Microsoft uses your usage data to personalize ads; here's how to opt out

Similar to its predecessor, Windows 10 includes many ways to monetize the operating system. One of these methods is advertisements. Microsoft's tracking cookies (which are installed on your computer when you visit Microsoft websites) track your browsing in Microsoft Edge or your browser of choice. Microsoft logs data on searches you perform on your computer, such as searches using Cortana, and usage in certain apps. In short, you're being watched by default.

Microsoft then uses the aggregate data from your activities to customize your online experience and deliver ads that are more tailored to your liking across Microsoft's websites and apps.

It's understandable if you look at this approach and have privacy concerns; not everybody is entirely comfortable with the idea of any corporation, even Microsoft, targeting ads at individuals, especially when pulling from non-browser data sources.

While Microsoft does not offer an option to disable ads entirely in Windows 10 (that, in short, would break the internet), they do provide a number of settings to control how advertisements are delivered to your Windows 10 experience.

Before you can manage ads in Windows 10, you need to understand the different ways you can personalize your ad experience. In Windows 10, tailored ads are delivered in three different ways: personalized ads through the web browser; your Microsoft account whenever you use your account for Windows, a mobile device, Xbox, other devices, and through Windows apps.

Controlling your ad experience

Although, Microsoft has different ways to deliver targeted advertising, almost everything can be managed from a single place: your online Microsoft account.

If you want to stop participating on personalized ads, you can do the following:

  1. To get started, open your web browser and head over to http://choice.microsoft.com/en-us/opt-out{.nofollow}.

    Note: Make sure you're signed in with your primary Microsoft account. If you're not, click the Sign out link, and sign back in with your main account that you use in Windows 10.
  2. On the Microsoft web page, you can read more information on the company's approach on advertisements. On the right site of the page, you'll find two sections to opt-out from targeted ads. Here, just turn OFF the option to stop getting personalized ads in your browser, and whenever you use your Microsoft account.

Opting out from targeted ads on Windows apps

If you want to stop personalized ads from appearing on apps in your device, you need to follow the steps below on each device.

On Windows 10

  1. Use the Windows + I keyboard shortcut to open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to Privacy, and on General turn Off the Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps.

    Note: Keep in mind this process will reset your advertising ID.

On Windows 10 Mobile

On the mobile version of Windows 10 the process is very similar:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Scroll and tap on Privacy, and then tap on Advertising ID.
  3. To complete the process turn Off the Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps option.

That's all there is to it. Now you should be able to use Windows 10 and navigate the web without getting targeted ads from Microsoft.

What do you think about the Microsoft approach on ads in its operating system? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

More resources

If you want to read more about Windows 10, make sure you check these resources:

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

62 Comments
  • Illustrating these tools and settings is very good and illustrates hopefully that the user in the end can control a variety of their privacy options and not an all or nothing tack when it comes to their data in Windows... =[
  • Everyone can control their privacy on Windows 10.... Microsoft is not watching you and this is to make Ads RELEVANT to you it will not stop the ads. if you want tampons, pads, and pantiliners or some juice brand you don't even get in your country and about how this new Soap is amazing... well it's your choice, you can turn it off and be "happy". this doesn't read your local files or onedrive data you store. Microsoft doesn't care what you do in your computer, Microsoft is not a fat voyeurist on a couch with a big screen watching everything you do with a soda and a ketchup on his shirt. They don't even care what you browse on internet, but if you want relavant ads about what you browse you can always opt in.
  • They do scan your OneDrive, but just to make sure you have nothing illegal.
  • Microsoft does care what you do on your computer.  They care about it so they can make Ads relevant.  You're fumbling all over your thoughts like a complete retard in some attempt to discredit the other poster. Microsoft cares about as much as Google does regarding this.  As much as Facebook or Twitter.  That's why they collect user data and use it for Ad Targetting. Personally I'm largely over it.  I only have one Windows device left in my house and that's going to get replaced wiht a MacBook Air whenever I feel I'll actually use it for more than just mirroring video to a TV over HDMI (or decide to install the Adobe Flash Plug-In on my iMac), it sits unused otherwise. Microsoft = Google as far as I'm concerned.  They both operating in similar ways, except short of replacing your devices (as I have, 4/5 so far... so going great!) it's almost impossible to escape Microsoft's data collection and ad-targetting.
  • I've always had my advertising ID turned off, ever since Windows Phone 8.
  • Same here!
  • I'd rather see ads that are relevant to me than things that aren't so these things don't bother me.
  • Exactly.  I don't need tampon ads.
  • That's what I wanted to write. Thanks for already doing it :)
  • You might like that, I dont. And it shouldn't be enabled by default. This is stuff I really dont like.
  • When you setup your PC or Phone and do NOT use Express Settings, you can turn these on/off then.  So they aren't really 'default', but turned on through the Express setup Wizard.
  • Problem is, their idea of personalized ads it's very different than mine. Like getting constant dating sites because my profile says single, or pestering me about a product I'm not interested because I once made a search. Unless they get better at predicting what I may really like, I'd rather not be tracked.
     
