Microsoft is testing new ads in the Windows Start menu, or what it describes as “new treatments,” for users logged into local accounts as part of a “badging” expansion.
This “feature” has been under testing since at least November 2022, and some of these “notifications for Microsoft accounts in the Start menu” are already being displayed to users who have installed last month’s Windows 11 preview update or this week’s Patch Tuesday security updates.
“We are continuing the exploration of badging on the Start menu with several new treatments for users logging in with local user accounts to highlight the benefits of signing in with a Microsoft account (MSA),” said Microsoft’s Amanda Langowski and Brandon LeBlanc.
“If you see one of these treatments, give us feedback on what you think. As a reminder, it is normal for us to try out different concepts in the Dev Channel to get feedback.”
The new feature is rolling out with Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 23435 to users Insiders in the Dev Channel, designed to help Microsoft try out various concepts and collect user feedback.
It’s important to mention that features tested in the Dev Channel may never get released or be heavily tweaked once made available to general customers.
On systems where the new “treatments of badging on the Start menu” roll out, the ads will show up in the sign-out flyout of the Windows 11 Start menu.
The list of new “treatments” being tested in this Windows Insider build includes the following prompts:
- Sign in to your Microsoft account. You’ll be able to back up your device and keep it more secure
- Use Microsoft 365 for free. Sign in with your Microsoft account to use productivity apps and cloud storage
- Keep your account safer. Sign in to personalize your security and profile settings in one place
- Access your files from anywhere. You’ll get 5 GB of cloud storage for free when you sign in
Microsoft is apparently also working on adding the option to disable the Start Menu ads from the Windows 11 Settings app (which should’ve been been r
As Windows enthusiast PhantomOfEarth discovered, a ‘Show account related notifications occasionally in Start’ option will soon be available under Personalization > Start.
This is not the first time Microsoft has promoted its products within the user interface of Windows apps.
As part of an August 2022 campaign, it showed ads for Microsoft 365 Family subscriptions to Office 2021 customers and ads for various Microsoft products, including Microsoft Editor, in the File Explorer app in March 2022.
The File Explorer had also been injected with OneDrive promotional messages years before, in 2016, while the Windows 10 Wordpad app had also displayed ads for Microsoft’s free Office web apps in 2020.
Microsoft has also advertised its Microsoft Edge web browser in the Windows 10 Start Menu, and it accidentally broke the Windows Taskbar and Start Menu while testing Microsoft Teams ads on some Windows Insider builds.