May 22, 2024

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Windows 11 Start Menu ads are now rolling out to everyone

Windows 11 Start Menu ads are now rolling out to everyone

Microsoft has started enabling ads within the Start menu on Windows 11 for all users. After briefly testing these updates with Windows Insiders earlier this month, Microsoft has begun distributing the update KB5036980 for Windows 11 users this week, which includes “recommendations” for apps from the Microsoft Store in the Start menu.

“The Recommended section in the Start menu will display some Microsoft Store apps,” Microsoft says in the update notes for the latest public release of Windows 11. “These apps come from a small, curated group of developers.” The ads are designed to help Windows 11 users discover more apps, but they will largely benefit developers who Microsoft is trying to entice into building more Windows apps.

Microsoft only started testing these announcements a couple of weeks ago, so it's surprising to see this “feature” progress from the Beta channel to release in such a short period of time. At the time of initial testing, it stated that Microsoft “could decide to get rid of these ads” if there was enough feedback suggesting they weren't popular, but two weeks of feedback is certainly not long enough to determine that.

Fortunately, you can disable these ads, or “recommendations” as Microsoft calls them. If you've installed the latest KB5036980 update, go to Settings > Personalization > Get started and turn off the “Show recommendations for tips, app promotions, and more” toggle. Although KB5036980 is optional at the moment, Microsoft will push it to all Windows 11 devices in the coming weeks.

Microsoft's move to enable ads in the Windows 11 Start menu follows similar promotional spots in the Windows 10 lock screen and Start menu. Microsoft also began testing ads within File Explorer for Windows 11 last year before disabling the trial and saying the test was “not intended to be deployed externally.” Hopefully this experience will remain very much an experiment.

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