  • Are you thinking of Facebook or Google here? I don't think I've ever entered a marital status on my MS profile
  • I get a lot of rubbish on Skype and Hotmail, not so sure about the dating sites, might have to do with Google as you said (I don't have Facebook). Still, I think the criteria they use is not particularly well developed.
  • I always seem to see unrelated ads from Microsoft (haven't turned off tracking ID or anything), usually for crappy games and things. Google do show me ads for things I've searched for, but usually I've already gone ahead and purchased and there is no way to tell them to stop showing specific ads (PITA) seeing adverts for weeks after
  • I've never had ads like that unless you view those single sites. I get adds like windows phone sales ir surface ads... Or what I'm searching on amazon
  • I get those while browsing spanish sports newspapers, maybe I'm wrong and has to do with Google. Since I got them using internet explorer/edge on the phone while logged on my hotmail account, I've always assumed it was part of that and turned it off. I don't get them on the pc because I have tracking blockers enabled. Maybe I should turn it on again and see what happens.
  • The first toggle on the website doesn't work for me on Microsoft Edge.
  • I have mine on because sometimes they give you pretty good ads with great deals. It doesn't bother me. It I get ads might as well make them more useful.
  • An important distinction here is that only your internet searches and browser stuff is tracked for adversting. The only other place advertising info is collected is use of ad-supported apps. Your files, and computer usage is not part of this, despite some erroneous reports floating around.
  • Seems above board. However google have been found to be secretly directing an extra half packet of data over and above this.... So it is worth keeping check
  • I don't have problem of there is one ad and well presented. But hate Microsoft if they would bring pop ups like on u tube and googleads. That's the reason I use ad block plus.
  • Thanks Nadella. Sooner you move to Google the better to everybody. Win-Win.
  • Ignorant person doesn't know this was in Windows 8.
  • Correct. This man Nadella is doing more damage than good. At least for the consumers. A free adware OS is not the greatest thing in the world.
  • Ads don't just show up in Windows, they show up in the apps of their free services, like News, Weather, etc. In apps like Mail, Calendar, People, Groove, etc, there are no ads.These apps are preinistalled, not actually apart of the OS. Some games like Solitaire you can actually pay a fee to disable them completely. 
  • The appalling thing is Microsoft the largest software company of the world is charging people for a game like Solitaire!
  • Yes! Almost as appalling as a baker charging for bread!
  • Advertising supports all the free services people love. It's not damaging nor is anyone forced to use them. But the success of free ad supported services from MS, Google, FB, and others shows its a popular model that people support & enjoy. Most people would not want to pay a yearly fee for every single service, since that would get quite expensive, since everything from email, to news, to messaging, and more are free & ad supported. Imagine the cost of paying for access to all the various platforms or apps you use that are ad supported?
  • I'm waiting for the day he leaves Microsoft.
  • @Maktaba. That will be a long wait :P.
  • Meh, I'd rather have related ads than ads that don't make sense if I don't get to turn them off, but once ublock is available for edge , it's an instant download.
  • Where is the powershell script that gives us the highest level of privacy? Microsoft is a piece of garbage in my eyes... Its is a sign of failure that they must compromise user privacy to get ahead. Sad, sad, sad. If that were not true, MS would make a single "off" button for privacy related matters instead of 50 different settings.
  • What's the Microsoft App/Icon on you taskbar? Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Thank you
  • So... We are being Scroogled, bring on some Scroogled mugs with the hero wallpaper
  • I'm not sure windows 10 itself has any ad's in it at all so this article could be a little misleading in that it's talking about ad's in windows 10 and microsoft apps.  My understandiong is that I I write an app and use add funding for it and use Microsofts Advertising framewortk, this is where the ad's themselves will be seen. Likewise with web pages. I'm not sure windows 10 has any actual ads in it (unles you count the app suggestion in the task bar, but that's a little different, at least in terms of what you could see there). If microsoft have a few of it's own apps that features ad's  - solitare etc, that's not the same as WIndows 10 having ads.  In the end, you wil still get ads and they just won't be targetted. The best way to not get ad's? Most developers who use ad's to fund their apps have either an ad free version, or an in-app purchase option that will remove the ad's.  Use them - usually it's only a dollor or so. I would rather not have ad's in the apps i make but since the app market is such that very few people are willing to pay, even a dollar for apps they use (and I am guilty of this too) there's often no other way of getting paid for the time it took to go and make an app. It's not all about the money for developers (if it was, i'd have quit long ago), but getting a few dollars from them every once in a while is nice and helps to feel that people appreciate the effort you took to make something. 
