I have been using Windows 11 for about a month, and overall, I really like it. From the installation to the setup to the ongoing user experience, it seems obvious to me a lot of lessons and corrections were made from the PR-nightmare of the Windows 10 production cycle.
But one feature that annoys me, and unfortunately it could be an amazing part of Windows 11 if a (hopefully) simple fix was made. If you are already using Windows 11, you may have guessed that I am referring to Widgets. Specifically the “interests” a.k.a. news feed that is plastered into the Widgets real estate for which there is no way to get rid of.
Here is an example of what Widgets looks like. Widgets is on by default in Windows 11. You can turn off Widgets completely by right-clicking the Taskbar, choosing Taskbar settings, and clicking the Widgets slider to Off under Taskbar items.
Let me be clear upfront: I want the option to completely turn off all “interests” in Windows 11. I do not want any spam articles from the Internet floating to my computer via Widgets, even for categories I may have an actual interest in. The irony is that if I was able to completely turn it off, I may be inclined, eventually, to leverage it in a limited fashion for, yes, my interests. A similar feature is available on my MacBook via MacOS, where I can specify keywords for articles to appear in the popup news feed. On the Mac, though, I have complete control over whether or not the feed is shown, and what appears in the feed.
Here is a great example of a really cool feature from Microsoft, with a lot of potential, that appears ruined by a bad design or marketing decision. For within Widgets you can place truly useful information like your local weather and stock trackers. But the “interests” feed is so annoying that it negates these benefits.
I tried turning “interests” off. If you select the dot menu on any article in its upper-right, there is popup selection for Manage interests:
Selecting Manage interests takes you to an actual webpage linked to your Microsoft account:
As you can see above, there is no explicit option to outright tell Microsoft, “I don’t want any ‘interests’ to appear in Widgets!” There are options to prioritize certain feeds. And from Widgets (see the prior image) there are options for “More/Fewer stories like this” but again, that does not allow for “interests” to be completely shut down.
There is a Notification menu on the Microsoft account web page (see above). If you click on it, there are some promising options:
Options to turn off Windows 11 “interests”?
I played with these settings, but nothing impacts the Widgets feed at all, as I still got the same random news spam, and I also tried waiting/reboots to find out if anything might take affect after a short duration.
So for now, my Windows 11 experience has Widgets turned off completely. If a future Windows update allows “interests” to be turned off, I will gladly add Widgets back to my Taskbar for weather, stock updates, and any other future neat ideas that utilize the clever desktop space.
…but am I missing something? Do you know of a way to use Windows 11 Widgets and also shut off “interests”? If you do, please leave a comment below!