Windows 10 Tip: Turn Off File Explorer Advertising

Posted on March 8, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 64 Comments

Windows 10 Tip: Turn Off File Explorer Advertising

While the Creators Update will include a number of important improvements to Windows 10, the escalation of File Explorer advertising isn’t one of them. Here’s how to turn it off.

Note: This tip is derived from the Windows 10 Field Guide, which is now being updated for the Windows 10 Creators Update. But this tip applies to the Anniversary Update as well.

I’ve led the charge against Microsoft’s advertising efforts in Windows, noting back in 2012 that the software giant cheapened Windows 8 with ads. Despite my warnings about a slippery slope—Microsoft would only escalate its in-box advertising down the road, I cautioned—Windows 10, sadly, was even worse. And now the Creators Update is coming, bringing with it yet another escalation of in-product advertising. Most notably, and most disturbingly, in File Explorer.

How can you tell this is an ad? The dollar sign is one clue. (Courtesy of Reddit)

(Ad-like notifications for OneDrive do appear in File Explorer in the Anniversary Update, but people running the Creators Update are now seeing actual advertising.)

To be clear, File Explorer is the Windows 10 shell, a core part of the operating system. So like the mobile apps that first bore advertising back in Windows 8, yes, it is very much a “part of” Windows, or “in” Windows. It is Windows.

This is a sad state of affairs. Fortunately, you can turn off this terrible intrusion. Here’s how:

Open File Explorer and then navigate to View > Options > Change folder and search options.

In the Folder Options window that appears, navigate to the View tab.

In the Advanced Settings list, scroll down until you see the option titled “Show sync provider notifications.”

Uncheck that option and then select OK to close the window.

Two additional points.

First, in comparing the Advanced Settings list in the Folder Options window between the Anniversary and Creators Updates, I see that the “Show sync provider notifications” option does appear in Windows 10 today. So you may want to proactively disable it now. (Interesting side-note: There are no new options in this list in the Creators Update; it’s identical to the current release. I assume this wasn’t all the shell team worked on over the past year.)

Second, the name of that option is interesting, isn’t it? It suggests that Microsoft will only show “notifications” here related to “sync providers.” Obviously, Microsoft only makes one such sync provider, OneDrive, though the Office 365 ad is obviously related since it provides 1 TB of additional storage. Would Microsoft ever allow third parties like Box or Dropbox to advertise here too? That’s the slippery slope I worry about. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that in the next major release of Windows 10, but I won’t get outraged about that unless it happens.


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Comments (64)

64 responses to “Windows 10 Tip: Turn Off File Explorer Advertising”

  1. Tony Barrett

    Sad times. For an operating system that has powered a large percentage of the world's PC's for over two decades - an O/S that was actually their to help the user, but still give them power where they needed it, now resorts to this. Windows is being dumbed down further and further as MS attempts to push users to a design and platform that only benefits Microsoft, and as an added insult, slowly turns it into an data slurping, advertising billboard - I assume whether you paid for it or not. Sad times indeed.

  2. gregsedwards

    If I could play devil's advocate for a moment...are these so-called ads set to appear in all SKUs or just Cloud and Home? I can't imagine something like this would fly in the Enterprise SKU. I'm on the fence about Pro, as it seems that SKU is quickly becoming sort of Home Plus for small businesses and solo professionals who aren't going to invest in enterprise-level Microsoft infrastructure.

    How is this really any different from YouTube suggesting that you should use Chrome, or Microsoft nagging you to use Edge, when you try to change the default browser? If you aren't interested, then you close the ad (ahem, notification) and go on about your business.

    In any case, then I'd say you get what you pay for. Windows 10 Cloud and Home are basically free (I know, I know, the OEM pays for the Home license, but it's effectively baked into the cost of the PC). And I'll bet the free Office and OneDrive apps occasionally nag you to upgrade to their value-added paid tiers.

    All free services do it. What do Facebook, Google, and network TV have in common? They're all free, and they all show you ads to make money. Just like with this site. You can read for free with ads, or you can pay for a premium membership and skip all that.

    • karlinhigh

      In reply to gregsedwards:

      What about someone who builds their own machine, buying either an OEM or Retail license for Windows 10?

      Advertising behavior like this is increasing my sense that Microsoft (and Apple and Google) no longer care about making tools that do what their users want. Instead, they are focused on getting their users to do what the OS-maker wants.

  3. Dashrender

    Anyone found a scripted way to remove this? Or even better GPO removal?

    • DrDrTed

      In reply to Dashrender: no doubt the next step will be to remove the check box so that it will only be via the registry that we can turn the ads off.
      I will feel more secure if such a solution were available. It's an unofficial way of allowing professionals to turn the ads off, as professionals are the group for whom changing a few registry settings is a minor inconvenience.

      And Paul T: thank you for this tip.

