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The sign-in menu is the latest frontier for Microsoft ads in Windows 11

Microsoft Account sign-up prompts, now in the sign-in menu.

Microsoft Account sign-up prompts, now in the sign-in menu.

Microsoft is always adding new stuff to Windows 11, but some of those changes are more positive than others. Case in point: Twitter user Albacore has spotted new prompts in Windows 11 nudging users toward using Microsoft Accounts and backing up their files with Microsoft OneDrive. These have been tucked into the operating system’s sign-in menu, using an orange “pay attention to me” indicator dot like the one used on the power button to signal that Windows Updates are ready to install.

We haven’t seen these messages on our own Windows 11 machines, but Microsoft does regularly A/B test UI tweaks like this, even in the release builds of Windows 11 (some of our PCs have a new Search menu with the word “Search” spelled out while others only have the magnifying glass icon, even though both systems are running the latest version of Windows 11 22H2). It’s possible that this is only affecting some Windows Insider builds or a limited subset of Windows 11 PCs. This Twitter user also has a history of exposing buried functionality in both old and new builds of Windows.

These kinds of prompts aren’t totally unique to Windows 11 or Microsoft. Apple’s Settings app on iPhones and iPads will encourage you to set up an Apple ID or Apple Pay if you haven’t already done so, and Chrome and Android will do the same thing with Google accounts and other services.

A prompt pushing you to back up your files to OneDrive.

A prompt pushing you to back up your files to OneDrive.

But for Microsoft it’s part of an irritating pattern in which the operating system unendingly nudges you in the direction of the Edge browser and Microsoft’s search products. Microsoft account usage is also mandatory for the Home and Pro versions of the operating system as of the 22H2 update (though there are workarounds, including third-party tools). Results from the Microsoft Start service abound in the search and widgets menus, and you’ll be reminded on a semi-regular basis (especially after major updates) to switch to Edge as your browser and Bing as your search engine. And a long list of third-party apps from the Windows Store are downloaded and installed by default even on a “clean” Windows 11 install.

The company was even caught testing ads for its services in Windows Explorer, though Microsoft quickly noted that these ads were “experimental” and “not intended to be published externally.”

The sentiment is perhaps best summed up by the SwiftOnSecurity account: “What executive is going to stand up and make clear every interface surface doesn’t need to be revenue-generating?”

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