black notebook keyboard via unsplash

This article was contributed by Elaine Foster who is an independent business and market strategies consultant working primarily with technology and start-up phase clients.

Default privacy settings on Windows usually aren’t very private. Even the latest version is initially configured to collect information about you, like how and where you use your devices as well as what type of content and data you access.

Advertisement

Although disabling some Windows 10 settings may hinder Windows functionality, judicious reduction of Microsoft’s overreach is a great way to keep Windows private without totally impeding its functionality. Let’s see what you can do.

Turn Off Targeted Advertising

By default, Windows 10 is set to display personalized ads that are “relevant” to you on different ad-supported apps and websites that you visit.

Personalized ads are based on a cumulus of data about your previous activities stored in cookies on your device. But Windows 10 isn’t the only software able to do this. iOS, Google, Apple, and others all have similar personalized advertisement features built-in.

If you’ve just finished installing your Windows 10, here’s how you can disable some of these features:

Go to Start>Settings>Privacy> General and turn off the Let apps use my advertising ID for experience across apps option. 

At the bottom of the page, you will notice a blue link that says Manage my Microsoft advertising and other personalization info. This link will take you to choice.microsoft/eng-GB, where you have the option to disable personalized ads.

If you’re using your Microsoft account on different devices, you can then disable this option on every one of them. However, this won’t restrict all the ads you will see or prevent cookies from being stored on your device. You will still notice advertisements when you go online – but they won’t be personalized.

In short, flicking the switch to Off will reset your advertising ID, keeping them at bay if you think the various tracking services Microsoft uses have you all wrong.

Put Limits on Cortana

Cortona, or Microsoft’s digital assistant, sends a lot of data about what you type, say, and do to Microsoft.

The bad news is that Windows 10 doesn’t have an option to disable Cortana. The only thing you can do is to remove the search bar from the taskbar. Right-click the taskbar> Cortana> Hidden.

If you really want to remove Cortona from your device, you can do that by changing the Registry. But be careful.

If you don’t want to do that, we highly advise reducing Cortana’s functionality. Access Windows Settings>Cortana. Let Cortana respond to “Hey Cortana”: switch OFF to prevent it from constantly listening. You can set Cortana to listen to your commands when you press the Windows logo key +C. This way, you can still use Cortana but have control of what and when it listens.

There’s also the option to use Cortana when your device is locked. To disable it, switch Off the option Use Cortana even when my device is locked.

To switch any apps that you don’t want Cortana to have access to, go to >Permissions & History > Manage the information Cortana can access from this device

Turn Off Activity History

Windows 10 gathers data on activities you’ve performed, including files you’ve opened and pages you’ve viewed. You can access Task View to disable this Timeline feature and remove any activity.

The Timeline function has been included in a 2018 update and can synchronize your activities between your devices, but you have to activate the synchronization feature. By default, Windows stores your activity history on your own PC.

To access this option, access Settings> Privacy> uncheck the option Let Windows collect my activities from this PC checkbox. In doing so, Windows will no longer collect any new activities for the Timeline.

Another way you can protect your Windows activity when online is by installing a VPN. A VPN or Virtual Private Network can hide your browsing history, but only to a certain extent.

Turn Off Location Tracking

On Windows 10, maps, location-based reminders, restaurants, stores, and other apps require your location to work as intended, but if your privacy is a top-of-mind priority, Windows 10 offers an easy way to disable this option.’

Access the Settings app to deactivate the location for your app and account, or you can disable location tracking per application. However, if you’re using Cortana and want to stop it from tracking your location, you will need to disable the feature entirely.

To prevent apps from accessing your location, go to Settings>Privacy> Location> Turn Off the toggle switch under Allow apps to access your location.

Manage Access to Your Account Info

Windows 10 lets you create an account during the initial setup experience. But there are many other settings you should consider if you want to improve the security of your account. For example, you can create additional accounts with multiple permissions levels if you share a Windows 10 PC with family and friends. That not only gives everyone a personalized experience but also a separate area to store files. ‘

If you share your device with a young person, Windows gives you the option to create a child account with features specifically designed to protect them from different types of content ( such as websites, apps, and games) that may not be suitable for their age.

To manage access to your Windows account, access Settings>Accounts> Your info and confirm account details such as Administrator or Standard and whether you’re using a Microsoft account or a local account.

You can also access the Manage my Microsoft account feature to change security and family settings, billing details, and other settings online.

As you can see, there are many things you can do to enhance your Windows 10 privacy. While Windows Home edition users can no longer disable Cortana without tricking the Registry, we can reduce some of the access to our data. While this post was mainly focused on changing your Windows 10 privacy settings, there are other considerations as well. For instance, a reliable VPN service will encrypt internet traffic between a VPN server and your PC while hiding your location and IP address.

About the author

Elaine Foster is an independent business and market strategies consultant in the Portland area working primarily with technology and start-up phase clients and strives to help different brands and start-ups to make business decisions and strategies efficiently. She loves to share views on the latest technologies and applications through his well-researched content pieces.

Advertisement