We think highly of Windows 10, but things haven’t always gone smoothly. From privacy concerns to buggy updates, Microsoft’s operating system has seen its fair share of controversy. It’s surprising, then, that the company continues to double down on its most annoying feature by keeping advertisements inside Windows 10.
Thankfully, most of these ads have simple toggles to turn them off within the settings menu. The steps below may not remove everything, but should tone things down to some extent. Microsoft has a history of bringing ads to new places and restoring "suggested" apps that have already been removed with Windows updates.
Note that, while there are plenty of third-party tools that claim to do all of the below (and more) in one click, I generally don't recommend using them. Windows 10 "privacy" tools may seem quick and convenient, but many of its options can depend on other settings. By using these one-size-fits-all tools—many of which dig into the Registry—you can make it difficult to troubleshoot why other settings don't act the way you want. You're better off doing it yourself, so you know what to go back and tweak later if something goes wonky.
The Start menu has gone through a lot of changes in Windows 10, but if pre-installed games and other live tile clutter wasn't enough to annoy you, Microsoft has now started including "suggestions" to lure you over to its own apps. If you use Chrome, for example, your Start menu may badger you to switch to the new Edge.
You can turn these off by openingSettings > Personalization > Start and unticking theShow Suggestions Occasionally in Start option.
If you have a problem with any of the live tiles that Windows has stuck on your Start screen—some of which are pre-installed junk or trials—you can right-click on the one that's bugging you, hover over the More option, and chooseTurn Live Tile Off. That way, it will merely act as a shortcut to the app. Or, if you want to remove the app entirely, you can right-click on it to chooseUninstall. Good riddance, Candy Crush.
The lock screen, sadly, is not much better. Microsoft has a knack for picking great photos to rotate through on Bing.com and the Windows 10 lock screen, but by default, they're cluttered up with text. Sometimes, these are "fun facts" about the location in the image, and other times they may be "tips" for using your device, like switching to Edge or trying to get you to use a Microsoft account (for those who just want a local account).
To remove these suggestions and just see a photo, head toSettings > Personalization > Lock Screen and toggle offGet Fun Facts, Tips, and More. If you don't see this setting, you'll have to change your lock screen wallpaper to a custom one instead of Windows Spotlight first. You can also prevent notifications from appearing on the lock screen from this page, and if the lock screen bugs you as a whole, you can bypass it quicker with a fingerprint or face recognition.
Occasionally, you may even see pop-ups appear in your taskbar, trying to convince you to switch to Edge or get involved with the Microsoft Rewards program. You can get rid of these by going toSettings > System > Notifications & Actions and uncheckingGet Tips, Tricks, and Suggestions As You Use Windows.
You may also want to untick theShow Me the Windows Welcome Experience option here, which shows those annoying tours after you update Windows, as well as theSuggest Ways I Can Finish Setting Up My Device.
Finally, remember that some of the "ads" you see pop up as notifications may not be from Microsoft, but from the manufacturer of your computer (e.g. Dell or HP). If you're being bombarded with ads from your laptop maker, head toSettings > System > Notifications & Actions and toggle off any manufacturer-installed apps that may be sending them. (You could also uninstall them entirely; just make sure they don't provide some useful features you want, like updating certain drivers.)
Apparently nothing is sacred, because even File Explorer has been infected by ads pushing Microsoft products. In its effort to get you subscribed to OneDrive and Office 365, the company now pushes these services as you try to browse your hard drive.
You can get rid of these space-wasting suggestions by clicking theView> Options in File Explorer, then clicking theViewtab in the window that appears. Scroll down toShow Sync Provider Notifications and uncheck that box. That should prevent ads from showing up in File Explorer again.
Windows gives you an Advertising ID that it uses to track your interests and serve you more relevant ads within apps. While you're turning off all of Windows' built-in ads, you may want to turn this setting off as well. Head toSettings > Privacy > General and turn offLet Apps Use Your Advertising ID, if you'd rather have non-targeted ads.
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