Microsoft kills Win + C shortcut to promote dedicated Copilot key, drive PC sales

Microsoft branding for Copilot+ PC
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Copilot is one of the most important applications powering Microsoft's new vision for Windows 11. However, in an attempt to get more people on board with Copilot and Microsoft's new Copilot+ PCs, Windows is stripping away the current "Win + C" hotkey that opens the Copilot sidebar app right now on Windows 11 23H2 and 24H2. Patch notes for Windows 11 Insider Preview build 22635.3785 reveal that the Win + C keyboard shortcut has been removed from this build of Windows, confirming that this change will be making its way to Windows 11 as a whole later this year.

Of course, Microsoft is spinning this change as a positive, saying it is part of the "Copilot experience's evolution on Windows to become an app that is pinned to the taskbar...". But in reality, this is an attempt to get more people to buy Copilot+ PC because it comes with the Copilot key on its keyboard. 

There is absolutely no reason for Microsoft to remove the Win + C hotkey. This specific key combination is not being replaced by another utility that might be able to take advantage of the same keys. Microsoft says it is retiring this hotkey only because the Copilot sidebar is being retired in favor of a dedicated app that can be resized and manipulated just like any other application. But we already have hotkeys that open Microsoft-specific applications in Windows 11, so there's no physical limitation for Microsoft to have dedicated hotkeys to open specific applications. A perfect example is the Win + E key, which opens File Explorer.

However, it's not like you can't launch Copilot without a hotkey. It has an icon right on the taskbar. 

The good news is that (if you are desperate to bring the hotkey back) there is a way to override Microsoft's hotkey change. We discovered that the Copilot key on Copilot+ compatible PCs actually returns a real key combination when pressed, "Left Shift + Windows key + F23" (yes, that is an actual F23 key callback, which was a key that existed on IBM keyboards in the 1980s). 

All you have to do is take your favorite hotkey software, AutoHotey for example, and ramp one of your keys into the key combination above, and you'll have a Copilot hotkey once again. You can even remap Windows + C to become Windows + Shift + F23.

Aaron Klotz
Contributing Writer

Aaron Klotz is a contributing writer for Tom’s Hardware, covering news related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.

  • Metal Messiah.
    But, this isn't the first time that the Win + C shortcut has been nuked and evicted though.

    It was previously the quickest way to invoke "Cortana", before MS decided to pull the plug on this so-called AI assistant.

    It was then given the job of opening 'Teams', which was part of Microsoft's bid to capitalize on the work-from-home boom. And now, we had it as Copilot's hotkey.
    Who knows where it'll end up next?

    So no, a direct correlation to promote a dedicated copilot key seems a bit off in this case, at least in my opinion. Although, we know the hype being generated by the latest AI and Copilot+ PCs can't be overlooked.
    Reply
  • CmdrShepard
    Microsoft kills Win + C shortcut to promote dedicated Copilot key, drive PC sales e-waste
    FTFY
    Reply
  • DS426
    Pure. Greed. What a waste of development resources and definitely a slap in the face to this supposed marriage to the idea of "climate change is the existential threat of our time" when retiring not that old PC's isn't an issue at all in the name of this crazy AI rat race. Love how big tech fakes morality when green is and always will be the main motivating factor for any major business decisions -- I mean, how not when you're a publically-traded company!?!?
    Reply
  • ThomasKinsley
    This is a step in the right direction. First kill the shortcut. Then kill CoPilot. I don't see anything wrong with this.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    "drive PC sales"?

    I doubt anyone is buying a whole new PC, instead of maaaayyybeeeee a new keyboard.
    Laptop users? Again...that function could be invoked in multiple ways.
    Reply
  • KnightShadey
    The funniest part to me was that as I was reading this I was thinking the same thing that was confirmed at the bottom of the article: pfft.. just use AutoHotkey, you could remap it.
    Good to hear they found the alternate key combo instead of having to create a shortcut/script.

    I have had a remapped key for a sleep timer shortcut (CMD shutdown /s at home , /r at work) for over a decade when doing tasks after I walk away.
    Before that, since the time of Napster, it was a folder full of timers (still have that in docs), over the years default timer also changed from 30mins to 1hr to 3hrs.🫤

    Also annoying when laptop mfr scrimp on keys. 🤬

    Seems like a work-around was inevitable, we'll see how serious M$ is about not further annoying savvy users (who aren't swayed by these tactics only pushed further away) as to whether they try to stop this by whack-a-mole-ing something 9x% of users won't even know exists.
    Reply
  • KnightShadey
    This also can't be good for accessibility where folks who rely on things being where they are and doing what they are supposed to do instead of constant change. Especially for people who might want to use Copilot voice prompts instead of desktop navigation because they are visually impaired. 🤔

    I have a feeling even M$ might provide a not widely publicized workaround just for that consideration, unless.... they don't care. 🤷🏻‍♂️
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    KnightShadey said:
    This also can't be good for accessibility where folks who rely on things being where they are and doing what they are supposed to do instead of constant change. Especially for people who might want to use Copilot voice prompts instead of desktop navigation because they are visually impaired. 🤔

    I have a feeling even M$ might provide a not widely publicized workaround just for that consideration, unless.... they don't care. 🤷🏻‍♂️
    Copilot hasn't been around long enough for people to get that used to the key combination.
    Reply
  • endocine
    Not buying a new PC unless it has a copilot key. This is a step in the right direction. Win11 not working at all unless a PC has a keyboard with a copilot key should be mandatory in a future update.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    endocine said:
    Not buying a new PC unless it has a copilot key. This is a step in the right direction. Win11 not working at all unless a PC has a keyboard with a copilot key should be mandatory in a future update.
    I sincerely hope you're joking with this.

    (sarcasm often doesn't work in text)
    Reply