Microsoft is turning Windows 11's Start Menu into an advertisement delivery system

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 21, 2022
Windows 11 News

The days of the classic Start Menu are numbered on Windows. Previously, the Start Menu was used by users to launch programs, access system tools and settings, and run searches.

Now, with the release of Windows 10 and even more so with Windows 11, comes a fundamental change that is turning the Start Menu into a delivery system for advertisement.

The Windows 11 Start Menu displays a list of pinned apps, a search option, and a menu that displays all installed programs. There is also a recommended section available, more about it later.

windows onedrive ad start user

Microsoft is testing several additions to the Start Menu that will introduce advertisement to it. We recently mentioned two additions that we are aware of: website listings under recommended, and an ad in the account menu when users activate it to use functions such as switch user or sign-out.

Some of these are used to promote Microsoft services, especially those linked to subscriptions or the sharing of data. Others, like the aforementioned website recommendations in the Start Menu, promote third-party services.

Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 25247 recommended websites in the Start menu

In the example that Microsoft provided, the websites Etsy and Twitter were promoted as "common websites" under the recommended section of the Start Menu.

Microsoft provides the following description for the feature:

"We’ve been working on adding more valuable content to the Recommended section in Start and are excited to introduce a new content type: websites.

For the first phase, we will recommend common websites based on your region or browsing history to help you easily get back to the websites you care about. This can be controlled by right-clicking on a website and choosing to remove that website individually or to stop showing all recommended websites entirely."

The company suggests that website recommendations are one type of "valuable content" that it is working on right now to improve the Start Menu of the operating system. The feature derives the sites from the user's browsing history and a list of common regional websites. While Microsoft makes no mention of it, it is likely that only Edge's browsing history is one of the sources of the feature.

Admittedly, users may remove individual websites from Start or disable the feature entirely, according to Microsoft. Microsoft refers to the current implementation as the first phase, which suggests that the company has plans to change the feature in the future. Information on how the next phase could look like is missing, however.

It is unclear for which group of users Microsoft created the website listings under recommendations. The generic listings display just the site name; users who know about them do not need them listed there, and users who don't, may not click because they do not know these sites.

It looks as if this is just another way of getting users to use Microsoft Edge, the browser that is opened when users activate the links in the Start Menu.

Closing Words

Last year, I wrote The Windows 11 Start Menu is barely usable. The launch of Windows 11 and the redesigned Start Menu reduced its functionality compared to Windows 10. Microsoft removed several features, including the ability to resize the start menu. Some, like the ability to create folders, were reintroduced in the Windows 11 2022 Update, but others won't.

The fixed design, with the pinned section at the top and the recommended section below it, is still not customizable. Users can hide all recommended items, but the recommended section remains visible, albeit with an empty region.

Microsoft's recent tests in Insider builds suggest that the company is interested in adding promotions to the Start menu and less in making it more usable to users of the Windows operating system.

Windows customers may switch to a third-party Start Menu instead. The $4.99 applications Start11 and StartAllBack restore classic versions of the Start Menu on Windows 11.

Now You: what is your take on this development?

Microsoft is adding more and more promotions to the Windows 11 Start Menu
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Microsoft is adding more and more promotions to the Windows 11 Start Menu
Microsoft is testing several features currently that add advertisement or promotions to the Windows 11 Start Menu.
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  1. Anonymous said on December 30, 2022 at 1:54 am

    it’s not just in 11.

    Few days ago I tried to use the ‘search’ on the taskbar in 10 for the first time in months. To get to the controlpanel which has no reachable path through the menus/ui. Dark UI pattern, bad UX.
    (the search is btw retarded, it can not find several items that are installed in the start menu, something that should be heavily weighted hits)

    Without even having done anything, there are 3 pieces of unsolicited web content. One for/from bing, two for “trending videos”.

    And of course the ‘search settings’ and ‘indexing options’ have nothing to turn it off.

