Please Microsoft, stop these Evil Empire tactics in Windows

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 17, 2023
Windows 11 News

If you have read the blog post about the latest Windows 11 Dev build, you may have noticed the following paragraph: "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). If you see one of these treatments, give us feedback on what you think:" (via Ask Woody)

Microsoft refers to the Start Menu advertisement for using a Microsoft Account, which it started to show to users of Insider builds of Windows 11. Microsoft started to experiment with OneDrive notifications in the Start Menu in late 2022 already, and has modified the messages since then. One of the latest iterations displayed an error icon to local account users to increase the pressure further.

One could say now that this is one of the risks associated with running development builds of the Windows operating system. Microsoft is going to try things to see how they do, and will remove some before the launch of the next stable version of the operating system.

Microsoft is motivated to convince users to use a Microsoft account. In doing so, it gains access to data and also options to sell some of its products to users. Several recent feature additions are clearly aimed at that.

The Settings app highlights OneDrive storage now and Outlook users may have discovered recently that they can't send or receive emails anymore, as Microsoft decided to add Outlook file attachments to the customer's storage quota. Microsoft experimented with ads in File Explorer, and with promotional messages elsewhere.

The company is quick when it comes to introducing these promotional messages in Windows, but often not as quick when it comes to giving users a choice to disable those messages.

Windows 11 has several preferences already that determine whether some of the promotional messages are displayed or not. There is the notorious System > Notifications > Additional Settings > Get tips and suggestions when using Windows setting, or the dreaded "Show the Windows welcome experience after updates and when signed in to show what's new and suggested".

Many Windows customers and testers have turned these off, either manually or by using privacy tools, but there is no centralized setting that deals with everything. The Start Menu promotions, for instance, require a new Setting, which does not exist yet.

Another annoyance: when users complete the initial steps of setup after installation of the operating system, they will notice that they can't create a local account easily anymore. Microsoft removed the option from Home and Pro systems. While there are options to create a local account on Windows still, most customers are unaware of these and will create a Microsoft Account instead, as they have no option to proceed otherwise.

There is also Out of Box Experience dialog, which Microsoft introduced in Windows 10. It asks customers to select country and keyboard settings, create the first account, make some privacy changes, and the Welcome Experience, which promotes certain Microsoft products. The latter includes no option to decline, only to postpone. If postponed, it will be displayed over and over again to the user, unless the option is turned off in the Settings app.

Closing Words

Regardless of Stable or Beta versions of Windows, Microsoft should give its customers straightforward options to turn off undesirable features in the operating system. These need to be attached to the dialogs, windows or badges directly, and should not be hidden somewhere deep in the Settings or missing.

Microsoft should not have an "anything goes" approach in development builds, and it should start valuing its Home customers more again.

Or, as Susan Bradley over at Ask Woody puts it, "Sometimes we WANT the choice we have gone OUT OF OUR WAY to select. If we wanted a Microsoft account, we would get that Microsoft account.".

Now You: what would you change in Windows, if you had the might to do so?

Please Microsoft, stop these Evil Empire tactics in Windows
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Please Microsoft, stop these Evil Empire tactics in Windows
Read why Microsoft should stop using Windows as a promotional tool and start giving users a choice to say no, all the time.
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  1. John said on April 23, 2023 at 4:01 pm

    I use Windows 11 PC to game with but I don’t use it for anything else. Edge is also now a bloated mess and I plan to revert back to Windows 10 ASAP.

  2. Tom said on April 20, 2023 at 9:30 pm

    Another ‘evil feature’: recently, Win11 removed the straightforward Win10 ‘Default apps > Choose default apps’ (Email, Maps, Music Player [Foobar2000 for me], Photo viewer [IrfanView], Video Player [SMPlayer], Web browser [Firefox])

    Now, ‘Apps > Default apps’ is backwards, applications centered > by ‘file types or link types’… Aaaaaargh!

