Microsoft seems intent on making ads disguised as recommendations a fact of life in Windows 11, and the tech giant has apparently begun testing promotional recommendation pages that take up your whole screen, urging users to install Edge and other services – similar to the page you see when you first set up your device or install Windows 11.

Thinking back, I recall a few times when this screen appeared on my own Windows 11 PC after an update, and it caught me off guard as my PC is already set up to my liking. Like myself, some users would be greeted with “Let’s finish setting up your PC” automatically after a Windows Update had been installed. Before this, this sort of notification might appear if you bought a PC and set it up for the first time, but now it looks like anyone already up and running could also see it. 

Man sitting at a table and looking at a laptop, holding one hand in the other in front of his face and looking concerned

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Space_Cat)

A breakdown of the new notification in Windows 11

The new notification screens were spotted by Windows Latest following Microsoft’s monthly Patch Tuesday update in April 2024. As shown in a screenshot provided in Windows Latest’s report, the notification screen explains that the ‘set-up’ process will involve backing up your files using OneDrive, restoring “Microsoft recommended settings” (read: setting Edge as your default browser), backing up your phone on your PC, setting up Windows Hello, as well as getting a Microsoft 365 subscription, and turning on Phone Link between your phone and PC.

You are then given two options, neither of which is to opt out of the notification if you’re not interested. You can choose to “Continue” or select “Remind me in 3 days,” and the pop-ups will eventually return. Windows Latest tried the ‘Continue’ option, which led to a “Let’s customize your experience” page which prompts users to customize their Start menu’s ‘Recommended’ section. As shown in a provided screenshot, users would be given some control over the apps that appear in this section. 

If you decide not to make any adjustments you’ll be guided to a page with the heading “Use recommended browser settings.” The top option, not by coincidence, is Microsoft Edge – Windows 11’s default browser. This is accompanied by Bing as the default search engine, which again no surprise. Enabling these also pins the Edge icon to the taskbar and creates a desktop icon (if you’ve removed these). Luckily, if you’re not interested in using Microsoft’s web browser and search engine, you can click on “Don’t update your settings,” (which sounds like you’re getting left behind), and you can keep your previous settings. 

Woman standing in a room at night time with a backdrop of a city, while holding a laptop and using it with one hand

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff)

A closer look at Microsoft's promotional tactics

This isn’t the first of Microsoft’s heavy-handed attempts to get people to use its software and services, and not the first to be met with distaste from users. As Windows Latest points out, Edge already comes preinstalled, and it’s difficult to remove for users running Windows 11 outside of Europe. 

If you make it through all of these option screens and have any patience left, you’ll be met with more promotional pages for other Microsoft services, like the offer to try Microsoft 365 Family with a free trial. You could forgo this and subscribe to Microsoft 365 Basic, which includes ad-free OneDrive and Outlook, along with 100GB of cloud storage. In the screenshot that Windows Latest includes, no prices are stated – just a ‘Continue’ button. After this page, users are urged to set up Microsoft’s Phone Link app, which works in a similar way to Apple’s AirDrop feature, and allows you to access data on a linked Android phone on your PC.

Each page does at least have an option to skip that particular step and finish the PC setup process, but this is strange wording, because as I mentioned earlier when I saw the notification, and as Windows Latest stated while documenting this process, our PCs were already set up to our liking.

This has been happening in parallel with Microsoft adding ads disguised as recommendations in the Start menu and experimenting with adding Xbox Game Pass ads on the Settings page. I don’t like this direction for Microsoft, and if it’s not careful, it could end up annoying users rather than encouraging them to try out the software.  We live in a time when people’s attention spans can be short, but frustrations and annoyance can live in people’s minds for a pretty long time. 


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