    Guess they are starting out small with proof of concept and “harmless” stuff, then ramping up the backporting from 11 to make 10 so rancid you’ll just go “may as well take the ‘upgrade’ of since they already put the shit in this one too”.

  2. Benjamin said on November 22, 2022 at 11:14 pm

    I blocked the status of my windows 10 setup with a registry rule and will keep it that way precisely because of unusable inacceptable sillyness in windows 11

  3. John C. said on November 22, 2022 at 8:40 pm

    If it were legal for advertisers to literally kick your front door in, run into your living room and scream advertising at you through a bull horn, do you honestly believe for one second that they would hesitate to do so?

    I’ve been predicting the contamination of Windows by advertising since the ’00s. Took them a while, but it’s happening just like I said.

    To paraphrase a famous quote, “First thing we do, we kill all the advertisers.”

  4. oje said on November 22, 2022 at 5:59 pm

    Bill Gates needs to come back and save Windows desktop!

  5. Jamie Sylver said on November 22, 2022 at 2:13 pm

    Not advertising as advertising is paid and relates to third party companies. You can call the ads in the start menu (that are mere shortcuts, not actually installed and can easily be unpinned) ads. The other stuff that promotes Microsoft Services is promoting. Example, I’m all for Microsoft promoting OneDrive in their own product where it works so well as I am prone to system failure.

    Difference: you have to pay for ads. Microsoft is not paying themselves for this promotion and any promoting of Microsoft services can easily be disabled and is based on recommendations (backing up files this is a must) or through options you select (eg if you select the option that you use your device for gaming on OOBE Microsoft will ask if you want game pass as it might appeal to you.

    Its called upselling. As I work in retail, I do it all the time.

  6. pHROZEN gHOST said on November 22, 2022 at 2:06 pm

    Open Shell Menu

  7. anti said on November 22, 2022 at 11:05 am

    Funny to see this on a site that is plastered with ads breaking privacy protecting laws with dirty hacks.

    1. 45 RPM said on November 22, 2022 at 5:55 pm

      Get uBlock + PrivacyBadger and you beef with this site’s ads go away.

      BUT the difference is, this site is free and you don’t have to use it. Windows is NOT free (even if it comes with a new PC) and f*uck them.

  8. PhoebeGatesMusk said on November 22, 2022 at 12:38 am

    Windows has transformed into a subscription extortion scheme thanks to Microsoft. The only way to stop this while still using Windows is to download Enterprise editions, install StartAllBack, and then use various group policy settings to remove all of Microsoft’s deceptive rubbish.

  9. Albert said on November 22, 2022 at 12:34 am

    My take on this is identical to my take on Windows 11. Avoid like the plague.

  10. Off the edge said on November 21, 2022 at 10:30 pm

    In related news: After you uninstalled Edge completely from your computer, get rid of “Microsoft Update Help Tools” because it tries to reinstall Edge on your computer. First remove the MicrosoftEdgeUpdate folder from Program Files (x86), then remove 2 Edge entries in task scheduler and finally run command prompt as admin and type in these two commands, pressing enter after each one: sc delete edgeupdate sc delete edgeupdatem This will remove Edge update services. Repeat after every time they sneak the HELP TOOLS back onto your system. I hate Microsoft so much it’s not even funny. If Photoshop ever releases a linux version, Microsoft will die. Hope that day comes soon.

    1. Anonymous said on November 29, 2022 at 8:41 am

      Programs like Wine let you run windows apps on Linux. Zorin OS is one example that has Wine

  11. Bob Scazli said on November 21, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    I count six ads on this one article, so what exactly are you complaining about? Slathering every available surface in ads is the primary purpose of the internet

  12. Chris said on November 21, 2022 at 8:15 pm


    >Seems more like a battle “inexperienced users” will have to deal with.

