Tips and Tricks

Configure Windows 10 like a privacy pro

Windows 10 has only been around for a couple of days, but it is running on more than 67 million computers worldwide already. The new operating system is being aggressively pushed to all Windows users who own a valid license for Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1, provided they want the upgrade and their computer meets the minimum requirements.

The average of 11 million new customers per day is somehow understandable: Windows 10 is free of charge, brings back old features users have begged for since Windows 7 (such as the start menu) and, most importantly, will be permanently updated with new features for the supported lifetime of your device.

Like any free offering, though, Windows 10 comes with strings attached – in this case in the form of fine print that some users might regard as invading their privacy. Here is a quick tutorial on how to properly configure your brand new Windows 10 installation to minimize the impact on your privacy and help you make the most of it.

Choose the custom installation method upon setup

You are probably eager to get the new OS up and running as fast as possible, so Express Settings might look like tempting. However, it configures the operating system to share speech, typing, contacts and calendar, as well as location data and advertising ID to Microsoft and partners. Choosing the Custom settings options brings a number of toggles that you can turn off as desired.

Win10

Consider the privacy implications of Cortana

Cortana is to Windows 10 what Google Now and Siri are to Android and iOS. This personal assistant uses machine learning techniques to serve you, but it taps deep into your private information to do so. If you don’t want a digital assistant going through your e-mails, contacts and other information, turn Cortana off as soon as the installation has completed.

Win10-cortana

You can turn Cortana off by going into the Settings tab -> Privacy -> Speech, Inking & typing and pressing the ‘Stop getting to know me’ button

Adjust the Feedback and diagnostic reporting tools

Windows 10 periodically sends diagnostic data, such as crash reports, to the vendor. These crash reports often contain memory dumps that might reference personally identifiable data. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent the operating system from sending diagnostic and usage information, but you can adjust the setting to Basic and minimize the amount of data sent to the vendor.

Win10-feedback

This feature can be modified via Start -> Settings -> Privacy -> Feedback & Diagnostics. Set the Diagnostic and usage data drop-down menu to Basic.

Use a Local Account

Windows 10 is a cloud-oriented operating system and this is one of the main reasons you are prompted to sign in with a Microsoft account (formerly known as Live ID). This would synchronize some of your profile data with the Microsoft cloud. While this synchronization has its benefits (i.e. helps you migrate your profile from one machine to another in no time), it also lays the ground for the controversial Wi-Fi sense feature. In case you missed the story, Wi-Fi Sense helps you share your Wi-Fi network with contacts on Skype or Facebook friends. On the bright side, Wi-Fi Sense does not automatically send this information to all your contacts, but rather lets you choose if and with whom you share your Wi-Fi.

To start with a Local Account, make sure you are not connected to the internet during setup. If you forget to turn off your connection, just go back when you are prompted to create a Microsoft account, unplug the Internet cable or kill your Wi-Fi connection and click the Next button.

Protect your account information

Windows 10 lets applications share some of your private data, such as account picture, your name and other account information with third-party applications. If you think this is too much, you can turn this setting off via Start -> Settings -> Privacy -> Account Info.

Win10-account

And, since you’e in the Privacy section, why not take the time to fine-tune all the settings there?

Tweak the peer-to-peer update distribution system

Windows 10 introduces a new way for updates to get installed and downloaded. Until now, home users would get their updates directly from a Microsoft server nearby. Windows 10 uses a peer-to peer service similar to Bit-torrent to deliver updates. This means that, once you have the updates downloaded on your computer, you can also “seed” them to other computers inside or outside of your home network. This helps Microsoft keep the server strain low, but also might cost you if you are using a metered connection (i.e. a 3G / 4G modem or a fixed bandwidth subscription). By default, Windows updates would be streamed to everybody, but you can tweak this option to make them available to your home network or to no one else at all.

Win10-updates

 

To adjust this setting, navigate to the Settings -> Update and Security -> Windows Update pane. Choose the Advanced options hyperlink, then click the Choose How Updates Are Delivered link. You should now be able to turn off the peer-to-peer update streaming option.