    It is designed to make the user desist to let MS default apps (Edge, Films & TV, Mail, Media Player, Paint, Photos) reign

  3. LoneWolf said on April 19, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    It’s just such bad taste to put advertising in the core navigation features of an OS. I don’t want ads anywhere but most commercial organisations do some level of cross promotion. If it was an occasional notification, it would still irritate me but wouldn’t stop me installing Windows.

    Even worse was the pretend default browser selection modal that they snuck into the Android version of Outlook. The one that’s really just trying to force an Edge install. I shut down my paid Outlook business mailbox over that. Totally unacceptable.

  4. Terry guthrie said on April 19, 2023 at 7:13 pm

    Went to a customer house, issues with icons on desktop. Had office 365, one drive installed. Default was set to use one drive folders, not local. So all data was syncing to Microsoft causing chaos due to amount of data and upload speed. Two folders in user folder, local and onedrive with different files in each.

  5. TelV said on April 19, 2023 at 11:50 am

    If I double click an image in this article, or right click it and choose to open it in a new window the site downloads it to my machine with the title: “MSA-attach-WIP-blog-1024×541-1-2.webp”.

    Is this a new feature of your site Martin?

    All I wanted to do was to increase the size of the image since in its default state it’s too small for my old eyes to see properly. ;)

    1. Tom Hawack said on April 19, 2023 at 3:55 pm

      I downloaded the top image as ‘windows-me4HT8AX4Ls-unsplash-2.jpg’, 1200px by 800px, if this scoop may be of any concern.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on April 19, 2023 at 12:25 pm

      I don’t think so. Maybe it is the browser and its handling of the format?

  6. Landon Gaus said on April 19, 2023 at 10:21 am

    It has really gotten to the point where I really dread the future of being in the IT industry… I’ve always been able to work around whatever crap Microsoft tries to throw but I’m seriously getting worried for what computing basics we had for decades but are clearly losing and might never get back…

    Considering how most average computer users don’t know any better and won’t be offended at the need to constantly sign in to their devices with an account (because they have no frame of reference of what an era of computing open by default used to be like), combined with the fact the government isn’t going to do any kind of antitrust actions here since our politicians are so busy waging culture war and promoting divisive distractions to prevent other problems in society (like this one) from getting the attention they need to try to make an effort at being resolved, I think that leaves us with only one hope: enterprise customers…

    All the Windows 11 insanity took place with the backdrop that Windows 10 was still the mainstay operating system for businesses. It’s large business customers that have the largest sway with Microsoft in what can be accepted and what can’t. If there grows an organized and loud outrage to the path we’re going down when Windows 10 is EOL, they might listen. But home users are a group of suckers to Microsoft who are at their mercy and have no recourse.

    What does need to happen I think is that a lot of software needs to start being written with web based interfaces going forward, where the backend server can run on any variety of platforms and the users using the service just use a standard web browser. There’s a lot of thick client applications out there though which is going to be a mountain to try to climb over and why Linux is not a viable replacement at this time. Linux also needs to grow a whole lot more capabilities under the hood to be centrally managed in a workplace environment like Windows has been since the NT4/2000 days with Group Policy kind of features.

    If you are a coder/developer, do us all a major favor and concentrate your future endeavors on apps & services that can be accessed using open web standards. Private cloud, on-premise, public cloud backend doesn’t matter just as long as we start to break the industry out of software development for Windows-only ecosystems is the goal…

  7. Mike said on April 18, 2023 at 6:45 pm

    Not gonna happen. The consumers ain’t gonna leave Microsoft, and the broken government isn’t going to punish them in any meaningful way. (If the government had done so before, then we would not be in this situation now.)

    The real problem is that these slimy tactics have been normalized and become socially acceptable. So Microsoft can, will, and does just point at all of their competitors and say “but they are doing the same thing!”.

  8. dbareis said on April 18, 2023 at 4:31 am

    No one seems to have noticed that AutoSave in Word can no longer be activated without using OneDrive, WTF, I bought that app and they cripple it?

