Ever since Windows 10 was introduced, Microsoft has been pushing through ads in its operating systems, and that’s obviously not changing with Windows 11. It started with the infamous Get Windows 10 app that would force itself upon Windows 7 and 8.1 users, often presenting misleading options that would trick you into upgrading. That was a long time ago, and today’s ads aren’t as nefarious.
Except when they break things. Yesterday after releasing new Windows 11 builds in the Dev and Beta channels (two different builds, mind you), Insiders reported that their Start Menu and taskbar were crashing. As it turned out, it was caused by Windows 11 delivering ads, as was reported by Daniel Aleksandersen, who dug into the issue.
First of all, Microsoft did publish a fix. If your PC is in an unusable state and you’re reading this in an effort to get out of it, this is what you need to do:
- Step 1: Use CTRL-ALT-DEL and choose to open Task Manager.
- Step 2: Choose “More details” at the bottom of Task Manager to expand Task Manager.
- Step 3: Go to “File” and choose “Run new task”.
- Step 4: Type “cmd” in the “Open” field.
- Step 5: Paste the following (everything in bold):
reg delete HKCUSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionIrisService /f && shutdown -r -t 0
- Step 6: Hit enter, and then your PC should reboot. After rebooting, everything should be back to normal.
That’s right; in order to bring your PC back from a crippling issue that was caused by Microsoft sending advertisements to it, you need to make a change to the registry.
The ad itself is for Microsoft Teams, and how it’s integrated into Windows 11. As with most of the ads that are injected into Windows, this should still pop up as a notification even if you have all notifications turned off.
While we know the cause, the bigger question that Aleksandersen dives into is how the Windows 11 shell can be so fragile that ads can crash it. Windows in 2021 has a ton of components in it that have to grab content from the cloud at any given time, from the Bing lockscreen wallpaper to Windows Update to advertisements that come from Microsoft. It’s pretty wild that when one of them isn’t functioning correctly, this could happen.
While your first thought might be to write this off as the instability that you sign up for with the Windows Insider Program, keep in mind that this happened in the Beta channel as well as Dev. Windows 11 build 22000.176 is a post-RTM build, meaning that if you go and buy a new laptop after October 5 when Windows 11 comes out, you should get an earlier build of the OS. What’s being offered in the Beta channel can hardly be considered a preview anymore.
There are clearly two issues here. One is that a cloud service can break Windows 11. The other is that Microsoft is injecting ads into the OS in the first place, a sure pain point for many. One thing is for sure; Microsoft isn’t going to scale back on its advertisements in Windows any time soon. Instead, it’s just going to fix the glitch, and if that makes you draw a parallel to Office Space, that’s fine too.