The secret behind the Windows 11 Copilot key is that it isn't a new key at all

Dell XPS 14 (9440) for 2024
(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

What you need to know

  • Future PCs will feature a Copilot key that opens the AI assistant on Windows 11.
  • Microsoft requires a computer to have a dedicated Copilot key to be defined as an AI PC.
  • It was recently discovered that the Copilot key isn't a new key, but that it instead relies on a combination of three keys being mapped to open Copilot.
  • One of those three keys used is F23, which generally is not used in computers these days.

Microsoft really wants you to try Copilot on Windows 11. Microsoft is working on several ways to summon Copilot, bringing the AI tool to your fingertips. Copilot lives in the Windows 11 taskbar and can be summoned with a keyboard shortcut (Windows + C). Microsoft may also have a swipe from the right gesture open Copilot rather than notifications. The most visible method is a Copilot key, which will be on future PCs.

Microsoft's definition of AI PCs requires a system to have a dedicated Copilot key. We've seen the key on a few computers already and expect it to be standard in the near future. But there's a secret behind the Copilot key—it isn't a new key at all. Rather than create a new scan code, Microsoft made the Copilot key work by using a keyboard shortcut that requires hardware almost no one uses anymore.

As our colleagues at Tom's Hardware discovered, the Copilot key sends the following command to your PC: Left Shift + Windows key + F23. That command then opens Copilot by default.

If you have had a normal computer for some time in this millennium, you probably do not have an F23 key. Keyboards from decades ago, such as the IBM M 122, had two rows of function keys, giving a range of F1-F24 to choose from. While you can still purchase a keyboard with 24 function keys, they're rather rare.

How Copilot key works on Windows 11

Microsoft Copilot

(Image credit: Windows Central | Jez Corden)

The inner workings of the Copilot key are more fun trivia than anything substantial. Very few people even have an F23 key in 2024, and those who do aren't likely to have a macro set to Left Shift + Windows key + F23. I don't foresee anyone's workflow being changed by the coding behind the Copilot key. What's more likely is that the physical key itself will affect your workflow. After all, it replaces a current key in the standard keyboard layout. Thankfully, you can remap the Copilot key or any other key if you'd like.

Our friends at Tom's Hardware recommend AutoHotKey for remapping keys on Windows 11. Because the Copilot key is programmed, you have to jump through a few hoops to remap it to another key.

I don't have a PC with a Copilot button, so I need to check if PowerToys is a viable alternative to AutoHotKey for this task. PowerToys is more user-friendly when it comes to keyboard remapping, but it isn't as versatile as AutoHotKey. With PowerToys, you can set a single key to perform up to a three-key command or just change a key to a different one if you'd like.

PowerToys | Free at GitHub | Free at Microsoft Store

PowerToys | Free at GitHub | Free at Microsoft Store

This collection of utilities includes a large library of features to enhance the Windows experience. PowerToys is designed with power users in mind, but it has handy features for people who just use their PC for everyday computing too.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at

  • Hanley Gibbons
    I'm honestly fine with the Copilot key, but I will be severely pissed off if they drop the notification tray in favor of summoning Copilot via swipe in from the right. I'm still salty that they changed swiping in from the left from multitasking to the widgets menu.

    The world has coalesced and agreed that swiping in from the left should be a back button. I really wish Microsoft would just get with the program and stop replacing useful gestures with annoying ones to drive telemetry metrics.