Windows 11 Recovery feature can run on unsupported PCs without an NPU

Microsoft recently announced the Recall AI feature with much fanfare during the launch of the Copilot+ PCs. In case you don’t know, it is an AI feature that takes screenshots of your screen every few seconds to create memory on the device and a dedicated NPU powers it. You can perform semantic searches and find your past activities using natural language prompts.

Microsoft said that to run Recall, you need to purchase the next-generation Copilot+ PC that comes with Snapdragon Recall performs OCR, object detection, and other actions using small AI models on the device.

For this task, an NPU offers multi-parallelized performance with great efficiency, running in the background. However, when there is no NPU, AI operations are delegated to the CPU and GPU, which can offer slower performance and consume more battery.

For now, Albacore says you can run Recall on ARM64 PCs with decent performance. You can’t run Recall natively on Intel and AMD PCs yet, as Microsoft hasn’t packaged the ML models for x86 PCs yet. In case you want to run Recall on your x86 PC, the developer has mentioned that you can emulate the ARM64 build on your existing PC.

However, in my testing, the installation is painfully slow and the process is a bit complex. I couldn’t install the ARM64 build on my PC despite having decent specs. If you have one of the older ARM PCs, you can head to the GitHub page to find detailed instructions.

While the recovery feature may seem promising, there are privacy and security implications you should consider. Many users are not comfortable sharing screenshots, even though the processing is done locally. Microsoft says the local database is encrypted using BitLocker.

However, security researchers point out that the vector index is stored in a local SQLite database that can be accessed by malicious programs running as administrator. Since Microsoft does not perform any type of content moderation on recovery snapshots, all of your passwords are displayed in plain text. If malicious actors gain access to the local database, they can easily extract passwords and sensitive information.

What do you think of the Recover AI feature? Are you going to use it? Let us know in the comments below.

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