Most of Microsoft’s intrusive ads can be disabled, writes Patrick Marshall, who provides a step-by-step solution. He also has some advice for users on problems with sleep mode and theme syncing.

Share story

Q: Ever since my computer upgraded to Windows 10, I’ve been irritated by all kinds of advertisements that pop up, mostly for Microsoft’s own products. How can I get rid of these?

— B. Austin

A: I hear you. I think that Microsoft has gone too far with intrusive ads. Fortunately, we can get rid of most of them, though it takes several steps.

The first thing most users will notice is the lock-screen ads, which appear when you’ve been away from your computer long enough to require you to log in again. To get rid of them, click the Start button and then the Settings icon. Next, launch the Personalization utility and click on the Lock Screen option. Finally, turn off the item labeled “Get fun facts, tips and more from Windows and Cortana on your lock screen.”

Most Read Business Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Microsoft also has helpfully infected your Start menu with suggestions that you download apps from the Windows Store. The setting to disable these suggestions is found just two menu items down from the lock-screen control. In the Personalization utility, click on Start and then turn off the item labeled “Occasionally show suggestions in Start.”

You may also be getting pop-up ads suggesting that you subscribe to Office or to Skype, two products owned by Microsoft. You may get these ads even if you already have those applications installed.

The easiest way to get rid of them is to go to the Start menu and scroll down the list of applications until you see “Get Office” and “Get Skype.” Right-click on each and select “Uninstall.”

Q: The “power scheme” for my computer seems to magically change from my selected custom plan to the Windows generic “Balanced Plan” on its own, causing the computer to go into the sleep mode at any time and without warning when I leave the computer for a few minutes.

I have searched the internet for a solution and see that there are many, many entries about this very problem. However, none of the suggested solutions seem to offer or have found a solution that stops the computer from changing the power plan.

— Scott Hayes

A: The most likely cause of this issue is that your computer’s BIOS — the software that controls the computer’s input and output — needs updating to work properly with your version of Windows. You would do this by going to the computer manufacturer’s website and seeing if there is an update for your model.

It’s also possible that other software utilities that came with your computer — or even a third-party program, such as an anti-virus program — may be conflicting with the power plan. If that’s the case, finding the culprit will be much more difficult. But the place to start is by contacting your computer’s manufacturer.

Q: I will be working on the computer doing my normal stuff and the hard drive will be buzzing along. All of a sudden, I get a pop-up that says “This theme cannot be applied to the desktop.” I never had it on Windows 7; it is only showing up on Windows 10.

I hope you can tell me how to eliminate the problem.

— Lib Patricelli

A: I’m figuring you have syncing of themes turned on — a feature designed to ensure that your various devices all have the same display theme — and that the OS is having trouble doing so.

If all you want is to get rid of that message, try this: Click on the Start button and select the Settings icon (the one that looks like a gear). Select Accounts and then click on “Sync your settings.” Finally, slide the slider under Theme to “Off.”