Malware protection

Now that your new operating system is properly configured, consider installing an antimalware solution. Windows 10 requires a compatible antivirus and will automatically disable your old one immediately after the update process has completed. The Bitdefender consumer line of products is fully compatible with Windows 10 and can be downloaded right away.

About the author

Bogdan BOTEZATU

Bogdan Botezatu is living his second childhood at Bitdefender as senior e-threat analyst. When he is not documenting sophisticated strains of malware or writing removal tools, he teaches extreme sports such as surfing the web without protection or rodeo with wild Trojan horses. He believes that most things in life can be beat with strong heuristics and that antimalware research is like working for a secret agency: you need to stay focused at all times, but you get all the glory when you catch the bad guys.

4 Comments

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  • This has helped me a lot, Thank you.
    One thing I think you should have added here was to decide whether to shut off Wi-Fi sharing or not. I went to Settings-Network & Internet, [manage WiFi], turned off ‘Connect to suggested open hotspots’ and ‘Connect to networks shared by my contacts’. Also [advanced options], Turn off ‘Allow PC to be discoverable’. Also adding ‘_optout’ to the end of your WiFi connection name helps, but I am not sure about that one.

    I don’t think I want my grouchy neighbor to have access, just because I have his email.
    Again Thanks for all your helpful advice, I love seeing your posts on Facebook.

  • Not true on the uninstalling your antivirus!!! I had one heck of a time getting the free version of bitdefender off of my machine because it or Windows Defender kept sending out tests and was getting constant notices of being infected and Defender was cleaning the infection,please restart to complete the process.
    Because bitdefender was still on my machine and running as Real time protection as well as Defender;which I had turned off the real time protection in Windows 7 long before installing 10,so it was causing major conflicts and never would stop reinfecting and cleaning until I was able to use a Bitdefender removal program from 2008!!! :P It also kept every other program I had installed in 7 as well including other antivirus/spyware all of which were still running as well!
    If you haven’t noticed yet,look in your PC and you’ll see an “old windows” which is,was your C: drive in my case. All of your programs from 7 are still in your machine and most if not all ARE running! They will probably be on your machine until your Months leeway of reverting back to 7 is up!!! SO unless you are 100% sure you will stick with Windows 10 remove that sucker or have a massive headache until you do get things shut off and or removed for good. I’m not worried about the Month grace period I have a .iso of 7 I managed to pull off of a bad HDD.So if I ever decide I don’t like or want 10 I can go back to 7 any time I choose.
    Microsoft pretty much screwed everyone on this by taking down the .iso page for 7 back in late 2014,so think long and hard before your Month is up or your screwed out of any OS if you wait!

  • It’s a good article.
    Only with malware protection I have a few remarks.
    I’ve updated from 8.1 to 10. So far all good. But my Bitdefender was gone.(Total security 2015)
    That means there were a few files left. I’ve downloaded the installation file and started to install.
    I’ve got the remark to remove the old installation. But that was impossible.
    Bitdefender couldn t find a few files anymore. sqlite3.dll and npcomm.dll.
    I’ve tried everything, installed these 2 and then there was another missing….
    I couldn t install nore remove bitdefender. Computer kept on in the installing.
    Even after removing all files by hand en start again a few times.
    So I did go back to 8.1.
    Maybe I ‘ll do a clean install later.

  • well i just got back and running from a ransomeware on win 10 with bitdefender installed and it did not stop it! plain and simple.i have just lost all my photos and bookmarks and downloads and bitdefender is not the answer, just a touted up product like others. i wonder that at some time the antivirus software is the culprit and whom are setting the viruses to do the harm. “oh, your computer crashed because you needed xxx+xpremium in our line of products to combat that type of malware” is figured in to sell more expensive products.
    i did not know that i had to keep checking every 5 minutes for the new improved product and spend more than my car insurance premiums each month to keep a simple damn computer running! ! it took 3hours to recover this machine and like previous crashes it will not acknowledge the back up discs as the encryption is changed. so i have to go buy some more dvd-r only discs to build a back up. linux will be my next os should this ever happen again.
    i was viewing my builders forum when the ransomeware struck, not porn!