    >Most, again most, “experienced users” know how to eliminate the advertising campaign invading the Windows 11 Start Menu; most know how to tweak the UI to eliminate rounded corners… etc.

    We all have different interests, and many long-time Windows users just wish to be able carry on using their computers to do whatever they need to do, without being inconvenienced by unneeded distractions and irritations.

    I followed the mixed reports about Windows 10 when it was being developed and then rolled out, and particularly noted the time when existing Windows users were tricked into upgrading by an intentionally misleading pop-up, something I believe MS has since conceded was a mistake. I also recall reading reports of how MS had reportedly resorted to dubious ethical practices when needing to get their complex new Office file formats ISO approved.

    When I bought a new laptop about five years ago which inevitably had Windows 10 installed, I as planned decided to try to manage with Linux, dual-booted with Windows. First Ubuntu, then after a year or so Mint, with which I am very content considering the alternative of using Windows regularly.

    But as indicated in my earlier post, it is frustrating not to be able to do many things as easily as would be possible in a Windows app, despite generally very good support from the Mint forum.

    It would greatly help to have more documentation presented in an optimal form to assist the transition, and also in some areas apps with the full feature set and the interface of a Windows or Mac software. All credit to the worthy amateur designers, though!

  13. MDBizzarri said on November 21, 2022 at 7:41 pm

    Luckily my Alienware R10 doesn’t support Windows 11 Pro. Tried it with purchased Start Menu. I can’t see upgrading until Win 10 stops getting updates. If only Linux world came together for a no BS, easy to use, and software friendly, we might have a third option. Unfortunately Linux will only be on the outskirts, and we get the crap Boolean choice. I feel like OS’s are a copy of the American political system that a lot of us hate. Two crap choices and one choice that won’t grow up and lead.

  14. VioletMoon said on November 21, 2022 at 5:50 pm

    Seems more like a battle “inexperienced users” will have to deal with.

    Most, again most, “experienced users” know how to eliminate the advertising campaign invading the Windows 11 Start Menu; most know how to tweak the UI to eliminate rounded corners; most discovered how to reclaim the Windows 10, full context menu; most know of several tweaking tools that eliminate telemetry; most learned long ago that “tweaking” Windows is a science as well as an art form; and most “experienced users” won’t be complaining about Windows 11 and any changes made because they learned long ago how to circumvent such changes if and when necessary.

    Personally, I rather like the idea of having an OpenSSH server and client on my home computer; Quick Assist works like a charm; and Xbox Game Bar for screenshots and screen recording rocks. Oh, I digress . . . .

    Stardock Start 11 provides an easy solution to Start Menu/Taskbar issues.

    WinAero offers numerous valuable tweaks.

    Ultimate Windows Tweaker may help restore some options–depends on preferences.

    Those who complain may want to visit the following site:

    Looks to me like Mozilla does the same thing–advertising Amazon? That’s a huge “no, no.”

    But tech life goes on and so should we; it really helps when gHacks offers solutions to perceived ethical issues in advertising or data privacy rather than simply saying, “MS is on a new self-promoting advertising crusade.”

    We don’t really know what MS is planning or hopes to achieve, but we certainly have “options” to eliminate “issues.”

    Interesting instant illumination–to get to this site today, I didn’t even look or use the Start Menu. I am using Object Dock, so important programs are launched from there. My Office 2021 icons are neatly placed in the Taskbar–small. Anything I need is a click away–Settings can be pinned to the Taskbar along with TaskManager; the Control Panel is on the Desktop in a Stardock Fence.

    My gosh! I’ve yet to see an advertisement for anything today. Truly blessed.

    1. Mystique said on November 22, 2022 at 7:06 am

      I hear what you are saying and yes tweaks and such help, one could even go so far as to create their own image or iso with windows.

      Fences is neat but there are problems and I find the licensing scheme to be less than stellar and this is coming from a paying customer. I have also found that the general desktop sorting whilst having Fences as a layer is not as smooth as native windows desktop as if you move and icon around on a full to almost full desktop things get shuffled all over the place.
      That’s just one of the problems. Stardock is great at building neat things but further developing them and being rock solid… sadly not.

