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7 ways Windows 10 pushes ads at you, and how to stop them

Brad Chacos | March 4, 2016
The cure for one of Windows 10's biggest headaches.

There are a couple of ways to eradicate the ads. You could open the Start menu and head to Settings > System > Notifications & actions, then slide the Get Office app’s slider to off in the “Show notifications from these apps” section.

But why only silence the notifications? If you’re never going to accept Microsoft’s offer, just delete the Get Skype and Get Office apps completely. The simplest way to do so is to open the All Apps section of the Start menu, then right-clicking and selecting Uninstall for each of the offenders.

Cortana loves Bing

This isn’t really an ad, but by default, all of the web searches conducted by Windows 10’s Cortana digital assistant send you to Bing, and there’s no way to ask it to ping other search engines instead. It makes sense—Microsoft makes Bing, and Bing serves as the cloud-based backend for Cortana’s brains—but diehard users of other search engines will be disappointed. Unless you hack your way around it, that is.

Firefox users have it the best. By default, that browser will show the results for any web searches you launch from Cortana in the taskbar in the search engine of your choice. High-five, Mozilla! Chrome users will want to install the Chrometana extension to perform the same switcheroo. In our tests, it’s not quite as bullet-proof at redirecting Cortana as Firefox is, but it’ll get the job done the vast majority of the time.

Branded

Finally, why you’re clearing house, consider turning off the unique advertising ID that Microsoft assigns you so it can track your movement across Windows Store apps, and then serve you targeted ads. This is enabled by default during a stock Windows installation unless you explicitly choose to hand-pick your settings options and disable it.

First, open the Start menu and head to Settings > Privacy > General and slide “Let apps use my advertising ID for experience across apps (turning this off will reset your ID)” to off.

Disabling in-browser ad tracking tied to your Microsoft account is another beast entirely, and takes another step. Open your primary browser and navigate to https://choice.microsoft.com/en-us/opt-out, then slide the “Personalized ads in this browser” setting to off.

But wait, there’s more…

…in terms of both ads and more Windows 10 tips. While there’s no way to disable the ads in Solitaire and Minesweeper (sacrilege! horror!) short of paying $10 per year per app—not even a one-time purchase, but a subscription—let us help you tweak and tune the operating system to its fullest potential.

After reading this article, checking out PCWorld’s advice on curing Windows 10’s worst headaches and seizing back your privacy seem like natural choices for your next read. Or if you’re looking to crank things to 11 with (now blissfully ad-free) operating system, our guide to Windows 10’s best tips and tweaks will show you all sorts of powerful nooks and crannies.

 

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