Windows 10 is popular for several reasons including the criticism on some of its features that violate or threaten your privacy. Cortana, though highly useful at times, seeks too much personal information about you like any other personal digital assistant in the market.6 Ways to Access Windows 10 Boot Options Menu
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That’s not all, Windows 10 has various built-in sharing, feedback and telemetry features that share the user’s information with other parties — say your friends or Microsoft itself. Most people, however, are sensitive about their privacy and like to control their personal data.
That’s why, in this article, we’re sharing various tips and tricks to help you disable data spies, claim back your privacy and control your data yourself in Windows 10.
Turn off advertisements
Windows 10, like Android and iOS, shows advertisements in apps as well as on the web pages. Cookie spies follow you everywhere on the web and Microsoft displays personalized advertisements using your data collected from many such spies. There’s an option, luckily, to disable these ads and keep your data private.
Opt out of personalized ads
Microsoft assigns a unique, anonymous and user-resettable advertising ID to all its users. This ID is used to track your web usage and help the advertisers to display ads based on your interests throughout the Internet. You can, however, perform these steps to stop the tracking of your web usage and other data in the browsers:
Note: Do remember to turn on cookies and turn off ad blockers, else this option won’t work.
Disable Cortana & taskbar search
Cortana offers various useful services but collects lots of your data to provide you excellent suggestions and search results. If you limit yourself from using such cloud services and don’t want your personal data to reach the cloud (even anonymously), then follow these steps:
Note: You won’t be able to utilize Cortana’s smart features after you turn these features off.
Manage what Cortana knows
Microsoft stores all the information gathered about you by its apps. Contrary to one’s belief, turning off Cortana doesn’t delete the old information stored in the cloud. There’s an option, however, to remove the saved data, which you can do by going through these steps:
Disable Wi-Fi Sense
Microsoft initially designed the Wi-Fi Sense feature for sharing of network passwords with peers and friends, but now the password sharing feature is disabled. Its current function is to suggest and connect to open Wi-Fi hotspots within your range using the crowdsourced information. If you need to disable the same for stronger security, just follow these steps:
Note: If you wish to stop Wi-Fi Sense users from connecting to your Wi-Fi network, append “_optout” to its SSID. For example, if it’s “mynetwork“, then change it to “mynetwork_optout”.
Disable OneDrive Sync
Microsoft’s OneDrive is a cloud storage service that comes pre-loaded in Windows 10. This eases storing and sharing files from any device, but it backs up all your user data if it’s enabled. That’s why it’s better to turn it off if you’re not a fan of OneDrive and don’t use it as your primary cloud storage.
Here’s how to do it:
Manage Privacy Options
A few other privacy-invading features send data to Microsoft when you visit URLs, type using the on-screen keyboard, use apps, etc. If turned off, these less critical features will have small effect on the user experience hence, it’s better to turn off such options to improve your privacy in Windows 10. Follow these steps to turn off these options:
Configure Microsoft Edge
Microsoft Edge has data-gathering features like scanning typed URLs, logging keystrokes for typing prediction, integrating Cortana for personalized results and more. These features speed up your browsing and enhance the overall experience. It’s suggested to turn off such features if Edge is not your primary browser or you don’t use or require such features in Edge. Below are the steps to disable such features:
- “Offer to save passwords“
- “Save form entries“
- “Have Cortana assist me in Microsoft Edge“
- “Show search suggestions as I type“
- “Use page prediction to speed up browsing, improve reading, and make my overall experience better“
- “Help protect me from malicious sites and downloads with SmartScreen filter“
Disable SmartScreen Filters
Microsoft receives all information about the URLs you visit or apps you install — thanks to its SmartScreen filters active in Windows 10. Such filters block malicious sites and downloads by analyzing them, but in the process, your data also reaches the company’s servers. Though it is important to protect against threats, yet if still want to disable these filters, follow these steps:
Disable Windows 10 Sync
Windows 10 synchronizes preferences and settings across all of your devices. This means settings like passwords, language preferences, desktop and web browser settings are available on every device you sign in using the same Microsoft account. If you’re, however, not a fan of the cloud and don’t want your data to be synced, follow these steps:
Switch to a Local Account
In Windows 10, Microsoft account lets you sync settings, sign in automatically to the apps, sync your data and do much more. However, this also means that your data is synced online, apps can see your info and more such privacy issues. That’s why, if you don’t use the online account’s features, then it’s better to turn it off.
Here’s how to switch to a local account in Windows 10:
Turn off Location permission
Location permission helps apps and services deliver location-relevant information and other services like weather forecasts, local news and more. Though found okay by many people, some of us don’t want to share the location with apps or websites. If you too are conscious about your location, then simply turn off the location access using these steps:
Configure Windows Update
Windows allows peer-to-peer sharing for Windows Update. That means the peers on your local network or the Internet can download the updates from your computer. Fortunately, there’s an option to turn off update sharing and here are the steps:
Disable Feedback & Diagnostics
Windows sends diagnostic data to Microsoft’s servers for troubleshooting performance issues and improve its services. The data sent includes information about apps, memory snapshots, etc.
Though irrelevant, many people prefer not to share anything from their PC to any company’s server. If you too dislike sending feedbacks, follow these steps:
Try out Spybot’s Anti-Beacon
Spybot’s Anti-Beacon blocks and stops various data tracking (telemetry) features of Windows 10. This utility curtails the operating system from sending anonymous information about your system to Microsoft and hence, saves us from tracking.
Though the company claims to collect this data for keeping your devices secure and improving the user experience and services, yet many of us aren’t comfortable in sharing data for any reason, even if done anonymously. That’s why you can activate Spybot’s Anti-Beacon and be safe using the given steps:
Some finishing points
Though the above features are annoyingly snoopy, turning them off restricts their use and hence, you may notice some apps or other things requiring one or more of these enabled. In such situations, if you really require that feature or tool, enable the settings but if you are wary of the features offered by Windows 10 or want ultimate privacy, just keep them off.
Do you know any other privacy-invading feature of Windows 10? We’d love to hear from you.9 Tips To Help Safeguard Your Online Privacy
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