      I’m not going to comment on Mozilla because I also take a dim view of what they are doing to the browser and what they have done to the community that made them who they were but what they are now… well they can take the credit for where they stand now because the trajectory for their failure is perfectly in line with their mentality and approach as they turned their back on their roots.

      Tweaking windows can be fun but there is a point where Microsoft should not cross. Damaging windows on a fundamental level is not smart and pushes users away and makes it an exhausting and daunting task.

      I love the idea into deeper dives and things that make windows great. There are several pieces of software and solutions. Ghacks is pretty great for that and its something the used to do more in the past but not so much now. Writing articles can be time consuming though but its often the comments that help. Even your suggestions are perfectly valid and may have helped so many people or inspired a person to seek for something else.

    2. Anonymous said on November 21, 2022 at 9:46 pm

      I mean, if you’re going to go to that much work to get your OS working, you probably should just linux.

  15. Chris said on November 21, 2022 at 1:55 pm

    More and more reasons to change to Linux:

    If only some philanthropist with a deep pocket would provide a large amount of funding to make the transition easier for typical users, comprehensive documentation and more apps with high-quality interfaces and full feature sets…

    Bill Gates, maybe?

    1. Mystique said on November 22, 2022 at 6:36 am

      The money and development support would be far better place in ReactOS which has already reached a certain level. Money isn’t always the solution.
      The problem is that windows is so deeply entrenched in society and the tech world. You would have to convince millions of people to move over and that includes developers that build such amazing pieces of software.
      I have a hard enough time convincing people to drop facebook or whatsapp.

    2. kalmly said on November 21, 2022 at 4:20 pm

      Bug Man?

      I would prefer a wealthy philanthropist to create a whole new OS that can run Windows apps easily.

      Elon Musk, perhaps?

      1. Mystique said on November 22, 2022 at 6:50 am

        This man you speak of is virtually a nobody and has not invented anything himself contrary to popular belief. He has already demonstrated a very poor understanding of the operations at a certain social media which has been demonstrated in less than a month.
        I believe his bad reputation proceeds him as he is almost as synonymous for bad working conditions as he is for anything else. Very few people would be willing to work for the man unless they were destitute, stupid or politically motivated to do so but none of that lasts and nor will peoples tolerance for bullying or a bad working environment.

        I have worked for similar people before due to circumstances beyond my control and I can tell you that nobody respected them and productivity, mental well-being etc were at an all time low.

      2. said on November 21, 2022 at 8:56 pm

        Good luck with that… all the legacy crap and the awesome but awful backward compatibility is what keep windows getting messier and messier. They even keep stuff from the day of windows 95 in windows 10/11 code. Making a OS with that kind of compatibility is just beg to run an OS and all the crap of windows on top so it would be worse!:P

        What we need is a big reset and the modularity of unix can be a good share of medicine to that, being linux or BSD or whatever but anything like windows. I beg for a true base OS that is universal developed to serve all humanity, not to some corporate wimps and linux is pretty close to that from my point of view. Not perfect but it a good choice to bet; another choice will be BSD system.

      3. Chris said on November 21, 2022 at 5:19 pm

        >I would prefer a wealthy philanthropist to create a whole new OS that can run Windows apps easily.

        That could certainly be an excellent alternative solution!

        >Elon Musk, perhaps?

        He has a lot on his plate at the moment, but that doesn’t seem to stop him taking on more, and he certainly gets things done!!

      4. Anon said on November 23, 2022 at 12:36 pm

        Does he?

        Still did not produce ordered cars, queue is massive because there is not enough factories to supply all orders.

        Cybertruck was and still is a failure and telsa’s have questionable quality too.

        Hyperloop failed, he did not finish it he abandoned this project as it was impossible to make right now if not even in future.

