Fears emerge that Windows 11 could hit you with a desktop watermark if your PC isn't AI-okay

Clues in Windows 11 suggest that if your PC can't run AI Explorer, Microsoft might implement a warning - but we doubt it'll be a watermark as some fear.

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Windows 11 might just flag up a warning if your PC doesn't meet the system requirements to run AI Explorer, hidden code in the OS suggests.

This discovery was shared on X (formerly Twitter) by Albacore, one of the ever-present folks who while away spare hours sifting through the inner workings of Windows 11.

The clues were uncovered in preview build 26200 for the Canary channel, where Albacore found that AI Explorer checks for its requirements, and if the host PC doesn't meet them, a "warning will be present in its overlays."

Those requirements - again, as uncovered hidden in Windows 11 code, so sprinkle seasoning liberally - include 16GB of RAM, a drive size of at least 225GB (total size, not free space), and critically, an ARM CPU. Which suggests that the initial incarnation of AI Explorer might be for ARM systems only, such as Snapdragon X Elite laptops - which will be among the first crop of AI PCs out there.

As to what the warning might look like for those whose PC can't run AI Explorer, well, we don't have a clue about that.

Neowin, which spotted the above post on X, theorizes that this could be some kind of watermark (a blemish on the desktop seen when you haven't activated Windows, in some cases, for example).

We think such a move would be taking things way too far - but we wouldn't put it past Microsoft to sneak in the warning somewhere like the Settings app (or maybe Windows Update page).

Grab your 'Don't Panic' towel

Ultimately this is only bits of hidden code in test versions of Windows 11, so it may come to absolutely nothing. Equally we don't even know if the AI Explorer requirements are correct, and the ARM stipulation will, of course, be especially controversial if true.

Mainly because that'll mean folks with AMD or Intel processors won't get AI Explorer, a key feature for Microsoft's Windows 11 24H2 update, or so the grapevine reckons. It promises to be the most useful application of AI in Windows 11 yet, allowing for a natural language search of the entire contents of the PC (so you can simply ask to find files related to tips for games, to pluck an example out of the air).

If only those with Snapdragon X Elite (or Plus) CPUs get that ability, it will put a few x86 noses out of joint, that's for sure. Which is why we think that if AI Explorer is ARM-only, it will only be that way for a relatively short time (probably until x86 CPUs with powerful enough NPUs are released - hitting 45 TOPS or more - such as Intel Lunar Lake or AMD Strix Point).

We also just discovered that Windows 11 24H2 will rule out some PCs with older CPUs that don't support SSE4.2 (as well as POPCNT, as previously detailed), so the herd is certainly going to be thinned moving forward when it comes to compatible computers. Harsh times for some, no doubt.

Read more: It looks like Microsoft could cram more adverts veiled as 'recommendations' into Windows 11

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NEWS SOURCES:neowin.net, microsoft.com

Darren has written for numerous magazines and websites in the technology world for almost 30 years, including TechRadar, PC Gamer, Eurogamer, Computeractive, and many more. He worked on his first magazine (PC Home) long before Google and most of the rest of the web existed. In his spare time, he can be found gaming, going to the gym, and writing books (his debut novel – ‘I Know What You Did Last Supper’ – was published by Hachette UK in 2013).

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