Windows 11 AI-powered Recall feature can run on unsupported PCs with no NPU, but Microsoft doesn't want you to

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(Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft unveiled a host of next-gen AI features that will ship with Windows 11 exclusively to Copilot+ PCs with powerful NPUs.
  • A user bypassed these stringent requirements and got Windows Recall to work on Arm64 hardware.
  • The feature runs surprisingly well on unsupported hardware, but you'll likely have a better experience on PCs with dedicated NPU hardware.

While Microsoft's stringent requirements limit its new and controversial Windows 11 Recall feature to Copilot+ PCs with powerful NPUs like Qualcomm's Snapdragon X chips, Windows sleuth Albacore has seemingly found a workaround that lets the neat feature run on traditional Windows 11 PCs, spotting Arm64 hardware (via TechRadar).

Per the video by the well-known Windows hacker Albacore, the feature functions precisely as Microsoft explained. However, it's clear that much of the Windows Recall experience doesn't actually require an NPU. As you may know, an NPU (Neural Processing Unit) is designed to help light the processing power load from the GPU and CPU on PCs to a dedicated chip designed to handle these AI workloads.

The video highlights how the screenray function will work on Windows 11 Recall. Screenray is when you enter context-sensitive mode and leverage Windows 11 Recall's capabilities to trace back your steps.

RELATED: 5 Reasons why you should (and shouldn't) use Windows Recall

Albacore added that the feature "should theoretically work on Intel/AMD too; OEMs only received Arm64 specific ML model bundles, so there's not much I can do yet."

Even though Windows Recall seemingly works without an NPU, it's likely not something you're going to want to enable on a PC that doesn't have one. With an NPU present, some of Windows Recall's features will off-load to the NPU, freeing up your CPU and GPU for other tasks. 

Microsoft Surface Pro 11th Edition | From $999.99 at Best Buy

Microsoft Surface Pro 11th Edition | From $999.99 at Best Buy

Microsoft's new flagship 2-in-1 is here, and it ushers in a wave of Copilot+ PCs. The new Surface Pro is available with an OLED panel and Qualcomm's new Snapdragon X processors.

Windows Recall causes security and privacy concerns

"One of the dreams we've always had is how do we introduce memory," stated Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella while talking to The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern about Windows 11's new and controversial AI feature, Windows Recall. "Right? Photographic memory into what you do on your PC? And now we have it."

During Microsoft's special Windows and Surface event, the company announced a host of next-gen AI features shipping to Windows 11 as part of the Windows 11 2024 Update (version 24H2), including Live Captions, Windows Recall, and more. The latter stole the show, raising user concerns over security and privacy issues.

Windows Recall runs in the background of your PC and captures snapshots of everything you see and do, enabling the ability to search for anything you've ever done on your PC with natural language. 

Microsoft promises that the feature is 100% privacy-focused since it runs on-device via NPU. It's presented to users as an opt-in experience, and users can disable it at any time via the settings. 

What's more, you can restrict the feature from grabbing screenshots from specific apps or websites (which are stored locally on your PC). Users can also choose how long they'd like the screenshots stored and how much space is dedicated to this function.

READ MORE: How to use Windows Recall in Windows 11

Interestingly, the only way to get the new Recall feature is by buying a new Copilot+ PC. Microsoft has remained quiet if/when it plans to ship the next-gen AI features to traditional Windows 11 PCs without/with less powerful NPUs. 

Windows 11 Recall is impressive and controversial, but at the same time, there's so much it can help you achieve. And despite Microsoft's 100% privacy-focused promise and running the feature locally with on-device NPU, users have blatantly expressed their reservations toward the feature.

Some users have even indicated that they'll soon transition to other operating systems like Linux as Windows 10's end-of-support looms. Elon Musk even compares the AI feature to a Black Mirror episode. In the interim, the UK data watchdog is investigating Microsoft's new controversial AI feature to determine the safeguards to protect user privacy.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 7th Edition | From 999.99 at Best Buy

Microsoft Surface Laptop 7th Edition | From 999.99 at Best Buy

The new Surface Laptop is a more traditional PC with a clamshell design. It is also one of the first Copilot+ PCs featuring a Snapdragon X processor and the latest AI features in Windows. The Surface Laptop 7th Edition is available in two sizes: 13.8-inch or 15-inch.

Kevin Okemwa

Kevin Okemwa is a seasoned tech journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya with lots of experience covering the latest trends and developments in the industry at Windows Central. With a passion for innovation and a keen eye for detail, he has written for leading publications such as OnMSFT, MakeUseOf, and Windows Report, providing insightful analysis and breaking news on everything revolving around the Microsoft ecosystem. You'll also catch him occasionally contributing at iMore about Apple and AI. While AFK and not busy following the ever-emerging trends in tech, you can find him exploring the world or listening to music.

  • Scovious2
    At least this means desktop computer users who have a good GPU can get everything that a modern laptop user can. An Nvidia 4090 has over 1000 more TOPS than the best NPU on the market.
  • JamesDax3
    I'm hoping someone test recall and other CoPilot+ features tested on AMDs r5 8600g and r7 8700g. I know that their NPUs don't meet the 40 TOPS standard they should give some performance boost.

    Edit: Just remembered that CoPilot + is only available on the ARMS version of Windows at the moment. So never mind. Will have to wait until the fall to see what these APUs can do.