Skip to main content

Microsoft is adding a controversial app to Windows 11

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 sitting on a table.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

A new Windows 11 build is rolling out in Microsoft’s Beta channel, and it includes an app that’s been caught up in some controversy. Build 22635.3646 includes the PC Manager app for devices in China by default. This app is already available through the Microsoft Store, but the update suggests the app might be part of Windows 11 more broadly soon.

PC Manager falls in the category of “system optimizers” along the lines of the  Razer Cortex Game Booster. It cleans out temporary files, frees memory that’s not being used, and digs deep into your hard drive to clean out unused files. According to Microsoft, it can even “reduce ads and app pop-up interruptions.” An system optimizer from Microsoft sounds great as an official release in Windows 11.

The problem is that PC Manager has already been caught up in some controversy. Neowin discovered that the app includes affiliate links, including tracking, to Chinese utilities that add functionality to Microsoft Word and Powerpoint. Another user on Reddit found that the app would revert your default start page in the Edge browser to Bing — something Microsoft has attempted to sway users into doing dozens of times before.

PC Manager suggesting to use Bing as default search engine.
Judy Sanhz / Digital Trends

This type of sneaky intrusion is expected out of free software you pick up any random place online, but this is an official Microsoft app available though the Microsoft Store. It’s seen a string of problems, too. About a week ago, the app received a number of one-star reviews after a Windows Update automatically uninstalled PC Manager and rendered it inaccessible through the Microsoft Store. On the PC Manager subreddit, another user posted three days ago that the app showed a pop-up once per session, at least, that asked them to start PC Manager after they uninstalled the app. So much for reducing “app pop-up interruptions.”

At this time, PC Manager is only a default app in China, and only for this new Windows 11 build in the Beta channel. However, Microsoft tests builds there for a wider release. It’s a clear sign that Microsoft intends to include PC Manager as a default app in Windows 11, at least in China, and perhaps even globally in the future.

The new PC Manager app on a Windows 11 desktop

That’s not inherently a bad thing. There are dozens of these system optimization apps that do more harm than good to your PC, so an official take from Microsoft could keep unsuspecting users safe from these dubious downloads. If it’s just another way for Microsoft to get users onto Edge and Bing, as well as redirect them to affiliate services, then it’s not worth whatever performance bump it can offer.

Editors' Recommendations

Jacob Roach
Lead Reporter, PC Hardware
Jacob Roach is the lead reporter for PC hardware at Digital Trends. In addition to covering the latest PC components, from…
If you use a VPN, don’t skip this important Windows 11 update
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 rear view showing lid and logo.

It's not you; Windows is causing the issues this time. If the VPN on your Windows 11 or Windows 10 computer is having a hard time connecting, it is likely because of Microsoft's April security updates for Windows 11 (KB5036893 for) and Windows 10 (KB5036892), which have been reported to be the cause of the problems.

But there's good news. According to Microsoft, a patch is now available to fix the VPN problems users are experiencing.

Read more
A massive Windows 11 AI feature may launch next week despite privacy concerns
Privacy settings in Windows 11.

Windows 11 continues to build a large toolset of AI features, but the one rumored to soon launch may be the biggest change yet -- especially when it comes to your PC's privacy. Windows Latest reports that in Build 26212, the Windows 11 AI integration is named Recall and can be found on the Privacy & Security page in settings (via Albacore on X).

The concern is due to its privacy toggle. According to the latest build, you can record everything on your screen to help you better find something you were working on or searching for. The positive side is that it can help you find the report you edited when you can't remember where you saved it by accessing the timeline interface. It will also help users with their browsing history. For example, if you searched for how to use WhatsApp Web, but can't remember which browser you used or what site the information was on, AI Explorer (or Recall, as it may be named) can find the information for you.

Read more
Windows 11 may bring Live Tiles back from the dead — sort of
windows 8 1 everything you need to know live tiles

The latest Windows 11 Canary build 26212 has quietly introduced support for what is being called "Start Menu Companions." These are small widget-like apps designed to appear alongside your pinned apps or the "All apps" list in the Start Menu.

By the looks of it, these companions would offer at-a-glance information such as weather updates, stock prices, and more. And yes, they share a lot in common with the now-defunct Live Tiles feature from previous versions of Windows. They lack the bright colors and blocky shapes, but they would function in a very similar way.

Read more