Breaking: Windows users in the EEA will soon be able to remove Bing and Edge
Windows users who reside in the European Economic Area will soon be able to uninstall Microsoft Edge and Bing Search on Windows 11. They will furthermore be able to disable (some) ads.
Microsoft announced the change yesterday on the official Windows Blog. To ensure compliance with the Digital Markets Act in the European Economic Area (EEA), changes will roll out to users of Windows 10 and 11 devices soon says Microsoft.
The European Economic Area includes all member states of the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
To ensure compliance with the Digital Markets Act, EEA users of Windows will soon gain additional rights that Windows users from other regions don't have.
One of the major changes is the ability to remove Microsoft's Edge web browser from the Windows operating system. Microsoft Edge replaced Internet Explorer as the default browser in Windows.
Microsoft integrated Edge deeply into the operating system, for instance, by forcing certain links to open in Edge, even if another default browser is used and preferred by the user.
Bing Search, another component that Microsoft linked deeply into the operating system, may also be uninstalled. This would restore the classic functionality of Windows Search and remove the ability to get web results.
Microsoft started to unlock more native Windows apps for all users of the operating system, but the removal of Edge and Bing Search will be an EEA exclusive feature.
Another improvement comes to Widgets. Introduced in Windows 11 in its current form, it displays information to users when opened. This includes news, weather information and sports scores by default. While users get some say in what is displayed, Widgets displayed advertisement to all of them. The option to disable Microsoft News and ads is also coming as an exclusive options to users from the EEA.
Microsoft promises, again, that the upcoming version of Windows will remember user defaults. This has been a point of criticism in the past, as updates sometimes would restore defaults. This was always in Microsoft's favor, as it might have made Edge the default browser on the system again.
Microsoft plans to roll out the changes that it announced on the Windows blog gradually. Many are also integrated into the November 2023 non-security preview update for Windows 11 version 23h2 in the Release Preview channel. Not all of them are enabled by default, and Microsoft says that it will roll them out gradually to users over time.
Windows 10 will also receive the changes. All Windows 10 version 22H2 and Windows 11 version 23H2 PCs in the EEA will be compliant by March 6, 2024 according to Microsoft.
Windows will highlight core system apps in various places. This has been done already to a degree. Microsoft notes that users find important system apps under Settings > System > System Components. The new All listing of apps in the Start Menu labels these apps with system, and search results will also label them system if they come up.
Users may uninstall all non-system apps in Windows, with the exception of Microsoft Edge and Web Search from Microsoft Bing. The two apps are only removable in the EEA.
Windows users from the EEA will also be asked if they want to sync their accounts with Windows. The prompt allows users to prevent the syncing feature by default while signed-in with a Microsoft Account.
Another EEA-only change affects application defaults. Microsoft promises that Windows will always use the app defaults on Windows in the EEA for opening links and files. This feature has been announced previously, but Microsoft has not yet launched it. Microsoft says that any file or link, including web browser links, will always open in the default app selected by the user of the system in the EEA.
The announced changes are major for users in the EEA. While it will take a few months before they become available, it gives users more control over Windows. Provided that Microsoft stays true to its words, users will soon experience less frustration when using another default system browser. Ads will also be reduced, if users disable Bing Search and configure the system accordingly.
All in all, it is a major change that is unfortunately only available for users in the EEA.
Microsoft notes that Windows determines if a PC is in the EEA during the initial region selection during setup. Changing the setting later won't move it to the EEA region automatically, only a reset can do that, according to Microsoft.
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