Microsoft has made a bad habit of introducing ads here and there throughout Windows, and now people are starting to notice them showing up in another spot: inside File Explorer.
People have reported seeing notifications to sign up for OneDrive — Microsoft’s cloud storage service — at the top of the Quick Access screen that comes up when you open a new File Explorer window.
Someone on Reddit reported seeing a prompt to sign into OneDrive back in October, which was a little more ambiguous — it could have been meant to help, after all. But a newer prompt is clearly an ad, with Microsoft displaying the service’s price and letting people click a button to “learn more” about it.
In an email to The Verge, Microsoft said that the OneDrive pop-up is a “tip” and that notifications can be stopped altogether if someone chooses. “The new tips notifications within the File Explorer in Windows 10 were designed to help Windows 10 customers by providing quick, easy information to enhance the experience relative to storage and cloud file management,” a spokesperson said. “That said, with Windows 10 customers can easily opt out of receiving these notifications if they choose.”
But while the ad can be dismissed, it’s still a frustrating intrusion. Operating systems have typically been ad free. You’ve already paid the price of admission to use the operating system when you bought the computer it’s running on, so Microsoft is really just using this as a way to push its own services and make more money, at the expense of a better experience.
The practice isn’t very competition-friendly, either. Microsoft is taking advantage of its place at the core of your system to advertise a product where competitors like Dropbox and Google can’t reach you (though they’d probably love to, if they could). Microsoft has a huge opportunity to reach people here who aren’t already familiar with cloud storage, and it’s likely determined that’s a worthwhile trade-off for the inconvenience.
Microsoft has been going down this path for a while. It already puts ads in some cases on the Windows 10 lock screen and in the Start menu and has popped up ads from the task bar, too. Back when Windows 8 was a thing, Microsoft placed ads inside some of its own apps.
Paul Thurrott has written a guide on how to disable the ads for good, so if you’re running Windows 10, head over there to see what to do.
Update March 9th, 6:20PM ET: This story has been updated with a comment from Microsoft.