Microsoft is testing ads in Windows 11 File Explorer

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Microsoft has started testing promotions for some of its other products in the File Explorer app on devices running its latest Windows 11 Insider build.

The new Windows 11 “feature” was discovered by a Windows user and Insider MVP who share A screenshot of an advertisement notification displayed above the list of folders and files in File Explorer, Windows’ default file manager.

As shown in the screenshot, Microsoft will use these advertisements to promote other Microsoft products, for example, on how to “write confidently on documents, emails and the web with suggestions for Microsoft Editor Advanced Writing”.

As you can imagine, the reaction to this has been unfavorable to say the least, with some claiming that File Explorer is “one of the worst places to show ads”, while others added that it was the way to go if Microsoft wanted “people ditching Explorer for something else.”

BleepingComputer also tried to reproduce it on a system running the latest Windows 11 Insider build, but we received no File Explorer announcements.

This can probably be explained by Microsoft running an A/B testing experiment trying to gauge the success of such a feature or by the company disabling it after visible user outcry.

Windows 11 File Explorer Ads
Windows 11 File Explorer Ads (flobo09)

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has added promotional messages to File Explorer, as in 2016 Microsoft also ran a OneDrive ad in the Windows app.

However, Redmond didn’t stop with File Explorer and tested ads pushing its free Office web apps into the Windows 10 Wordpad app menu bar two years ago, a campaign with protests from similar users.

The company also started showing ads for Microsoft Edge in the Windows 10 Start menu whenever users searched for a competing browser, prompting them to download the new Microsoft Edge.

Some of these tests also had unintended consequences, with Microsoft smashing the Windows Start menu and taskbar while testing a Microsoft Teams promotion on Insiders.

Brandon LeBlanc, senior Windows product manager at Microsoft, told BleepingComputer that “this was an experimental banner that was not intended for external release and has been disabled.”


Updated 3/14/22 6:48 PM EST: Added File Explorer announcement from 2016.

Updated 3/15/22 2:25 PM EST: Added statement from Microsoft.

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