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Why can’t I use background blur or custom backgrounds in Microsoft Teams?

Image courtesy of: https://news.microsoft.com/europe/2019/03/19/homeworkers-rejoice-microsoft-teams-new-customized-background-feature-hides-distractions-at-the-press-of-a-button/

I think it’s pretty safe to say that background blur or custom backgrounds is one of the most used and most liked features of Microsoft Teams. Microsoft did a lot of people a favour by escalating it’s release to help with the Covid-19 situation where most of the world started working from home.

However, some people might find that the feature isn’t available. Below are all the reasons I know of why this might be the case:

AVX/AVX2 hardware requirement

There has been a bit of confusion around this one. When background blur was first released it was supported on CPUs that could support AVX which came as part of the Sandy Bridge micro-architecture back in the beginning of 2011.

Shortly after it’s release, the hardware requirements of the Teams app were changed to indicate that AVX2 was required. AVX2 or Advanced Vector Extensions 2 started to appear on Intel chips with the Haswell micro-architecture back in the second half of 2013. So, people with Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge CPUs where background blur worked before, immediately found that background blur had stopped working with the new hardware requirement. Lots of people reported this on user voice: https://microsoftteams.uservoice.com/forums/908686-bug-reports/suggestions/40115269-blur-option-disappeared

However, on Jun 9th, 2020 an update was added to the UserVoice article to say that the regression had been fixed:

So, what CPU do you need to get this working?

In the hardware requirements for the Teams app Microsoft state the following:

The optional Background video effects require a processor with Advanced Vector Extensions 2 (AVX2) support or that is running Windows 10

Now that we know AVX is enough I’m interpreting this statement as saying that you need AVX2 unless you’re running Windows 10 in which case AVX is enough. Computers with an AVX supported chip date back to around 2011. What are the chances of having Windows 10 on anything older than a machine from 2011. Pretty low, I’d imagine. So, Windows 10 should be enough in most cases.

Interestingly, it looks like AVX2 is still required for the Mac client:

The optional Background video effects require a processor with Advanced Vector Extensions 2 (AVX2) support, supported on most late 2013 Mac devices and later.

Sandy Bridge = 2nd generation Intel Core
Ivy Bridge = 3rd generation Intel Core
Haswell = 4th generation Intel Core

How can I tell which generation chip I have?

Well, an easy way to tell which generation your CPU is from is to look at the model number and check the first number after the hyphen. So, i5–6300U = 6th generation, i5–2430M = 2nd generation.

Go into Settings > System > About in Windows 10 and look at what your processor is:

6th generation Intel Core CPU

The processor above is a 6th generation. The processor below is a 2nd generation:

2nd generation Intel Core CPU

Using the web client?

Background blur or custom backgrounds has not yet made it into the web client on any of the supported browsers.

Using VDI?

Background blur or custom backgrounds is not yet supported via VDI. Details here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/teams-for-vdi#teams-on-vdi-with-calling-and-meetings

Ask your admin

As of May 2020 onwards, administrators will be able to enforce policy in the Teams client for blur and custom background features. The settings available in the Meeting policy via the VideoFiltersMode attribute are:

  • NoFilters: Block all blur and custom background features
  • BlurOnly: Offer background blur only
  • BlurAndDefaultBackgrounds: Offer background blur and default-provided images only
  • AllFilters: Allow all filters, which includes the ability for users to upload custom images

So, it’s feasible that your Teams administrator has disabled your ability to blur your background. If you machine meets the other requirements listed in this post, it might be worth checking with them.

Check your client version

Lastly, check your client version. This is long shot but if for whatever reason you’re on an horrendously old client version, you won’t see all the new features. Hit your profile picture and click Check for updates to make sure you’re on the latest.

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Matt Ellis

Matt Ellis

Unified Communications Architect, Pompey fan, burger eater, coffee drinker...

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