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Compared to News and interests in Windows 10, the widgets offer more flexibility in customization. In addition, some applets have been added, compared to their predecessor, that allow access to additional data sources.
Outlook calendars and tasks can now be displayed so that the widgets can have a certain benefit in the work environment. However, mostly low-quality MSN news and advertisements still dominate the appearance of this feature. The photos from OneDrive that are displayed by default are not usually needed on a workplace PC, either.
Disabling widgets via the GUI
If you want to disable the widgets, the procedure has changed from that of Windows 10, both interactively and via GPO. While News and interests could be disabled directly from the taskbar's context menu, you now have to switch to the app settings for this task.
There, you can find the respective option under Personalization > Taskbar > Widgets. If you select Off, the taskbar will no longer show the corresponding icon, and the widgets will not open when you move the mouse over this spot.
In reality, however, the whole widget system is still active in the background. You can open it at any time by pressing the keyboard shortcut Win + W.
Disabling widgets via the registry
The same effect can be achieved by adding a key to the registry for this purpose. To do so, save the following code in a file with the extension .reg and execute it by double-clicking in Explorer:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
Disabling widgets via group policies
For centrally managed environments, Microsoft provides a group policy to disable widgets. However, it is different from the one used to disable News and interests in Windows 10. Admins who have removed this feature via GPO will have to repeat this step for Windows 11.
The setting is called Allow Widgets and can be found under Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Widgets. Set its value to Disabled.
If you keep the administrative templates in a central store and still use ADMX for Windows 10, you will search in vain for this setting. It requires the templates for Windows 11, which are not fully backwards compatible with Windows 10.
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As soon as the GPO takes effect after a reboot or gpudate /force, not only does the icon disappear from the taskbar, but the widgets can also neither be opened via Win + W nor activated using the settings app.