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ChatGPT ‘custom instructions’ were only for paid subscribers, but now you can use them for free

Published Aug 11th, 2023 1:37PM EDT
ChatGPT photo illustration
Image: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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About a month ago, I told you that ChatGPT will remember who you are and what you did last summer as long as you want it to. That means OpenAI’s generative AI chatbot will remember information about you across chats. All you need to do is choose to feed it that information in a special new field. Also, the ChatGPT custom instructions feature was restricted to the Plus subscription, which costs $20 a month.

The feature is now rolling out to ChatGPT users who are on the free plan, and you should enable it immediately.

OpenAI updated its ChatGPT release notes to announce the support for custom instructions for almost all ChatGPT users on the free plan.

The exception is the EU and the UK, naturally, which have stronger privacy features. It’s unclear if that’s the reason why OpenAI is withholding the feature from these regions. But the company says it’s coming soon.

ChatGPT users elsewhere can start informing the chatbot about stuff they want the AI to remember across chats. To enable custom instructions, you have to click on your profile name and select Custom instructions.

OpenAI described the functionality in a blog post last month. At the time, it offered the example of a third-grade teacher using the following prompt in the custom instructions field to have the bot always remember this information:

I work on science education programs for third-grade students.

The teacher also told ChatGPT how it wanted responses:

When discussing potential solutions for work-related items, present the information in a table format, outlining the pros and cons of each option—allowing for easier comparison and decision-making.

That’s an incredible way to enhance your CHatGPT experience, as it cuts down on repeating the same information in different prompts. You can give ChatGPT as much information or as little as you wish, or none if you don’t need it to remember things about you.

Setting custom instructions in ChatGPT Plus.
Setting custom instructions in ChatGPT Plus. Image source: OpenAI

Obviously, this raises privacy questions, as this information will then be sent to OpenAI, assuming you have ChatGPT history enabled.

Still, I would personally use custom instructions with ChatGPT. Here’s an example of a prompt I’d use right away so ChatGPT can help me with my running routines, among other things:

Assume I’m a [X]-year-old man who weighs [X] kg, is [X] cm tall, and runs a 5K at a pace of [X] min/km. I want to prevent/reduce the risk of injuries such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. I do strength training [X] times a week.

I’m also cautious of new information that comes my way, so I want sources for everything, YouTube videos included.

The Bear is the best TV show ever made.

Replace all the [X] parts, and you get custom instructions for ChatGPT that will make conversations about running, training, and equipment a lot easier.

I could also add additional information in there that could be relevant to other types of prompts. The sky seems to be the limit here, and you can add information without impacting your privacy.

And yes, The Bear is such a tremendous show. I feel like ChatGPT should be aware of this opinion and take it into account for future chats.

It also proves the point I’m trying to make: you can include all sorts of information there. And you’ll trust that ChatGPT will know what to do with it. You can always tweak the custom instructions if they don’t work as intended.

Also, these custom instructions will carry over to ChatGPT on iPhone and Android as long as you’re signed in with the same account.

Unfortunately, I still have to wait for custom instructions to go live in my region in Europe. But you should be able to take advantage of them right away.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.