  9. eWaste11 said on April 17, 2023 at 11:26 pm

    How things function under the leadership of two snake oil salesmen Sayta and Panos, who have some of the most untalented employees in the history of information technology. What Microsoft did to Windows is disgusting. It is cheap, shady, and filled with black patterns. It’s time to file new antitrust complaints against Microsoft and fire every single person responsible for that garbage called Windows 11.

  10. Adelaide said on April 17, 2023 at 10:37 pm

    Haven’t used MS Start Menu in years (Open Shell Menu being far more customizable, and without ads), nor have I opted into MS cloud services. When Windows 10 is no longer supported, I’ll switch to Ubuntu full time (now dual booting). [Of course, even Ubuntu has its commercialization and drawbacks, such as push to Pro for extended support and dependence on poorly-maintained Snap (though one can still install deb packages).]

  11. deleatur said on April 17, 2023 at 10:00 pm

    What would you change in Windows, if you had the might to do so?

    Nothing. Too much work just for going back to square one on every update or so. Switch to Linux. You set it up just once and for all.

    1. Stuart said on April 18, 2023 at 2:44 pm

      “You set it up just once and for all.”

      If only things were so simple with Linux. Every time I attempt to switch, I last about 5 days until the lack of good software and broken functionality push me back to Windows. Sadly, Linux is a dumpster fire for my use case. Multiple Windows programs that I love and can’t go without either don’t have any Linux alternatives or the alternatives are worse. At least I can keep using the Enterprise LTSC versions of Windows, which fortunately lack many of the annoyances and privacy problems that regular versions of Windows have.

      1. ShintoPlasm said on April 19, 2023 at 10:57 am

        Even basic stuff like syncing music with my Samsung phone is a disaster on Linux…

  12. pHROZEN gHOST said on April 17, 2023 at 6:14 pm

    Another reason for me to move over to Linux.

  13. Tachy said on April 17, 2023 at 4:10 pm

    Note: In order to “give us feedback on what you think” you must login with your microsoft account.

    What I would change: Stop them from trying to be like Google.

    1. John G. said on April 17, 2023 at 5:07 pm

      I have made more than 70 suggestions and comments to MS feedback and I received zero answers. That’s only pure bull**** to maintain the users ocuppied waiting for nothing good.

  14. ECJ said on April 17, 2023 at 4:07 pm

    This is the problem with monopolies, they can do whatever they want as they know their customers have no choice but to accept it. This is why we repeatedly keep seeing hostile and anti-consumer moves by Microsoft.

    Don’t be under any illusions, Windows is absolutely still a monopoly on desktop. Linux is not a viable competitor as a lot of software – particularly business-orientated software – is only available on Windows and MacOS. Therefore, there are only two viable desktop operating systems and the second closest desktop operating system – MacOS – still only has 17% market share.

    I would like to see another round of antitrust investigations into both mobile and desktop. If there are only going to be two viable competitors in a particular segment (Google/Apple on mobile and Microsoft/Apple on desktop), then legislators need to reign them in to stop them abusing their dominant positions and creating an absolute hellhole.

    Users (both business users and consumers) are powerless to do anything themselves as they have no other choice. Therefore, they need to be reigned in through legislation, as they will not do it voluntarily. Self regulation never works with monopolies, as the temptation to abuse their position is too great.

    Until then, there’s not much many of us can do about needing to use Windows. The only thing that can be done is for people to try to distance themselves from all other Microsoft products as much as possible, as Microsoft have proven they are a company who cannot be trusted and are willing to abuse their customers to meet KPIs.

  15. Max said on April 17, 2023 at 2:02 pm

    What would you change in Windows, if you had the might to do so?

    #1 – Design a product to meet _customer’s_ requirements
    #2 – Sell it for an affordable price
    #3 – Keep it patched for 10 years
    #4 – Quit trying to monetize everything

  16. Davin Peterson said on April 17, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    The only place that ads are acceptable in the operating system is in the Microsoft store.
    There should not be any ads on the Start Menu, Settings or in File Explorer

    1. John G. said on April 17, 2023 at 5:04 pm

      +10 that’s it, ads in the MS Store, because it’s a “store” as the own word means.