        Starlinks just hit bottleneck for transfers and Elon needs to cut bandwith and speeds for non commercial and army customers because this sattelites just cannot supply such demand.

        He has great ideas and tries to make them happen but in most of cases they are faulty or just abandoned. But yes I need to give it to him that at least he is doing something and trying to change various industries. That itself is a great and positive thing. If not for him other companies would not even consider making electric cars for many years in future.

      5. Doug said on November 21, 2022 at 8:24 pm

        How ’bout that Hyperloop?

      6. zachw said on November 21, 2022 at 5:29 pm

        Musk will have less on his plate after he destroys Twitter.

      7. Herman Cost said on November 22, 2022 at 1:29 am

        Destroying Twitter should make him a strong candidate for a Nobel Prize for benefiting humanity.

  16. ECJ said on November 21, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    Satya needs to go.

    1. Leopeva64 said on November 21, 2022 at 1:48 pm

      Panos Panay needs to go, he was the one who pushed the totally UNNECESSARY Windows 11.

      1. Anonymous said on November 22, 2022 at 3:15 am

        Both Satya and Panos are snake oil salesmen, hence they both need to be dismissed. With the cloud and advertisements, they totally destroyed Windows.

      2. John G. said on November 21, 2022 at 4:18 pm

        Windows 11 doesn’t exist, it’s Windows 10.1 with a ton of rounded corners.

      3. Tom E said on November 23, 2022 at 12:56 pm

        Yep and linux a command line prompt with a look-a-like Windows ui on top. Including the rounded corners…

      4. Bran said on November 22, 2022 at 4:51 am

        People pay for Windows. Why should they have to pay to see ads? Especially in professional environments. One easy way to put this to an end is firewalls or DNSs. They can’t get through ads that are blocked. That ought to render their new feature obsolete.

  17. Anonymous said on November 21, 2022 at 1:32 pm

    Microsoft is no longer a toolmaker.

    Subscriptions and the sharing of data is what Microsoft is all about nowadays.

    Microsoft wishes it were an advertising and data collection company, like Google.

    1. MK said on November 29, 2022 at 5:14 am

      10000000% Truth

    2. Jamie Sylver said on November 22, 2022 at 2:16 pm

      And its not like every other company is like this?

      Gone are the days of data privacy and anonimity. Have fun.

  18. John G. said on November 21, 2022 at 12:08 pm

    – Please, do put the taskbar on top.
    – We can’t, it’s too much difficult.
    – Then please remove telemetry.
    – On top, have you said?

    The joke of the monday.

  19. John G. said on November 21, 2022 at 10:03 am

    Recommended: just install 7+ and Valinet’s Explorer Tweaker to make W11 great again. LOL.

    Each hell deserves each own demons.

    1. Mystique said on November 21, 2022 at 12:27 pm

      The problem with ExplorerPatcher is that one windows update could cause a lot of problems. At the least it could just rollback what ExplorerPatcher has done at worst your system could become unstable and difficult to resolve.
      So one would have to disable updates and constantly monitor the situation regarding compatibility otherwise it could get messy.
      I am glad it exists and that people are putting in so much time and effort to revert the stupidity of Microsoft.

      Startisback/StartAllBack is another great piece of software that is very useful that someone has also mentioned here. It comes at a small cost but it’s well worth it but if you find the cost is too great then perhaps Open-Shell is something you should look into as it is free and also very good.

      Microsoft would be better to focus on its core functionality and not attempting to reinvent the wheel. What is frustrating is that Microsoft are constantly tinkering with things, breaking things with half-assed efforts and then moving on without working on the current problem. Windows shouldn’t even be released in such a state with perpetual alpha/beta stages and depend on its consumers to clean up after them or be free alpha/beta testers. Stick your telemetry and cost cutting where the sun doesn’t shine.

