Microsoft has been caught testing ads in the Windows 11 File Explorer

Windows 11 and Windows 11 displayed on two different laptops
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Microsoft has reportedly begun testing ads inside its products again as Windows Insiders observed suggestions for other Microsoft products in File Explorer.

Florian Beaubois, a Windows Insider who earned a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award in 2021, posted a screenshot on social media showing the ad for Microsoft Editor inside a preview build of Windows 11.

“Some people will go mad if Microsoft starts adding ads in Explorer,” he said, and the community has likewise expressed their distaste for the addition in various posts and communities online.

It’s currently unclear whether the feature, if it's included in a generally available build, could be turned off in settings, or whether Microsoft is seriously planning to keep the ads on a permanent basis, but Microsoft told IT Pro the advert was experimental and has now been removed.

"This was an experimental banner that was not intended to be published externally and was turned off,” said Brandon LeBlanc, senior product manager at Windows.

Some Windows users said if the feature remains, they will make the switch to Linux and others have expressed more emotional responses.

One Twitter user directed a message to Windows Insider’s social media channel saying: “Y'all better stop this nonsense now. If you want people ditching Explorer for something else, this is how you do it. Cut it out.”


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“Oh hell no,” said another observer.

For business users, there is a likelihood that such a feature could be removed using group policies set by a company's system administrators, even if the feature could not be disabled in the consumer-grade settings menu.

It’s also unlikely that most businesses will ever switch from Windows to a Linux environment given the operational complexity with such a shift, and other complications like training staff on a brand-new operating system.

Microsoft has a history of testing adverts embedded within its products and Windows 10 users will be familiar with the company testing ads across the operating system, including in File Explorer. Some users have also previously reported being served full-screen ads for free trials of Microsoft products like Microsoft 365.

Microsoft has also experimented with additional in-Windows ads as recently as March 2021, with Windows 10 users reporting ads in the Start Menu, at the time.

All of these features could be disabled in the Windows settings menus, but they have annoyed users who have become accustomed used to an ad-free experience in Windows in the decades prior to the experimentation in Windows 10.

Connor Jones

Connor Jones has been at the forefront of global cyber security news coverage for the past few years, breaking developments on major stories such as LockBit’s ransomware attack on Royal Mail International, and many others. He has also made sporadic appearances on the ITPro Podcast discussing topics from home desk setups all the way to hacking systems using prosthetic limbs. He has a master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield, and has previously written for the likes of Red Bull Esports and UNILAD tech during his career that started in 2015.