Microsoft is rolling out a major Windows 11 update to members of the Windows Insider Preview program running Dev Channel builds of the operating system. Among other things, it brings a big update to the Backup and Restore tool introduced last month, a new Settings homepage, a new volume mixer experience in Quick Settings, accessibility improvements, and bug fixes.

But probably the biggest change in Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 23493 is that it includes a Windows Copilot Preview.

Windows Copilot is basically an AI assistant for Microsoft’s desktop operating system – imagine it as a blend of Clippy, ChatGPT, and Cortana (RIP). First introduced in May, the feature is still in the early stages of development, and Microsoft says what’s launching this week is a “first preview,” with more features expected to roll out in the future.

For now, when you launch Windows Copilot, it shows up as a persistent sidebar on the right side of your screen, where it won’t overlap with any other apps.

You can use natural language to ask questions or perform Windows actions that would have previously required digging into menus. For example you can ask Copilot to “Change to dark mode,” “Turn on do not disturb,” or “Take a screenshot.” That last one’s not too exciting, seeing as it takes less time to hit Print Screen than it does to write “take a screenshot,” but hey, it’s nice to have options.

More interesting are some of the other capabilities that incorporate generative AI features. For example, Microsoft says you can ask Copilot to:

  • “Summarize this website” to get a brief summary of an active tab in the Microsoft Edge web browser.
  • “Write a story about a dog who live son the moon” (presumably you can get stories about other topics as well).
  • “Make me a picture of a serene koi fishpond with lily pads” (or, you know, other stuff).

Windows Copilot is designed to support plugins that will allow Microsoft and third parties to add functionality over time, but right now Microsoft says third-party plugins aren’t supported yet and Copilot only “has a basic set of Windows settings plugins.”

Speaking of Settings, Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 23493 also introduces a new Settings homepage with a card-based UI that offers overview of your device, Microsoft account, and quicker access to “recommended settings” featuring things that are commonly adjusted or recently used, such as Display or Sound settings.

And when Microsoft rolled out a new cloud-based Backup & Restore app in May, the company noted that it would allow you to backup and restore system settings as well as pins for Microsoft Store apps installed on your PC (so they could be quickly downloaded and reinstalled when restoring from a backup).

Now the latest build introduces support for backing up and restoring apps that aren’t downloaded from the Microsoft Store… sort of. The apps themselves aren’t really backed up, but after restoring from a backup you’ll see pins for all of your previously installed apps on your desktop. If you click pins for a Microsoft Store app, it will automatically be downloaded and installed from the Store. If you click the pin for a non-Store app, you’ll be taken to the download page for that app (if Microsoft can identify the correct download location).

Unfortunately this experience means that your app settings, preferences, registration status, or logins might not be restored when using the new restore process in the Windows out-of-box-experience to set up a new computer or restore an existing PC. But at least it should help save you the time it would normally take to track down all of the apps you need to reinstall.

Microsoft is also testing a new Quick Settings volume mixer that can be opened by persistent Win + Ctrl + V. The new mixer adds support for customizing audio settings (including device and volume preferences) on a per-app basis.

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  1. Windows Copilot/Bing or whatever Microsoft is calling it now is extremely biased and practically useless. It refuses almost all of my numerous unique prompts for telling original bedtime stories for kids.