      1. Anonymous said on November 28, 2022 at 12:45 pm

        Mic drop. Boom

      2. John B said on November 23, 2022 at 5:06 am

        @Mystique, Clone your Windows drive and disable all updates via O&O ShutUp10. Then when you want to do updates open O&O ShutUp10 again, enable updates, take care of business and then disable them again in O&O ShutUp10. Oh, and clone your Windows drive again if it seems to be working well.

      3. Trey said on November 22, 2022 at 5:52 am

        True. I’ve also found ExplorerPatcher nice but caused me too many headaches.

      4. John G. said on November 21, 2022 at 2:26 pm

        100% true.

  20. NotTrue said on November 21, 2022 at 7:34 am

    Not true. There are proposals ONLY if we want them – but can disable in settings without any issue. What about Amazon ads on Ubuntu in previous versions? Or latest one in even terminal?

    Sorry, I had ghacks on RSS reader but after this article decided to remove it. Its like propaganda

    1. Bing said on November 27, 2022 at 11:51 am

      Can’t read this article with the amount of ads displayed on mobile

    2. Anonymous said on November 27, 2022 at 2:09 am

      A removable Amazon link, designed to generate some revenue for an OS you use for free, is not the same as the monstrosity of ad machine Windows has become.

    3. Rufkin Sirius said on November 22, 2022 at 3:31 pm

      “wHaT aBoUt” shut up, lol. Please point me to the part of the article that says anything about any other OS than Windows.
      “iT’s LiKe PrOpAgAnDa” I bet you say that to anything you disagree with.
      Windows is a notorious pain in the ass with hidden settings that magically unstick after updates, telemetry guzzling, update forcing, useless services, and everything else nobody likes. Only thing Windows has going for it now is a few Windows exclusive commercial applications, and people’s fear of change.

    4. Tom Hawack said on November 21, 2022 at 12:20 pm

      @NotRue, if I were you I wouldn’t complain : the article’s title is “Microsoft is turning Windows 11’s Start Menu into an advertisement delivery system” when it could have been “Microsoft is an advertisement delivery system and Windows 11’s Start Menu confirms it”

    5. Gerard said on November 21, 2022 at 10:59 am

      What does Ubuntu have to do with it? Besides, there are enough other excellent Linux distros, without ads or other commercial manifestations and all completely free. What alternatives are there for Windows 11 users? Oops, I almost forgot, said Linux distros of course.

    6. Tommy said on November 21, 2022 at 10:35 am

      There is at least one ad in Windows 10 which can’t be disabled at all. The one that appears when you type Firefox or Chrome in search:

      Not all users have it, but I’ve seen it personally on someone’s PC and there’s no way to turn it off.

    7. Kekw said on November 21, 2022 at 10:10 am

      Microsoft had been adding ads since Windows 8. What’s so “propaganda” about that?

      1. Buzz Wallard said on November 21, 2022 at 4:41 pm

        Ads *are* propaganda. A presentation designed to *persuade* you that something is true. And that persuasion is driven by techniques of presentation rather than logical argument or facts.


      2. TooTall said on November 22, 2022 at 5:36 pm


    8. Trey said on November 21, 2022 at 10:05 am

      Ehh. The recommended items are put there by default. The average user won’t know how to disable them. They seem hardly optional and good for anyone other than Microsoft.

      Windows is so much better to use IMO with StartIsBack/StartAllBack anyway. Get back an actual usable app launcher.

    9. NeonRobot said on November 21, 2022 at 9:13 am

      Win 10/11 are telemetry collecting shite platform and you know it.

      1. Anon said on November 23, 2022 at 12:26 pm

        And what doesn’t?
        iOS has telemetry
        OS X has telemetry
        Android has telemetry
        Windows has telemetry
        Not all but many popular linux distros also have telemetry like Ubuntu
        Various smart devices people use like TV’s smartwatches, smartbands even toothbrush have telemetry and collect data.

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