  • That's the point many of the people here are missing!
  • Great but I'd rather see no ads at all. If I want something I'll buy it, there's nothing these adverts can provide, for me.
  • I scrolled way too long to find  that comment... people once again are trying to defend the fact that they are somewhat tracked down. If it's Google, it's then end of the world, if it's MS, well, better have ads that you might want to see... I just don't understand that logic. I don't buy things because of ads, therefore I don't even look at them. As a result, I'd rather have unrelevant ads than being tracked. But apparently, that's not the consensus anymore. Once again, it's not ads the problem. I understand that some devs have to make a living, especially if they can't sell their app. What bothers me is the fact that ads are targeted because some information are being collected in a way or another. If I want something, I'll buy it. If I need to pay a dollar and remove ads, I'll do it as well. (that's why I bought the WPcentral app... even if I still see ads appearing randomly once in a while).
  • k, you have a point, however I paid for all my licenses, as I have always done, and I certainly can afford it. I can afford, and do buy, whatever I want. I don't go for freebies. I feel I should be excused from this grabbing if metric data on that basis. If I paid for a product I don't see why I'm effectively subsidising everyone else. And no ad will provide enticement for me. Unless they start advertising rolls Royce, the opera or something of that ilk. Guess what, they don't advertise in this manner, in blooming apps and on a bally os! I paid for an os, not to be some metric.
  • Oh, I also agree with you 200%!!!
  • But nearly every service & platform you use is free & ad supported. People aren't willing to be nickled & dimes to pay a yearly fee for every single service they use over the year. From email, to messaging, to social networks, to news, to productivity apps, and more. Just think of how many services and platforms a person can use, then imagine having to pay for every single one? Those platforms would likely not exist without ad support, thereby reducing consumer choice & competition. Especially since the install base would shrink, thereby making the fee increase if it wasn't supported by ads or a large paying user base. And the average people wouldn't be able to afford to have access to the various services, apps, and platforms they've come to rely on since it would get quite expensive paying for each ala carte.
  • I suppose that's the issue for me - I'm not on social media and I pay for everything, email, apps, games. I wouldn't have it any other way. This freemium model didn't exist when I got into computers and I dislike it completely. But that's just me. And I will concede I'm not the Joe everyman type. That said, I do believe that there should be the option to opt out of all this rubbish without having to resort to more esoteric methods.
  • I never even look at ads let alone click on them so there is no reason I need personalized ads.
  • I haven't turned off advertiser id in windows, but the one annoying thing about google adverts is they always show me products I already researched purchased - Would like a way to at least tell them to stop showing a specific ad. I haven't really noticed ads from Microsoft being particularly tailored within apps or anything
  • This might help http://www.networkadvertising.org/  
  • In the new Windows Central UWP app can we have a toggle to disable those click trader links (or something like that), I'm worried they enable us to be tracked ;) /tongueincheek
  • Lmao, mine must be off then, elsewise I would probably have been flooded with,ermmm, ads with very scantily clad ladies in them, hahaha
  • I have no problems with this so I won't out. The opposite of what happens with Google.
  • Won't be updating to windows 10 no matter how many times MS nags and begs me. I tried it and it sucks. Mobile is even worse. We're talking Pre-alpha at best.
  • You should upgrade once to claim your free offer
  • Ok
  • Also, turn off Bing history, and edit your privacy settings in Skype desktop under it's privacy settings.
  • If you didn't experienced pre Google internet, it's OK to think that targeted content is somehow bad. But if you did suffer altavista search result and you still think that google is bad for you, I think you should unplug yourself from net and go back to TV.
  • TV?
    Lol, best unplug everything that uses any form of analytics :P.
  • Wow, some of the comments here... are just too funny.
  • Ok, you have a point, however I paid for all my licenses, as I have always done, and I certainly can afford it. I can afford, and do buy, whatever I want. I don't go for freebies. I feel I should be excused from this grabbing if metric data on that basis. If I paid for a product I don't see why I'm effectively subsidising everyone else. And no ad will provide enticement for me. Unless they start advertising rolls Royce, the opera or something of that ilk. Guess what, they don't advertise in this manner, in blooming apps and on a bally os! I paid for an os, not to be some metric.
  • You paid for windows 10?  I've got a bridge with your name on it.
  • Do you live under it? Enterprise licenses are not free.
  • What is everyone's beef with tampon ads?
  • When in India?