How an ad from Microsoft broke the Windows 11 Start menu and Taskbar

Microsoft Windows 11 desktop images

Microsoft started pushing promotional notifications on the latest builds of Windows 11 which is currently still in Beta, perhaps showing off how you can never really escape advertising. The promo was about Microsoft flaunting Windows 11's integration with Teams. However, the ad left the Start menu and Taskbar totally unresponsive by crashing the Windows desktop shell.

Microsoft later posted a fix for those affected by the problem. The company says that the problem was caused by a server-side deployment that went out to Windows Insiders testing out Windows 11.

If you were impacted by this issue, you can use the following steps to get back into a working state on your PC.

  • 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 HKCU\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\IrisService /f && shutdown -r -t 0
  • Step 6: Hit enter, and then your PC should reboot. After rebooting, everything should be back to normal.

Windows 11 users quickly started posting about the issue and sharing their own solutions to get past the problem on Twitter and Reddit. Most of these ideas disabled the computer's ability to communicate with Microsoft's servers.

As Daniel Aleksandersen, developer of Edgedeflector, over on the Ctrl blog discovered, the problem was caused by a small file downloaded by a Windows component called IrisService. Iris is a part of Windows Spotlight that is responsible for the Bing wallpaper of the day, lock screen suggestions, and more.

The problem was then narrowed down to a registry key that contained a serialized JSON blob, containing an advertisement for Microsoft Teams. The messaging and imagery in the ad were similar to the panel you get when a Windows account is not already set up with Teams, which ultimately caused the shell to crash.

Windows 11 will ship to new and existing computers starting October 5, as officially announced by Microsoft. For information about whether or not your PC supports Windows 11, you can check out our article on the minimum system requirements.

Source: Ctrl blog

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