If ads interrupting your everyday experiences have been bogging you down, you might want to brace yourself for the Microsoft Windows 11 Start menu ads rollout. There will be no escaping poorly targeted ads in the future as a Windows 11 ads feature is reportedly in beta testing according to Twitter/X tipsters. This isn’t Microsoft’s first experiment with testing out ads across the PC experience—over the years, the company has played around with advertising across various elements of the Windows system and none of them have ever been well-received. That doesn’t mean the company is planning on slowing down. The Microsoft File Explorer ads in Windows 10 were a controversial move but it was easy enough to turn off. Will we be able to escape as easily this time? 

 Windows 11 ads

Image: Microsoft logo

Microsoft Windows 11 Start Menu Ads In Beta Testing

The topic of Microsoft Start menu ads Windows 11 was rumored by Twitter/X tipsters but was also officially confirmed by Microsoft in their Windows 11 Insider Preview Build update. The company didn’t come out and say “ADs!” to our faces, but instead took a more subtle route to talk about recommended apps from the Microsoft store. For now, this will only be visible for Windows Insiders in the Beta channel in the U.S. so only a limited number of volunteers for the latest updates will be able to see the new feature.

With the Microsoft Windows 11 Start menu ads, you might not necessarily see your local Starbucks or Amazon’s free delivery calling out to you. Instead, the ads will likely focus on pushing Microsoft products like OneDrive or other app store novelties that you might be tempted to use and spend your money on eventually. This feature will not apply to commercial devices, that is, devices managed by organizations, according to Microsoft. Most of these changes are touted to be in favor of bringing a more personalized user experience that can help you use your device to the best of its ability with recommendations tailor-made for you, but being pandered to like this rarely works.

Those who want to remain a part of the Beta testing experience for Microsoft features but do not want to bear witness to the Microsoft Start menu ads on Windows 11, do have the option of turning the feature off. The Windows 11 ads will be enabled by default but you can go to the Settings on your PC, find the Personalization option and Start section, and turn off the option “Show recommendations for tips, app promotions, and more.” This will allow you to continue without this specific feature. Microsoft cautions users that the ad feature may not see an eventual global release and is currently in testing to gather feedback on how users feel about the addition.

Microsoft Start menu ads Windows 11

Image: Example of the recommended app ads you’ll see on on the Start Menu

The History of Windows 11 Ads—Do Users Respond Positively?

Microsoft Windows 11 Start menu ads come after a history of the company inserting ads into their device interface wherever possible. The Windows 10 and 11 lock screen pages already have the option of adding widgets that are essentially additional surface areas for advertising. The Microsoft File Explorer ads on Windows 10 were poorly received, and the company released similar features with Windows 11, claiming it to be an experimental banner that they had released by mistake, as reported by The Verge. Users have even received “tips” as popups on their taskbar, a poorly disguised attempt at getting you to try a new service out. 

The company is already familiar with bringing bloatware to the user experience, having apps like Candy Crush and Sling TV preinstalled on new devices, pushing customers to try the service out. Many have openly displayed their dismay at Microsoft repeatedly attempting to flaunt advertising gimmicks as a means of “testing new features out,” while fully aware that no one is looking for additional advertising on their devices. For some, the increase in advertising may not register as it’s quite a bit more subtle than those you’d see flashing on websites, but the gradual rise in ads, wherever you look, is worrying.

We fail to see how the Microsoft Windows 11 Start menu ads could possibly be received positively in this Beta testing. Many have voiced their preference for rooting the devices and getting rid of all the unnecessary content on them. Others have indicated that they will switch to Linux for a more user-friendly experience if Microsoft really follows through with the Windows 11 ads. For the everyday user with a rudimentary understanding of how these devices work, however, the switch to Linux will not be as convenient of an option. So will people make the transition in reality? It’s this uncertainty that gives Microsoft the room to keep pushing users as far as they can without fear of repercussions.