      • YouWereWarned

        In reply to DrDrTed:

        They used the time-proven "hide it below the scroll line" tactic in an unexpandable dialog window. Good enough obfuscation until the programmers remember where the registry setting is likewise hidden. My guess is behind the Trust Center.

  4. Bill Russell

    MS needs to focus windows on professional desktop computing, period - the best keyboard, mouse driven OS for the professional who really needs that. Jack up the price if they want. Get rid of the consumer nonsense and stop trying to bend windows into being a serious professional OS and a consumer oriented iOS-like touch OS. All this "universal" stuff. The tug of war is going to continue to pull it down.

  5. Barry Kennedy

    Are we the customer or the product? Get your shiz together, Microsoft.

  6. SherlockHolmes

    The question I have is: Will there be ads in Windows 10 Enterprise E3 Creators Update too? I hope not since I Pay 84 € per year for it!

  7. unfalln

    The gripe is not simply that they're in the system, but also that each new vector of advertising has an entirely independent setting to turn it off. I imagine users getting advertising settings fatigue.

  8. bpaul14

    I had the OneDrive/Office 365 ad pop up this morning. Strange thing is I am not in the Windows Insider program and I don't have a beta build of the Creators Update. This is happening if you are on regular old Windows 10.

  9. dbatools

    I had not seen the add before today.  Kind of ironic I read the article, opened file explorer to check out the steps, here comes the add.  So the timing was great.  I have now turned off the setting.

  10. windows_pro

    Thanks for the Tips! I found this Windows 10 Hardening guide written by a cyber security guy really good - also keeps Microsoft from flipping back the switch!

  11. SvenJ

    Have some acquaintances that seem to think this is related to how much you have in your cloud storage. While I have never seen it with numerous opportunities, they have seen it after MS started enforcing the 1TB cap, and they had more than, or very near 1TB used. The wording on the option could be a way for service providers to make one aware of getting close to full. What is a bit odd is there seems to be no way to buy more than 1TB of OneDrive. Can't find anything that lets me buy a big chunk of OneDrive that I could add to my O365 based storage. That makes that 'ad' strange. I do see Dropbox in that particular screen shot, not OneDrive, so I have to wonder if this may be an attempt to steal customers, not just a PSA for getting close to max capacity.

    P.S. anyone who has seen this at or over their storage limit?

  12. psutherland

    That's great, thanks for the tip Paul!

  13. johnpd

    How do you get rid of the One Drive ads that pop-up when you use "Save As" in Office programs or even in non-Office programs?


  14. MutualCore

    Strange I've never seen the OneDrive thing in File Explorer - running build 1607.

  15. RonH

    I am leaving this on. Right now I don't see this as an ad, but just a way for OneDrive to give notifications. I want to see these for now. If I start getting notifications for DropBox, I'll assume it is because I use DropBox as well.

    If I see notifications for Box (which I don't use), I will call these ads and disable it.

    I hope everyone is sending feedback to MS on this and not just commenting about it...

  16. JimP

    Great, so now we have advertisements in File Explorer - which nobody asked for, and still no tabs - which people have been asking for for years.

  17. Narg

    Other OSes do this and nobody complains.  Windows does it and it's the worst thing ever?  Why?  Why care?  Just ignore it and move along.  Stop it with all the "i'm so hurt" bull hockey.  Over privileged people just irk me sometimes.

    • Bill Russell

      In reply to Narg:

      Its a paid, not cheap OS and should absolutely be free of ads. If they offered a free version with reasonable ads like that I'd be more tolerant. If I buy a PC, I could have the option of full price with no ads, or a $50 off with ads or something. This is done by Amazon on certain android phones. But android by default has no such advertising. There are ads in apps if the developer chooses, but that's a given. Now iOS has a few issues like having apple music and the watch app as part of the OS, which are sort of like ads, since to use them requires additional purchases/subscription. Ubuntu had its desktop search set with Amazon as an option by default. There was a mini uproar and I believe was discontinued. (I use a different desktop so I am not sure).

      • Winner

        In reply to Bill Russell:

        It's also the stupefying lack of transparency. They "give away" a free OS, but then practically cram it down their unwitting users' throats. They don't EVER clearly say it is free because we are going to track you, we are going to start offering up ads once we have you.

        They aren't respectful of their user base, it is all about helping Microsoft survive in a world where they missed the mobile wave.

    • PeteB

      In reply to Narg:

      What "Other" OS does this? The core Android OS doesn't spam me with ads. Get a grip.

    • chaad_losan

      In reply to Narg:
      Everything is wrong with it at every level.

    • karlinhigh

      In reply to Narg:

      You are OK with this level of in-OS advertising, in a paid-for OS. Understood.

      Now, is there anything Microsoft could do with this that would NOT be acceptable? Where would you draw the line?

