Windows 11 keyboards are getting a new AI button in the form of a Copilot key

Windows Copilot key
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows Copilot is the AI chatbot Microsoft added to Windows 11 in 2023, and this year it's getting its own key on the Windows keyboard.

This is a big deal because there hasn't been a new option added to the keyboard since the Windows key arrived in 1994, making this the first new key in nearly 30 years.

You're likely to start seeing this new Windows Copilot key cropping up in the wild very soon, because we expect to see it on a number of new laptops and keyboards debuting at CES 2024 in Las Vegas next week (Jan 9) and hitting store shelves starting in February.

When this new Copilot key arrives you should look for it on the lower righthand side of the keyboard. According to Microsoft, its placement will vary depending on manufacturer and size, so sometimes it will be squeezed in alongside the right CTRL key and sometimes it might replace the right CTRL or Menu key. 

If you buy a PC with one of these new Copilot keys and Copilot isn't enabled or isn't working for some reason, hitting the Copilot key will open the Windows Search function instead. And since Copilot is being rolled out to Windows 10 users in 2024, you shouldn't even need Windows 11 to take advantage of these new keys.

Outlook

Microsoft is betting AI will be a big deal in 2024, so much so that it's now dedicating a whole key on the Windows keyboard to it. 

This isn't hugely surprising when you consider how much of last year was about AI for Microsoft. When it introduced Bing with ChatGPT in February 2023 you could see Microsoft get a taste of what it felt like to finally beat Google to the punch at something exciting. Since then the company has only ramped up efforts to work AI-powered chatbots into all of its services, from Bing to Office to Windows, in an effort to ride this tailwind into a better market position.

That same wind is fanning the flames of an industry itching to sell more laptops and desktops now that the rush to buy PCs during the COVID-19 lockdowns has ended. The push to bring Copilot and other AI-powered tools to your PC is aided by the arrival of new Intel Meteor Lake laptop chips, the first Intel CPUs to sport a built-in NPU (Neural Processing Unit) optimized for AI workloads.

We've already tried some of the first laptops to arrive with these new chips (our Acer Swift Go 14 hands-on has all the details) , and while the technology is still evolving it's already clear there's something novel and remarkable to explore here. Whether it merits an entire new key on the keyboard, however, remains to be seen.

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Alex Wawro

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.