Windows 11 Recall Feature Can Be Run on Unsupported PCs Without an NPU

recall feature running on unsupported PC
Image Courtesy: Microsoft
In Short
  • Microsoft says that you need a dedicated NPU to run the Recall AI feature which is available on the next-gen Copilot+ PCs.
  • However, Albacore, a popular Windows dev, has managed to run Recall on older ARM PCs.
  • You can't run Recall on x86 PCs yet, however, you can emulate it via a virtual machine, but the installation is painfully slow.

Microsoft recently announced the Recall AI feature with a lot of pomp during the launch of Copilot+ PCs. In case you are unaware, it’s an AI feature that takes screenshots of your screen every few seconds to create an on-device memory and a dedicated NPU powers it. You can perform semantic searches and find your activities from the past using natural language prompts.

Microsoft said that to run Recall, you need to buy the next-gen Copilot+ PC that comes with the Snapdragon X series chipsets. However, Albacore, a Windows developer, has managed to run Recall on PCs without a dedicated NPU. Recall performs OCR, object detection, and other actions using small AI models on the device.

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

For now, Albacore says that you can run Recall on ARM64 PCs with decent performance. You can’t natively run Recall on Intel and AMD PCs yet as Microsoft has not 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, it’s glacially slow to install 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 over to the GitHub page to find detailed instructions.

While the Recall feature may look promising, there are privacy and security implications that you must consider. Many users are not comfortable sharing screenshots, although the processing happens locally. Microsoft says the local database is encrypted using BitLocker.

However, security researchers point out that the vector index is saved in a local SQLite database which can be accessed by malicious programs, running as admin. Since Microsoft doesn’t perform any kind of content moderation on Recall snapshots, all your passwords are shown in plain text. If malicious actors gain access to the local database, they can easily extract passwords and sensitive information.

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

VIA Tom's Hardware
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