Microsoft tests new Start Menu features (And Ads) in Windows 11 Beta

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Earlier this year, Microsoft began testing an account notification system for the Start Menu. This test is expanded in the new Beta build, which allows you to see the services associated with your Microsoft account after clicking your Start Menu profile picture. It’s a quick and easy way to check your remaining OneDrive storage, or even the expiry date of your Game Pass subscription.

Microsoft may also use the Start Menu account management popup to serve security suggestions. In one screenshot, the popup asks to set up a recovery email address.

Speaking of email, this Beta release lets Gmail users email themselves from the Windows 11 share menu. It’s a handy little feature that used to require an Outlook, Live, or Hotmail address.

It ain’t Windows 11 if it doesn’t contain ads. So, Microsoft is sticking a new “Game Pass recommendation card” to the Settings home page. This advertisement will only appear if you “actively play games on your PC” while signed into Windows with your Microsoft account.

Additionally, Microsoft is testing some Widgets improvements in the new Beta build. Insiders can now switch between a collection of widget dashboards—there’s the basic Discover dashboard, a simpler widgets-only board, and new custom widget boards made by third-party developers. The third-party dashboards may be used for specialized tasks and can send notifications to users. However, the beta widgets functionality is only offered to Beta testers in the European Economic Area. A wider rollout will come at a later date.

To reiterate, these changes are exclusive to the Beta channel. Microsoft has also updated the Canary channel, but it doesn’t include any major changes. The Dev channel remains unchanged.

Note that Windows 11 24H2 is still slated for Q3 2024 (September, most likely). The 24H2 update will probably be based on the current Dev release (v26100), meaning that it may not include any of the new features mentioned in this article. Windows Insiders can manually update to the latest Beta build. These releases are automatically installed if you enable “get the latest updates as soon as they’re available” in Settings. If you want to test the latest Windows 11 features, join the Beta channel.

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