How to stop Windows 8.1 Bing Smart Search from targeting ads

Bing Hero ads in Windows 8.1 Smart Search

One of the biggest features in Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 without a doubt is the new Smart Search powered Bing, but there is one drawback though: ads! Now each search result may also display Bing advertisements banners. And if this wasn’t enough, Microsoft is already testing in United States a new huge ad format, called “Hero ads”, in Windows 8.1 that appears when you’re looking for specifics brand in the new Bing Smart Search experience; basically the Hero banner replaces the search results you’ll get otherwise.

Now, here is the thing, what most people don’t know is that when you do a search in Windows 8.1 (or Windows RT 8.1), you are searching “Everywhere”, your hard drive, SkyDrive, settings, and web results. And because Bing Smart Search is enabled by default, every term you type gets collected and uploaded to Bing’s servers, which later can be used to display targeted ads. — It’s worth noting that if you change the Windows 8.1 Search settings from Everywhere to Settings or Files; those terms won’t be sent to Bing.

The way I see it, this is like what Google does with Gmail, scanning the content of every email you send or receive to target relevant ads. Microsoft is practically doing something similar with Windows 8.1 by tracking your searches to learn what products and goods are more relevant for you.

I’m not against ads, but they could become annoying for users and it could potentially affect user experience on a bigger scale. For example, the new Hero advertisement can pop up when your real intention is to look for tax records, photos of your car or a home project in your computer. Fortunately, there is a way to stop Microsoft for targeting you with ads and it simply involves giving up the web search experience in Windows 8.1 — No such a big deal, as most of us use a web browser to do online searches, right? Follow these steps:


1. Go to PC settings.

2. Click or tap on Search and apps.

3. Under Use Bing to search online, turn off the Get search suggestion and web results from Bing option.

Windows 8.1 search settings

Stopping targeted ads

What about if you want to keep getting web results from Bing in Windows 8.1, but without being target with Microsoft ads? If this is the case, from the “Search and apps” settings, you can click the “Manage my Microsoft advertising and other personalization info” link. This is a buried privacy option that not too many people know about and it allows you to do three things: you can choose if you want to have personalized ads from Microsoft and from other companies, and you can also get to “Your data dashboard”, that let you control different settings about your privacy, very similar to Google Dashboard.

Once signed it with your Microsoft account, you can disable personalized ads in the web browser or when using your Microsoft account on any Windows device.

Privacy settings Microsoft account

You can also navigate to “Your data dashboard”. This page shows your profile and how Microsoft is collecting data from you. MY DATA tab is where things get interesting, there you can manage your interests, brands, newsletter, and in Bing searches you’ll find all the terms the software giant has collected from you, and from here you can also delete them one-by-one or all at once with the “Clear all” option.

Microsoft Personal Data Dashboard

Keep in mind that disabling all the advertising options from your Microsoft data dashboard doesn’t necessarily means that you won’t be seeing ads in Bing Smart Search results or opted out from the new Hero ads. This only stops Microsoft from targeting ads based on your searches.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].