is a ‘weird and creepy’ app that records everything that happens on your Mac – and soon on your Windows PC

Personal computer users know well the frustration of trying to find something on their machines. Built-in search tools on Windows PCs and Macs can be hit or miss, and can feel like it’s mostly miss.

But suppose your computer remembered everything? And I do mean everything. Imagine that all you wrote, saw, searched for, heard or watched on your system could be found, instantly, regardless of the source.

That s the idea behind , an app available for Macs with Apple Silicon processors and in the works for Windows PCs. Rewind solves a problem that’s all too human: “I am looking for something, I know I saw it on my Mac, but was it a web page? A document? Or did I hear it in a Zoom meeting?”

In essence, that’s the core of what we want from all computing devices — to be a record of what we do, as well as what we can know, easily searchable. Rewind’s marketing materials say its goal is to give users a “perfect memory.”

But this convenience also conjures the things we fear most in the digital age: Our lives and privacy being laid bare, accessible to those who might misuse the data we generate.

I’ve been using Rewind since December, and having lived with it for more than three months, I’ve gotten over my reservations about privacy and the software. It is a remarkably useful app, and I think it’s the kind of thing that should be built into all personal computer operating systems.

Rewind is only available on Macs that use Apple’s M1 or M2 families of home-grown processors. It will not run on older Macs that use Intel chips. In an interview, co-founder and CEO Dan Siroker said his developers have made the product work on Intel Macs, but at a hit to performance and battery life. Its presence is “not as imperceptible” as on Apple Silicon Macs, which are known for their muscle and energy efficiency.

But Intel’s latest processors are catching up to Apple’s, and thus newer Windows PCs could run Rewind. Microsoft also has versions of Windows running on chips that, like Apple Silicon, use the same architecture licensed from processor designer Arm. Siroker said his company has a team in place that can build a Windows version “pretty quickly.”

“We are not oblivious,” he said. “We know that the world is big and while there’s only about 30 million Apple Silicon laptops out there, there’s about a billion other machines that we can go after if we offer (a Windows version).”

How Rewind works

When you install it on a Mac, it begins recording all your actions — everything you see in email, all your web activity, what you create in documents, what happens in apps, even the teleconferencing meetings you attend (it generates a transcript of them, too). If it happens on your computer, it’s grabbed and saved in a highly compressed manner on your Mac’s drive that takes up a minimum amount of space.

You can exempt sensitive app activity from being captured, such as working in password managers. You can turn the microphone and audio output capture off, and even turn off screen recording.

When you need to recall something, click the Rewind icon in the Mac’s Menu Bar and a search field and a timeline appear onscreen. You can enter keywords or phrases to find your data, or you can scroll through the timeline, which has miniature renditions of your app icons when they were active.

For example, on a recent trip to Frisco, I did some web research on healthy breakfast options but couldn’t remember a spot that had appealed to me. So I invoked Rewind, clicked on the browser icon on the timeline and quickly found the web page for The Aussie Grind (try the Canberra omelet – yum!)

And what happens on your Mac stays on your hard drive, with two exceptions I’ll detail in a moment. None of the captured data is saved to the cloud, the company says.

Rewind does, however, reach out to its servers to check for updates and to send information about how the product is used so developers can look for issues and find ways to improve it.

But there is one instance in which some of your data is dispatched to a cloud service. recently announced that it was integrating GPT-4, the artificial intelligence model that has caused much excitement and concern, in an upcoming feature called Ask Rewind that currently is in beta testing via a waitlist.

Siroker said you can ask the product to do things such as draft an email, summarize your work week for a report or round up things you’ve researched. It uses the AI’s predictive text capabilities to generate documents based on what you’ve done on your computer.

Siroker said when you use Ask Rewind, only a small amount of text relevant to your question is sent to GPT-4 — and it’s only text, no video or audio, and not linked to your identity. GPT-4 developer OpenAI deletes all incoming data after 30 days. Siroker said his company has asked OpenAI to not retain data at all from Rewind users, something it has agreed to do for other customers.

The effect of Rewind on the battery life of my 2021 MacBook Pro has been negligible. I can’t usually tell that it’s running, except that when I was interviewing Siroker over Zoom, there were occasional streaming hiccups, and the laptop’s case got warm.

Rewind has three subscription tiers. A free version lets you do a “rewind” – searching for something that’s been captured – 50 times. The Basic tier gives you 10 rewinds per month for $12 a month, or $120 yearly, along with some customer support. The Pro tier is $36 a month, or $360 yearly, with unlimited rewinds and priority support. Pro also provides Siroker’s cellphone number.

Apple has a history of adding features from innovative products to its operating systems. But Siroker says he doesn’t think Apple will do that with Rewind, because his product is too “weird and creepy” for the tech giant to incorporate.

What about the possibility that Apple could just buy Rewind?

“I hope not,” Siroker said. “But if we get far enough ahead, maybe we’ll buy Apple.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to invoke Rewind so I can look at our Zoom session to see if he was joking.