What’s the difference between Recall and Copilot on Windows 11? Microsoft AI features explained.

Let's make it clear the differences between Recall and Copilot because they are two different features serving different purposes.

Recall vs. Copilot
Recall vs. Copilot
  • Windows Recall is a timeline AI feature that allows you to search and retrieve anything you’ve done on your computer, while Microsoft Copilot is an AI digital assistant that offers a human-like conversational experience to answer questions and help you perform certain tasks.

Windows 11 24H2 is shaping up to be one of the most significant updates that will reimagine how we use computers, partly because of the new AI features, such as Recall. However, this feature isn’t a new digital assistant that will replace Copilot. Instead, Recall is a feature designed to enhance the search experience, while Copilot is an assistant that can help you with many different tasks.

In this guide, I will break down the differences between Windows 11 Recall and Copilot.

Windows 11 Recall vs. Copilot

While both features are designed to enhance the user experience, they serve different purposes and have distinct functionalities.

Windows Recall

On Windows 11, Recall is a timeline feature powered by several AI models that works as a photographic memory. It allows you to search for and find virtually anything you have done on the computer, including documents, images, websites, messages, emails, and apps.

Windows 11 Recall running
Windows 11 Recall running / Image: Microsoft

The feature works by taking snapshots roughly every five seconds after the previous capture when something is on the screen. The system then saves the data locally in the new “Windows Semantic Index,” and it runs several on-device AI models part of the new “Windows Copilot Runtime” (including Screen Region Detector, Optical Character Recognizer, Natural Language Parser, Image Encoder, and Image Encoder) to detect text, images, videos, audio, and more, and make this information available with a simple search using natural language.

If you ever forget the location of a file, a website, an object on an image, or anything you have done on your computer, you can open the “Recall” app, and you either use the search box to perform a query or you can use the timeline option to scroll back in time and find what you need.

Since everything happens on-device, nothing gets uploaded to the cloud for processing, so the feature doesn’t require an internet connection.

Recall is a feature of Windows 11 24H2 and an exclusive feature for Copilot Plus PCs. These PCs require a Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite processor with NPU (Neural Processing Unit), a minimum of 16GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD.

Microsoft Copilot

On the other hand, Copilot is a digital assistant designed to help you with virtually anything. On Windows 11, the chatbot AI has been designed primarily to provide a human-like conversational experience to answer any questions on any topic.

New Copilot app for 2024 / Image: Mauro Huculak
New Copilot app for 2024 / Image: Mauro Huculak

Also, on Windows 11, the chatbot can perform different tasks, including the ability to change system settings on your behalf or provide instructions to complete a specific configuration.

Furthermore, the chatbot can also analyze and create responses from images, and it can convert text to images with a single prompt using the DALL-E model from OpenAI. 

Microsoft is also working on updating Copilot to the latest version of the language model from OpenAI, which at this time is GPT-4o, which brings faster and more accurate responses, including the ability to process video as input, among other things.

Unlike Recall, Copilot connects to the Microsoft servers to access the AI infrastructure to process the query, as it also needs to access the internet to provide accurate responses.

Copilot has been available since Windows 11 23H2, and since most of the data processing happens in the cloud, there are no hardware requirements other than an internet connection.

In summary, Windows 11 Recall and Copilot are two different features that serve different purposes. Recall is a timeline feature that allows you to scroll back in time to find anything you have done on the computer. Everything happens on-device, so it has specific hardware requirements.

Copilot is a more traditional digital assistant that provides a more conversational AI experience, and it doesn’t have specific hardware requirements as the data processing happens in the cloud.

Update June 14, 2024: Microsoft has announced that it is temporarily pausing the rollout of the Windows Recall AI feature as it needs more time for testing and ensuring security. As a result, Copilot+ PCs won’t get the feature on June 18.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me. Email him at [email protected].