Microsoft has followed the trend of other major technology companies in collecting as much user data as possible to ‘improve their user’s experience’ over time, but much of this collection can be halted with some simple changes to Windows 10 settings or even using a third-party app to do it for you, according to Make Use Of. Windows’ latest operating system has been under attack by privacy watchdogs since it’s debut, but a recent update in April added a slew of important privacy settings that provide more options to casual users that aren’t comfortable ‘hacking’ back their privacy.
If you are setting up Windows 10 for the first time, it is a great idea to take the opportunity to opt out of many privacy issues before they are ever turned on. During the installation, it will prompt you to use ‘Express Settings’ to get started quickly, but this will turn every data collection option on by default. If you aren’t able to take advantage of this step, then head to the Start menu > Settings > Privacy to toggle those options off from within the operating system. Next, head to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options > Delivery Optimization to disable your computer from using its bandwidth to share data with other PCs through a peer-to-peer network.
Cortana, Microsoft’s AI-controlled assistant, collects a significant amount of data from users through searches and speech recognition in a process they innocuously call ‘getting to know you.’ To turn off this feature, go back to the Privacy tab mentioned earlier and head to the ‘Speech, inking, & typing’ section. Remember that if you turn Cortana off, however, that any data collected up until that point will be deleted if you ever decide to turn it back on.
For those that are not as comfortable diving into their computer settings, several programs exist that were created by privacy buffs to do it for you. W10Privacy will provide a color-coded list of any privacy concerns with information about each item as well as the ability to turn them off. AntiSpy for Windows 10, another tool, comes with a default setting available with one click that eliminates most issues.