Windows doesn’t make a lot of money, and due to competition laws, Microsoft cannot divert funds from Azure to fund its consumer OS projects. As a result, the company has been slowly showing more optional ads in the OS that can be turned off. Windows 11’s Start menu was recently updated to recommend third-party apps, and more ads may be coming.

Let’s first discuss the current state of ads in Windows 11. I’ve previously highlighted Bing pop-up ads in Windows 11. Microsoft confirmed that the pop-up ads are one-time alerts to remind users about Bing’s GPT-4 and can be dismissed. In April, Microsoft started rolling out Microsoft Store-based ads in the Start menu for some users.

Microsoft confirmed experimenting with ads in the Start menu with Windows 11 KB5036980. These adverts open the app’s listing in the Microsoft Store and can be safely dismissed by selecting “Remove from list”. You can even right-click the advertisement to send feedback.

Start menu ads in Windows 11 Build 22631.3527
Start menu ads in Windows 11 Build 22631.3527 | Image Courtesy:

In our tests, we observed a single third-party ad in the Start menu, as shown in the screenshot above.

The ad is harmless as it opens the Microsoft Store, and you’ve full control over it. For example, if you don’t want to see these ads or recommendations (as Microsoft calls them), you can open Settings > Personalization > Start and turn off the following the following toggle:

  • Show recommendations for tips, shortcuts, new apps, and more.

A screenshot of the setting:

Settings toggle for ads in Stable
Settings toggle for ads in Stable builds | Image Courtesy:

Now, here’s where things get interesting.

As you can see, the above screenshot from my device in the stable channel of Windows 11 doesn’t mention “ads” anywhere. Microsoft refers to them as tips, app promotions, and more.

As spotted by independent developer Albacore, the toggle could soon get updated to reflect “ads” in addition to “tips, app promotion and more”.

Here’s the screenshot of the same toggle from my device running Windows 11 Build 26200:

Settings toggle for ads in Canary
Settings toggle for ads in Canary builds | Image Courtesy:

Do you notice the difference between stable and canary builds? In the Canary channel, there’s a clear reference to “ads”, which is new and interesting.

Microsoft is likely referring to something more than app recommendations and promotions, which are already mentioned in the stable channel.

Windows 11 Start menu new ads toggle
Different between stable and canary builds reveals a new “ads” option | Image Courtesy:

As you can see in the above comparison, the language has changed to “Show recommendations for tips, shortcuts, new apps, ads, and more” from “Show recommendations for tips, shortcuts, new apps, and more.”

Start menu ads toggle
Show recommendations for tips, shortcuts, new apps, ads, and more | Image Courtesy:

It’s important to note that the updated toggle language is hidden in the Canary channel, so this is not an official change.

This seems to suggest that more ads could be coming to the Start menu. Microsoft is also working on a related feature linked to Microsoft Edge.

The new toggle seems to rely on a new UDK API, a tool that developers use to interact with OS. In this case, the API could allow the retrieval of something called the “EdgeMicrosoftUserId.” This unique identifier is associated with a user’s profile on Microsoft Edge, the web browser.

Microsoft could experiment with a new type of optional ads in the Start menu based on Edge. With this integration, Windows can show you ads that are more likely to interest you.

So, when you open your Start menu, instead of seeing random ads, you might see an ad (a possible link to the Store or Edge) for something you might like.

There’s a lot of speculation here, and it’s based on references in the Windows 11 Canary preview builds.

Microsoft could scrape the idea before shipping it to consumers. Don’t freak out.

About The Author

Mayank Parmar

Mayank Parmar is an entrepreneur who founded Windows Latest. He is the Editor-in-Chief and has written on various topics in his seven years of career, but he is mostly known for his well-researched work on Microsoft's Windows. His articles and research works have been referred to by CNN, Business Insiders, Forbes, Fortune, CBS Interactive, Microsoft and many others over the years.