do this if you’re confident, and follow the instructions exactly.

  • Open up the Registry Editor by typing ‘Regedit’ in the Windows 11 search box.
  • On the left-hand side, open up HKEY_CURRENT_USER then scroll down to Control Panel. You should see an entry called UnsupportedHardwareNotificationCache.
  • Right-click it and select ‘Modify’ from the menu.
  • Change the SV2 DWORD value from 1 to 0.
  • Save and then restart your PC.

If you can’t see UnsupportedHardwareNotificationCache, right-click on the Control Panel folder and select New > Key. Name it UnsupportedHardwareNotificationCache, then in the new folder right-click and select New > SV2 DWORD. Right-click it and select ‘Modify’ and change the value from 1 to 0.

Once your PC restarts, the watermark should be gone.

This hack is relatively straightforward, but does that mean you should do it? In the past, Microsoft used watermarks like this when devices were running a copy of Windows that hadn’t been activated (so possibly hadn’t been paid for). Removing a watermark to make an non-activated version of Windows appear to be activated would almost certainly be illegal – as well as ethically wrong.

Things aren’t quite as straightforward here, as if you have an activated version of Windows 10, you should be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 11. However, part of the licence agreement is that you run Windows 11 on supported hardware.

While you may get away with it for personal use where you just want to remove the watermark for aesthetic reasons, if someone were to use it to make a PC appear to support Windows 11 when it doesn’t (and then sells it on that basis), again, that’s likely to be illegal.

It’s also worth considering that while this hack removes the watermark, it doesn’t mean the device now meets the Windows 11 system requirements. Microsoft does not recommend running Windows 11 on systems that don’t meet requirements, and it may mean that future updates, including important security fixes, won’t be compatible.

For that reason alone, the safest thing you can do if you get this watermark is to uninstall Windows 11 and stick with Windows 10.

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