How to Make Windows 10 More Private

Make Windows 10 More Private

One of the main reasons why Windows 10 is so popular is that Microsoft has made it incredibly convenient and easy to use. Unfortunately, like every big tech company, they too conveniently cut out on the user privacy department. The good news is that, with a little tinkering, you can make Windows 10 more private and we’ll show you how in this article.

If you’re reading this from a desktop or laptop computer, there’s a very good chance that your machine is run by a Windows 10 operating system. How do we know this? 

Windows 10 has a market share of 39.22% among desktop and laptop OS according to the Hosting Tribunal and a 77.54% share of Windows-based OS alone according to StatCounter, making it the most popular OS today by a large margin.

statcounter

1. Use Custom Installation

You’ll be introduced to one of these “convenient” features that we mentioned Windows 10 offers early on. Before you install Windows 10, it will give you the “Express Settings” option, which enables you to install the OS in a few clicks and with little effort.

This might be tempting, but if you want to avoid many Windows 10 privacy issues, use Custom Settings instead. It will take you a bit longer to install the OS this way, but it will be worth it in the long run.

2. Control What Your Apps can Access

allow access to email on this device

As you already know, Windows 10 comes with a myriad of different apps, some of which are quite useful, to be honest.

The problem is that these apps often ask to control and have access to a lot of things that you might want to keep private. While some of this will be necessary for the apps to function properly, other things are just there to collect data from you so it’s best to turn them off.

So what should you pay attention to?

  • Account info
  • Email (this applies to Microsoft Office email, so I would recommend using an end-to-end encrypted email instead)
  • Contacts
  • Call history
  • Text messages
  • Other devices
  • Radio
  • Tasks
  • Calendars

Call me paranoid but I don’t see a good reason to allow Windows to go through my emails, text messages, call history, or plans in my calendar.

3. Disable Location Tracking

While there might be times when you find location tracking to be a useful thing (for instance when looking for a restaurant nearby), most of the time you’ll want to disable this feature from your device.

Plus, let’s be honest. Location tracking isn’t that useful on a laptop or desktop. It’s more a mobile thing. So why have it on except to show your location? Better ads? I don’t think so.

4. Disable Off Ad Tracking

Speaking of ads, surprise, surprise but Windows 10 also has ad tracking.

Remember when we told you not to use Express Settings when installing Windows 10? This is why. When you do this, you allow Windows to collect your personal data, which they will then sell to advertisers, who will, in turn, target you with more ads.

Although both Windows and advertisers will try to sell you this as a “win-win”, it’s really a win for them only.

How to disable ad tracking on Windows 10?

  • Click Windows Start
  • Go to Settings
  • In the Settings menu click Privacy
  • Select the General menu in Privacy
  • Turn off “Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps” like in the screenshot below
change privacy options

Keep in mind that, according to Windows: “turning the advertising ID off will not reduce the number of ads you see, but it may mean that ads are less interesting and relevant to you.”

5. Keep Cortana Under Control

Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Google Assistant and Siri, your own artificial intelligence personal assistant there to remind you about appointments and help you make plans for the evening (or just tell you a joke).

As you might have guessed, Cortana can do this by accessing your personal information, including calendar, tasks, contacts, reminders and so on, all of which it (she?) stores on your local computer and in the cloud in order to sync everything across your devices.

Of course, you don’t have to be an expert to see how allowing Cortana access to your data is one of the biggest Windows 10 privacy issues that you need to deal with.

But guess what. Windows won’t make it easy for you to do this as they’ve taken out the option to turn Cortana off/on.

Fortunately, you can still control much of what Cortana can and can’t do via Cortana’s settings. 

To do this: 

  1. Open Cortana and enter Settings.
  2. In Settings, select Privacy under Account
  3. Once in the Privacy screen, you’ll be able to control “What Cortana knows about you”, revoke Cortana’s Calendar & email access, clear Cortana data and clear Cortana Chat History

However, that’s not all and there are a few more things you should do to restrain Cortana.

One of the most important adjustments you need to do if you want to prevent Cortana from collecting your data willy-nilly is to turn off its personalization. 

