Microsoft just snuck out this Windows Recall feature to Insiders

 Recall interface.
Windows Recall is a new feature that uses AI to search through your PC's history. | Credit: Windows Central

What you need to know

  • The latest Insider build of Windows 11 includes an action that creates a shortcut to search the web from Windows Recall.

  • The feature is disabled by default, but it appears to allow you to search the web for text that appears within a snapshot stored through Windows Recall.

  • Windows Recall is an exclusive feature on Copilot+ PCs that allows you to search through your PC's history with the power of AI.

Windows Recall is a powerful feature on the way to Copilot+ PCs. When enabled, Recall takes a snapshot of your PC every few seconds. You can then use AI to search through everything you've done on your PC. The latest Windows 11 Insider build shows a new part of Windows Recall that wasn't noted in the update's release notes.

Windows 11 Insider builds provide a way for testers to try experimental and upcoming features Microsoft is working on. Generally, the tech giant outlines what's new in each update, but there are usually a few features that go unnoted in change logs. Sometimes, these features need to be enabled by using third-party tools. In other cases, features just roll out to select Insiders without being noted by Microsoft.

PhantomOcean3 shared a screenshot of a new "search the web" action in Windows Recall on X (formerly Twitter). Seach the web will provide a shortcut to search for text detected within snapshots through the web.

The feature is disabled by default in Windows 11 Build 26236, which shipped to Insiders in the Canary Channel yesterday. That update also includes general fixes and a controversial account manager feature that shows the status of your Microsoft subscriptions in the Start menu.

What is Windows Recall?

Windows Recall was only announced recently, so there's a good chance you haven't heard about it yet. There's an even better chance that you haven't seen it in action, since Copilot+ PCs with Windows Recall won't ship until June 18, 2024. Our Senior Editor went hands-on with Windows Recall at Microsoft headquarters, but the feature hasn't hit the hands of consumers yet.

Windows Recall is a new feature exclusive to Copilot+ PCs. Those computers have Neural Processing Units (NPUs) that are specially designed for AI features. Windows Recall takes a screenshot of your PC every few seconds and then stores those images on your computer. You can then use the power of AI to search for things you've done in the past using natural language.

While Windows Recall is powerful, it has also proven controversial. Many raised concerns about the security and privacy implications of such a feature. While the data is all stored locally and is never sent to the cloud, security experts warned that malicious actors could do a lot of damage if they managed to obtain a PC that was logged in. Windows Recall would have essentially placed a plethora of information on a platter, though that proverbial platter would only have been accessible with someone who could log into the PC.

Microsoft responded to security and privacy concerns with several changes to Windows Recall, including requiring Windows Hello to use the feature and encrypting data even when a device is logged in. Windows Recall will be disabled by default, ensuring that people who use the feature have chosen to do so.