Microsoft’s Copilot AI can now read your files directly, but it's not the privacy nightmare it sounds like

A woman at a table using a Windows laptop, opposite sits a man, neither show their face
(Image credit: Unsplash / Windows)

Microsoft has begun rolling out a new feature for its Copilot AI assistant in Windows that will allow the bot to directly read files on your PC, then provide a summary, locate specific data, or search the internet for additional information. 

Copilot has already been aggressively integrated into Microsoft 365 and Windows 11 as a whole, and this latest feature sounds – at least on paper – like a serious privacy issue. After all, who would want an AI peeking at all their files and uploading that information directly to Microsoft?

Well, fortunately, Copilot isn’t just going to be snooping around at random. As spotted by @Leopeva64 on X (formerly Twitter), you have to manually drag and drop the file into the Copilot chat box (or select the ‘Add a file’ option). Once the file is in place, you can proceed to make a request of the AI; the suggestion provided by Leopeva64 is simply ‘summarize’, which Copilot proceeds to do.

Another step towards Copilot being genuinely useful

I’ll admit it, I’m a Copilot critic. Perhaps it’s just because I’m a jaded career journalist with a lifetime of tech know-how and a neurodivergent tilt towards unhealthy perfectionism, but I’ve never seen the value of an AI assistant built into my operating system of choice; however, this is the sort of Copilot feature I actually might use.

The option to summarize alone seems quite useful: more than once, I’ve been handed a chunky PDF with embargoed details about a new tech product, and it would be rather nice not to have to sift through pages and pages of dense legalese and tech jargon just to find the scraps of information that are actually relevant to TechRadar’s readership. Summarizing documents is already something that ChatGPT and Adobe Acrobat AI can do, so it makes sense for Copilot – an AI tool that's specifically positioned as an on-system helper – to be able to do it.

While I personally prefer to be the master of my own Googling, I can see the web-search capabilities being very helpful to a lot of users, too. If you’ve got a file containing partial information, asking Copilot to ‘fill in the blanks’ could save you a lot of time. Copilot appears capable of reading a variety of different file types, from simple text documents to PDFs and spreadsheets. Given the flexible nature of modern AI chatbots, there are potentially many different things you could ask Copilot to do with your files – though apparently, it isn’t able to scan files for viruses (at least, not yet).

If you’re keen to get your hands on this feature yourself, you hopefully won’t have to wait long. While it doesn’t seem to be widely available just yet, Leopeva64 notes that it appears Copilot’s latest new skill “is being rolled out gradually”, so it’ll likely start showing up for more Windows 11 users as time goes on.

The Edge version of Copilot will apparently be getting this feature too, as Leopeva points out that it’s currently available in the Canary prototype build of the browser – if you want to check that out, you just have to sign up for the Edge Insider Program.

You might also like

Christian Guyton
Editor, Computing

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.


Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.