Microsoft is testing new ads in the Windows Start menu for users logged into local accounts as part of a ‘badging’ expansion. According to reports, the tech giant has been testing the feature since November 2022, and some of these “notifications for Microsoft accounts in the Start menu” are already being displayed to users with the latest Windows 11 preview update. 

The test is part of the company’s efforts to emphasise the benefits of signing in with a Microsoft account (MSA) for users with local user accounts. In addition, Microsoft is also introducing Microsoft 365 signup recommendations, alongside OneDrive suggestions.

“We are continuing the exploration of badging on the Start menu with several new treatments for users logging in with local user accounts to highlight the benefits of signing in with a Microsoft account (MSA),” said Microsoft’s Amanda Langowski and Brandon LeBlanc.

According to Bleeping Computer, the list of new treatments being tested in the Windows Insider build includes:

  • The functionality to sign in to a Microsoft account, back up a device, and keep it secure,
  • Free access to Microsoft 365, including apps and cloud storage,
  • Personalised security and profile settings, and
  • Access to cloud storage files.

Meanwhile, the tech giant is also working on adding an option to disable the Start menu ads from Windows 11 Settings app. Microsoft has also introduced a ‘gallery’ in file explorer for users to access photo collections on Windows 11.

Microsoft is said to be exploring ads in Bing Chat, powered by OpenAI’s chatbot GPT-4. In March, the tech giant launched an AI-powered Security Copilot, a new assistant for cybersecurity professionals.