To do this, you need to sign out your account from the Cortana app. Keep in mind that this will only sign you out from that device and automatically clear your data on it, but your data on other connected devices will remain until you do the same on them as well.

Also, if you have Cortana speakers, by all means, turn them off. I don’t think I have to tell you what kinds of privacy risks having a device that is always listening introduces.

6. Control Camera Access on Your Laptop

Your laptop, of course, has a camera attached to the top of the screen, which is very useful for those Skype calls, when you want to see the other person and be seen, but otherwise, it’s a serious security and privacy problem.

Yes, people can spy on you through your laptop camera. That’s not something out of movies and TV shows.

Hackers can access your webcam using malware and malicious code hidden in downloaded files, so you need to be mindful of malicious emails.

How to prevent people from spying on you through the camera lens?

One of the easiest ways is certainly to tape something on the lens, but this won’t stop Windows and its apps from accessing your camera. 

Instead, you will have to go to your Camera Settings on Windows 10 and tick the “Allow apps to access your camera” option off.

allow app to access your camera

7. Control Background Apps

Some Windows apps will run in the background, collecting and sharing your data away from your eyes. 

Some of these are necessary, but for others, there is just no need to allow them to run in the background and you should change these Windows 10 app permissions. 

You can do this individually for every app by turning the on/off slider next to it under “Choose which apps can run in the background, or turn background apps off for all apps at once under “Let apps run in the background”.

Background Apps

8. Control Windows Diagnostics & Feedback

Diagnostics & feedback is a setting that is there more for Microsoft than for you. It allows the tech giant to collect your usage data and send this information back to Redmond.

You can’t turn this off completely, so the best you can do is to click the “Basic” radio button, which will “Send only info about your device, its settings and capabilities, and whether it is performing properly”. 

Guess that’s better than nothing.

9. Control App Diagnostics

While we’re on the diagnostics, some Windows apps will collect diagnostics info from other apps to function properly.

Most of the time, however, this is just another convenient way to collect your data, so it’s better to turn “Allow apps to access diagnostics info about your other apps” off. 

If you do discover that some apps don’t run as they should with the diagnostics off, you can always turn them on individually.

10. Manage Edge Privacy Settings

Manage Edge Privacy Settings

Despite coming pre-installed with your Windows 10, Microsoft’s web browser Edge isn’t the most popular one with a 5.83% global market share among desktop browsers, per Kinsta.

But for those of you that do use Edge as your web browser, you should learn to manage its settings to protect your privacy. 

In fact, Microsoft advertises Edge as “the best browser for shopping”, which should tell you something about their priorities.

To do this, in the upper right corner of Edge click on the three dots. This will open a new menu. Scroll down until you find Settings and from here you can clear:

  • Your browsing history
  • Cookies and saved website data
  • Cached data and files
  • Closed or inactive tabs
  • Download history
  • Form data
  • Passwords (never allow websites to autofill your password)
  • Media licenses
  • Website permissions

Simply tick the option you want to clear data from and then click the “Clear” button under them.

You should also check Advanced Settings, which will allow you to:

  • Block pop-ups
  • Disable Adobe Flash Player
  • Disable password saving
  • Set up your proxy
  • Turn “Send Do Not Track requests” on
  • Turn Cortana assistance in Edge off
  • Block cookies (you can block all cookies, or just 3rd party cookies)
  • Turn off page prediction (it really won’t make any difference when it comes to your Internet speed or user experience)
  • Turn on “Help protect me from malicious sites and downloads with Windows Defender Smartscreen”

Or you can simply avoid the hassle and use one of these privacy and security-oriented browsers instead of Edge.

Conclusion

According to Microsoft Story Labs, over 1 billion devices are running on Windows 10. That’s a huge number and other operating systems like macOS and Linux don’t come anywhere near, but as you were able to see, this comes with some serious Windows 10 privacy issues.

If you want to avoid these and protect your privacy while using your device, you need to change these settings to make Windows 10 more private.

Now make the next move in reclaiming your online privacy and sign up to CTemplar encrypted email today.