  17. Tom Hawack said on April 17, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    There was a time when the best was to come when “Microsoft” was evoked.
    Now it’s the worst, always in perspective. Bill gate’s garage has become a financial highly-intrusive cesspit.
    Microsoft added to GAFA as last but not least : GAFAM = Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft.
    This is what has become of the Web. Privacy intrusion, always and always for the sake of big bucks : they could make “good money” reasonably but no : they are driven by the “always more” syndrome and the immense majority of users are left without any choice than to accept being undressed in the havens of those companies’ data-centers, their mind, face, body, lives are then shared with commercial and administrative entities. Far more than disgusting : revolting. AVOID GAFAM companies as much as you possibly can. Easier to say than to do, I know.

    1. John G. said on April 17, 2023 at 5:03 pm

      @Tom Hawack, I agree, these are real bad times comparing to W7 decade. Anyway the way is certainly Ubuntu + Firefox when W12 will reach the top of nonsense. Because if you all think that W12 will be better than W10 just wait sat on your comfortable chairs.

  18. Smorgus said on April 17, 2023 at 11:07 am

    Microsoft is evil company which never listen customers what like and what no like… And Windows 11 is evil crazy and bad OS ever.

  19. John G. said on April 17, 2023 at 10:47 am

    W10 is the last good OS by Microsoft (considering the modern ones). W11 is the worst thing I have ever had in my hands, nothing works as expected. Even Ubuntu is better, that is a must say. And I have serious doubts that W11 will be fixed someday, Microsoft will wait to W12 to remake all again (probably doing more and more disasters to destroy the patience and the souls of their users).

    1. Anonymous said on April 18, 2023 at 12:41 am

      Windows 10 is already spying on you far too much and you have to bend over backwards to stopping most of those. And then redo most blocking after every monthly update.
      The only reason to use Windows is that some more ezoteric HW manufacturers write drivers for their stuff only for this spyware.
      Running it in a VM needs a stronger/more expensive machine.

      1. John G. said on April 18, 2023 at 9:32 pm

        @Anonymous, W10 spies while you work, W11 spies while you do nothing.

  20. Refuse/Resist said on April 17, 2023 at 10:05 am

    Zorin OS 17 will be the solution.

  21. 45 RPM said on April 17, 2023 at 9:06 am

    Martin, thanks as always. It would be appreciated to have a tutorial on adding a Win 11 machine to a domain OOB. I refuse to upgrade even if they stop security updates because 100% of what’s “new” in W11 is adware, spyware and crap nobody asked for.

    Still, it may be needed and better to be prepared.

  22. F said on April 17, 2023 at 8:19 am

    Can’t think of anything to change that would stand a snowballs hope in hell of being adopted. Going back to Win 7 would create a happy place but microsoft apparently needs to know about me, and all of us, to earn more revenue.

    I have decided against going to Win 11 as the loss of privacy and customer sovereignty far outweighs any benefits. Where there are benefits they come from the software written to run in Windows, not the operating system itself.

    At present there exists only a half-way house for me: Linux, with a few Win 10 programs running in a virtual machine. This is essential for now as software important to my needs does not have a Linux version, and does not work under WINE. Arguments that there are Linux versions of nearly everything offered for Windows remain uncompelling as while there might be a nominated alternative the quality gap between them can be high. Hopefully future developments in AppImages and Flatpacks will reduce and then eliminate the gap, and soon.

  23. nealis said on April 17, 2023 at 8:01 am

    Same thing with Edge or any other MS product or service. For example Edge has a habit of turning on history sync by itself every version update.

    1. John G. said on April 17, 2023 at 10:44 am

      I work with Edge with sync disabled. Every new version I open my account to start sync and I revise the changes that have done, then I make some config if needed and when finish I disable sync. It’s easy once you make this as usual behaviour.

  24. Anonymous said on April 17, 2023 at 7:40 am

    I really hope the EU punishes them again for these scummy business practices.

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