    • YouWereWarned

      In reply to Narg:

      Do you really want your earlier Viagra and Cialis searches documented in your file explorer? Or to have Cortana announce to your office that a nearby store has half-off boner pills today only?

      I think not.

    • drkmttr

      In reply to Narg:

      Don't cast such a broad stroke. There are plenty of people that complain about it with other OSes and for good reason. We get ads thrown at us relentlessly throughout the day, do we really need it in our OS too? I would be willing to pay to have them removed although it's a shame that it has come to that.

  18. jimchamplin

    How to write the "perfect over-reaction" style response:

    Insert self righteous bluster, threats of going to Linux lol, and old fogie talk about how Windows NT 3.51 didn't have any ads.

    Maybe throw in a few references to Playskool or Fisher-Price in regards to apps. Perhaps inexplicably capitalize it as APP, but importantly miss the point that it's just short for application.

    Here, go for six run-on paragraphs about tenuously related things including Android sales stats, the state of Windows Update, and the strangely meandering last season of TV's "New Girl."

    Finally, talk about how Windows 10 is the worst version because it isn't XP or 7 and remind everyone again that you had a problem installing it and your 90-year-old grandparents couldn't figure out why it looked a little different so clearly it's a huge failure.

  19. Darekmeridian

    Sad state of affairs truly sums this up. It cheapens the whole OS. I stopped using File Explorer a few years back when I invested in Directory Opus ( which offers a boatload of features and of course no ads, but it's still sad to know that this is creeping into the OS level.

  20. zybch

    Thanks for the tip. I got my first blatant ad yesterday and its nice to know I can kill them.

    And this was on a paid for copy of 10, not the free upgrade thing.

    I don't pay for a product and then expect freaking advertisements shoved in my face! You already have my money, piss off!

  21. RobertJasiek

    Terrible! Instead of providing reasons to revert the decline of Windows, Microsoft further accelerates it.

  22. Polycrastinator

    The language for that checkbox is definitely concerning, although my thought was whether other, useful notifications would be removed with that?

  23. rameshthanikodi

    I still can't believe they're not modernizing file explorer. You still get jittery scrolling when it's generating thumbnails and whatnot which should not exist in a world where literally every computer can do threaded multitasking, it feels like the performance of file explorer has fallen behind the rest of the system.

  24. Red09

    Have to admit I've never seen an Ad here before and that's with the option enabled but I'm running the Enterprise version.  I wonder if its excluded from displaying Ads here or whether it would display something else instead for this version of Windows?

  25. cyloncat

    Nice to know, except that I haven't seen a single ad in Insider Builds.

  26. jwpear

    I don't like the ads either, but bottom line is that MS has to make money in some manner.  Surely we all recognize Windows isn't free and it isn't free to produce.  MS isn't living on the iPhone gold mine like Apple.

    I can live with this sort of advertising.  When they start throwing things up in my face that I must dismiss to continue the task I'm working on, I'll start looking for alternatives.  The notifications they've added when opening a competitor browser, such as Chrome, are borderline invasive.  I worry about those more than the other forms of advertising.

    • Care

      In reply to jwpear:

      I like Paul's own solution: pay if you'd like to leave the ads behind. It will be nice if Pro has no ads.

    • Bill Russell

      In reply to jwpear:

      Paul mentions the slippery slope and since now on it, you can guarantee the ads will grow more numerous and in your face as time goes on. Windows is still in decline and so they need to get more and more aggressive to compensate. Tiles are a perfect place to insert advertising. I have only used win 10 a few times and don't know if they are actually doing that. I did notice on an Xbox 360 once a random video ad in one of the tiles, while it had a subscription to xbox live.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to jwpear: MS sells the OS. It was free to upgrade (not just get) for a while. It no longer is, not to individuals, not to hardware manufacturers who load it on their products. It was never free to enterprises. This should not exist save in a 'free', really free, version of the OS, and there needs to be a way to buy out of it. It should never appear in a pro/enterprise version that was paid for initially. In an enterprise there is 1 out 100 users that has the authority to buy anything that is advertised. Why annoy the other 99.

  27. F4IL

    This is undeniably a terrible state for the OS. It's really sad especially since open source, privacy respecting operating systems like RH/Fedora have no advertising, yet remain literally free. On the other hand, honest paying customers have to put up with the mediocrity introduced by advertising throughout windows.

  28. WilliamBlake

    A lot of expectations were made with Windows 10 , but such acts are hurting users like us who adapted windows more than two decades ago and right away fall in love with this technological genie because of its portability and height of its ease and user friendliness. After inspiring every domain which comes under "technology" from opponents like Sun and Linux (who started to work on making their platforms bit more user friendly) to revolutionary games who got swept away by the idea of powerful graphics ..... Microsoft has started doing things like this.... yesterday my file explorer pop up this advertisement stuff, confusing me that whether i am working on windows file explorer or have googled dragon city hack no survey