Windows 10 accounts for about 60% of the total operating system used worldwide. Even if you’re a devoted Mac and Linux fanatic, chances are you have to use Windows somewhere — at work, home, or on a public computer.
Compared to earlier versions, Windows 10 is more secure, faster, and much more user-friendly. But many of these enhancements have traded off privacy in the process.
Don’t worry; you can still have your cake and eat it too. Here’s how to turn Windows tracking down to a minimum and improve privacy in a few easy steps.
1. Turn Off Personalized Ads
You should be concerned about what data Microsoft and other parties gather about you as you browse the internet. Usually, this information helps companies to create a profile on you to push targeted ads.
You may already know how to stop this on Chrome or Facebook. It’s time you did the same with Edge and Windows too. Microsoft doesn’t gather information about you only when you browse the web, but also when you use Windows 10 apps.
You can disable advertising ID in settings:
- Type “Privacy” into the Windows search box and select “Privacy Setting.”
- At the top is your “Advertising ID.” Move the slider to the left to disable it.
You’ll still receive some ads, but they won’t be targeted, nor will Windows track your browsing activity any longer.
2. Disable Cortana
Cortana is the Windows version of Alexa and Siri. It’s beneficial, and you can use it to perform many things like searches, math equations, and more. But it also collects data about you.
You have two options. You can restrict permissions or disable Cortana entirely. The best middle ground is turning off “Hey Cortana” to disable active listening and removing personalization. Then you can still have some voice functionality, but only when you turn on the mic.
Or you can go all the way and remove Cortana. You can still type the same queries into the search bar that Cortana can answer.
To modify Cortana:
- Type “Cortana” in the search bar.
- Select “Settings.”
- Disable “Hey Cortana.”
- Configure “Manage what Cortana can access” to your preferences.
3. Enable a VPN
It’s not only Microsoft, but every other website and app you use can monitor what you do online by tracking your IP address. Your IP address is essential for using the internet. But it doesn’t mean you should keep it out in the open.
To see just how easy it is to find it, type “what is my IP address” into Google right now. It will not only show you a unique device ID but also other personal information like your ISP and location. Click here for more information: https://nordvpn.com/what-is-my-ip/
Fortunately, you can use a VPN to hide your IP address. VPNs replace your IP address with one of their servers so nobody can track your internet activity back to your device. At the same time, they also encrypt your connection to provide even further enhanced security.
Again, you have two options. Choose a trustworthy VPN and use their app on your computer. Or you can set a VPN directly in your network settings. If you enable a VPN in the settings, you won’t need a VPN client (still need a VPN subscription, though). But it does take a little more technical expertise to change servers or take advantage of other VPN features.
4. Disable Network Sharing
Windows 10 has a great feature called WiFi Sense. It allows you to share passkeys to WiFi networks with your contacts without revealing the password. But it does let somebody access your network, and you don’t want outsiders to be able to do so.
It’s much safer to disable this feature and create a separate guest WiFi network for friends and visitors. To turn it off on your computer, follow these steps:
- Open “Network and Internet” settings.
- Select “WiFi” and “Manage WiFi Settings.”
- Disable WiFi Sense as well as “Connect to Suggested Open Hotspots” and “Connect to Network Shared by My Contacts.”
5. Use the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard
Most people don’t realize that Microsoft, along with Google, Facebook, and other platforms, has privacy dashboards. You can finetune all the data they collect about you there.
To access your Microsoft Dashboard, login into your account here, and review your privacy settings.
You can limit data collected, view and delete internet history, location activity, and a whole lot more. Do note that Microsoft only tracks browsing activity in Edge or Internet Explorer. If you use Chrome, Firefox, or other browsers, it’s time you reviewed their privacy settings too.
Windows 10 is a fantastic operating system that gets better with each release. But it does have its share of privacy issues. Be sure to check your settings after each Windows update to stop or limit Microsoft tracking.