Microsoft has never won any awards for protecting users’ privacy. But Windows 10 — the OS that “is spying on almost everything you do,” to quote from one article in the IT press — makes staying private harder than ever. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to mitigate the problem and improve security in Windows 10.
To detail everything that users can do to protect their privacy in Windows 10 would almost require writing a book — which someone will probably do sooner or later. But, in the meantime, here are some easy and basic steps users can take that will make the Windows 10 privacy situation much better, if not perfect:
- If you’re the one installing Windows 10 or upgrading to — meaning it doesn’t come already pre-installed on your computer — be sure to choose to “Customize settings” during the installation or upgrade process. Doing so will allow you to review and opt out of various features that involve transmitting your data to Microsoft, like system error reporting and “page prediction” in your Web browser.
- If you didn’t install Windows 10 yourself, use the Settings app to disable all of the features in the “Privacy” tab that you won’t use. Many of these features require sharing information with Microsoft or other computers.
- Also using the Settings app, navigate to the “Network and Internet” tab, then select “Wi-Fi.” In the right window pane, click “Manage Wi-Fi Settings” and disable the Wi-Fi Sense features. This will ensure that Windows does not automatically connect to wifi hotspots without your knowledge and share information from your online accounts, features that Microsoft senselessly decided to enable by default in Windows 10.
- If you don’t want Windows to use your computer and bandwidth to help deliver updates in a distributed, torrent-like fashion, open the Settings app and navigate to Updates & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options > Choose how updates are delivered. Then disable the feature for sharing updates over the network.
- Create a local user account, rather than an online Microsoft one, and use that when working in Windows 10. You can do this when setting up Windows 10, or you can create a new account on a system that is already installed. If you use a Microsoft account, Windows will upload your personal data to Microsoft’s servers and share it with your other devices. That’s convenient, but if you’re reading this blog, chances are good that security and privacy trump convenience, for your money.
- Navigate to https://choice.microsoft.com/en-us/opt-out and disable personalized ads. This actually applies to any operating system, so you may have done it already, but it’s worth checking when you are tweaking Windows 10 for privacy.
Again, there’s plenty more we could write about security and privacy optimization in Windows 10. But we hope this is useful for starters.