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Microsoft Tests Start Menu Ads in Windows 11

Microsoft has initiated testing of advertisements within the Windows Start menu, termed "badging," encouraging users to sign up for a Microsoft account (MSA) with incentives like device backup and free cloud storage. These ads, introduced in November 2022 and continued into 2023, target users through prompts integrated into Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 23435 in the Dev Channel, while Microsoft is also developing an option to disable these ads in the Settings app. Reactions to the Start menu ads vary, with some users finding them intrusive while others see them as a trade-off for a free operating system, reflecting Microsoft's broader strategy to promote its services within its products.


Microsoft's venture into integrating advertisements into the Windows Start menu has ignited significant discourse among users. This initiative involves the display of prompts, termed "treatments" by Microsoft, aimed at encouraging users to sign up for a Microsoft account (MSA). The incentives touted include device backup, personalized security settings, and remote data accessibility. Moreover, these prompts serve as advertisements for Microsoft 365 and offer complimentary cloud storage upon sign-in.

This experimentation with ads, or "badging" as Microsoft dubs it, commenced in November 2022 and has persisted into 2023. Users have encountered these notifications following the installation of Windows 11 preview updates or security patches. The rollout of these "treatments" accompanies Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 23435 for users in the Dev Channel, a platform dedicated to testing new concepts and soliciting user feedback. However, it's worth noting that features trialed in the Dev Channel might not necessarily reach all customers or may undergo significant alterations prior to general release.

Described as "new treatments," these ads constitute an expansion of "badging" for users logged into local accounts. The array of prompts being trialed spans messages advocating for the benefits of signing in with a Microsoft account, utilizing Microsoft 365 at no cost, customizing security settings, and accessing complimentary cloud storage.

In response to user concerns, Microsoft is reportedly developing an option to disable these Start Menu ads through the Windows 11 Settings app. This anticipated feature, expected to reside under Personalization > Start, will empower users to opt-out of "account-related notifications occasionally in Start."

The introduction of ads within the Start menu has evoked diverse reactions from users. While some perceive it as intrusive marketing for Microsoft's offerings, others view it as a trade-off for the absence of a subscription fee for the operating system. Notably, Microsoft has previously incorporated ads for various products, such as Microsoft Editor in the File Explorer app and promotions for the Microsoft Edge browser in the Windows 10 Start Menu.

In essence, Microsoft's exploration of Start menu ads aligns with its broader strategy to promote services within the operating system. The company is actively soliciting user feedback on these innovative approaches as it navigates the evolving landscape of digital advertising.

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