Microsoft is testing more ads in Windows 11 Start menu — this isn’t a good look

A Windows 11 laptop, demonstrating how to run Android apps on Windows 11
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Windows 11 could become frustrating to use. In Windows 11 Insider preview build 23435, Microsoft is testing ads on the Start menu. This feature is only available to those in the Dev channel but could make its way to the general public. Based on feedback from users on Reddit, ads on the Start menu won’t go over well with Windows 11 users.

Microsoft discussed how ads or "badging" will appear on the Start bar in a blog post. You’ll see an exclamation mark on your account that’s located on the bottom left side of the Start menu. Clicking on it will bring up a pop-up menu encouraging you to sign up for Microsoft services like OneDrive and Microsoft 365. The Redmond-based tech giant claims this shows the “benefits” of signing in with a Microsoft account.

Windows 11

How ads, or "badging," will work on the Windows 11 Start menu. (Image credit: Microsoft)

As we previously reported, Microsoft began testing ads in Windows 11 last month. Self-proclaimed Windows Insider @PhantomOfEarth claimed to have discovered the existence of new Start Menu recommendations in the then-latest test build of the operating system. And we now know these claims were accurate. 

Bad news for Windows 11

We’re bombarded with ads whenever we visit websites or use free applications. However, having ads — even ones guised as “tips” — on the operating system your computer runs on could become annoying fast. It’s bad enough that Microsoft heavily incentivizes users to make Microsoft Edge their default browser, but forcing ads on users isn’t a good look.

As we said above, people aren’t happy about ads on the Start menu. “Nothing is more obnoxious than the Windows desktop taskbar when you are trying to work,” said one Reddit user in the aforementioned post. “Microsoft is just offering you a free upgrade, so they can make more money,” said another. The Reddit thread linked above is inundated with similar sentiments.

It’s not clear when or if this feature will arrive for general Windows 11 users. In some cases, features in the various developer channels don’t make it beyond the testing phase. But given how Microsoft has been testing ads on the Start menu as far back as November 2022, it appears this feature will see the light of day eventually. Hopefully, there will be a way to disable these ads.

Stay tuned for future updates on this and other Windows 11-related stories.

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.