Microsoft has made vital changes to sway those who hated the idea of Windows 11 Recall feature

Recall will be switched off by default, it'll use Windows Hello for security, and efforts around encryption have been shored up, thankfully.

2 minutes & 24 seconds read time

Microsoft has reversed course on Windows 11's divisive Recall feature for Copilot+ PCs, making some major changes to help ensure the AI capability doesn't go badly when it launches.

The new much clearer Recall setup experience (Image Credit: Microsoft)

The new much clearer Recall setup experience (Image Credit: Microsoft)

If there's one key thing we've been calling for since Recall was revealed, it was for the feature to be off by default, and fortunately that's one of the sensible moves that Microsoft has implemented here.

Previously, during the setup process for a Copilot+ PC (in preview), the user was introduced to Recall, but not given a straightforward option to switch it off there and then. While there was an introduction to the feature, it was poorly implemented and designed, at least for novice Windows 11 users.

And if those users were confused, there was every chance Recall could be left on by default.

Now, Microsoft has changed it so that the setup experience gives you a clear yes or no choice regarding Recall saving screenshots of your PC activity - and Microsoft notes:

"If you don't proactively choose to turn it on, it will be off by default."

This is an important step, ensuring that users who don't really understand what the feature means don't end up with it turned on accidentally.

Backing this up, if you want to use Recall, you'll now need to enrol with Windows Hello, using that identification as proof of presence to be able to view Recall's timeline or perform a search with the feature. That definitely tightens up local security.

Finally, Microsoft is adding more layers of data protection including 'just in time' decryption, meaning that Recall screenshots are only decrypted and available when the user authenticates (via Windows Hello).

Furthermore, the search index database has also been encrypted, although why it wasn't in the first place is anyone's guess, as that seemed a glaring oversight in terms of making the feature insecure in the event that someone gained physical access to the Windows 11 device.

Acted just in time

These were some major failings, but in fairness, at least they're now fixed and Microsoft has acted. Of course, the stipulation for Windows Hello could be regarded as an inconvenience by some - but the security trade-off is worth it with a feature like Recall.

All of these changes will be in place for the launch of the first Copilot+ PCs, we're told by Microsoft, which happens on June 18, in just over week. We should note that Recall will be marked as a 'preview' feature initially, so officially it's still in testing.

There are still folks who will have trust issues with Recall, and maybe with Microsoft's promise that the entire system stays local, on-device, with not a hint of data sent cloud-wards - but they can always elect not to turn it on.

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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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