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Microsoft just added a smart Windows 11 feature we never knew we needed

Published Nov 4th, 2021 3:51PM EDT
Windows 11 Mute
Image: Microsoft

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The Windows 11 upgrade is available on both supported devices and PCs that don’t pass the minimum hardware requirements check. While the operating system is out of beta, Microsoft is still testing a few features. One of them is support for Android apps via the Amazon Appstore. But not all the features Microsoft is working on are quite so complex. The company just announced the rollout of a new beta release to Insiders, aiming to fix a Windows 11 issue you might not have realized you had: The microphone mute switch.

The video calling feature you might use the most

Whether you work from home or at the office, you’re probably still taking plenty of video calls during the day. You might use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Facebook Rooms, Google Workspace, or one of the many other video calling apps to get the job done. The pandemic incentivized all these companies to improve their video chat services, which in turn grew in popularity.

Regardless of how or why you use video chat apps on your devices, you’ve probably gotten used to doing at least one of two things during chats. You might cut off your video, which kind of defeats the purpose of video calling. But you certainly mute your microphone when it’s not your turn to speak. And that’s where Windows 11 might help.

Microsoft announced in a blog post the new Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22494 that’s rolling out to developers. The mute button is one of the main features in the release, as it’s getting prominent placement in the Taskbar.

Windows 11 Mute
Windows 11 is getting a Taskbar mute switch for video calling apps. Image source: Microsoft

Windows 11 gets a new mute button

That might not seem like a big deal since all video calling apps have built-in mute buttons for the same purpose. But Microsoft wants to make it even easier to mute the microphone during calls:

No more awkward or embarrassing moments when you forget to unmute or mute your microphone. Starting with Microsoft Teams today, you’ll find a microphone icon automatically added to your taskbar when you’re actively in a call. You can see your call audio status, what app is accessing your microphone, and quickly mute and unmute your call at any time.

It’s only Microsoft Teams that will support the mute switch initially. Microsoft might be pushing its Teams productivity app to consumers, but plenty of Windows 11 users rely on other chat apps for their video calls. The blog post notes that other communication apps can add the mute switch to their apps in the future.

The mute icon will appear in the Windows 11 Taskbar, as seen in the image above. It’ll always be accessible to the user no matter how many windows might be open. Notably, the mute or unmute switch applies only to the current call, not the entire Windows 11 OS.

However, you will have to get on the Windows 11 Insiders beta release to test out the mute switch now. The 22494 release also includes “a good set of fixes for some impactful bugs but also adds a few known issues”. There’s currently no word on when the feature will roll out in a public Windows 11 release.

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.