Anyone who has used any Windows platform has surely had at least a few complaints. Windows, while still a popular and solid operating system, is notorious for being infested with bugs and errors. After all, who hasn’t heard of the iconic “blue screen of death?” Though new versions of Windows always seek to improve on the flaws found in previous versions, Windows operating systems are well known for having more bugs when they are newly released. For this reason, many corporate environments won’t make a transition to a new Windows platform until the first service pack comes out to ensure that they avoid the greater majority of the bugs.
Windows 10 – the latest version of Windows – is certainly no exception. The biggest complaint with this new version of Windows is its security. Apparently, it suffers from some serious security problems out-of-the-box (shocking, right?).
Issues with the Express Setup
If you opt for the express setup option, there are some default settings that you may not like at all. One of the default settings gives Windows the ability to transfer large amounts of data to Microsoft. But just what information is forfeited without your knowledge? Microsoft has the ability to gather data such as calendar information, your contacts, text and touch input, geographic data, and much, much more. But why would Microsoft want this data? They’re not the N.S.A., after all. Microsoft wants data to send you targeted advertising offers to make money.
Although, this certainly isn’t the first version of Windows to engage in this behavior. Past versions have done the same thing unless you turn off this setting. However, Windows 10 is pushing the envelope to see just how much they can get away with. One feature in particular – the voice system known as Cortana (Siri’s competitor) – helps to facilitate this information sharing. But there are other features that work toward the goal of information sharing as well. And in today’s world, it is becoming harder and harder to maintain your online privacy. So who the heck would want to share their personal information with a major corporation? You need to know how to adjust the security settings to ensure that Microsoft doesn’t have their eyes on you.
How to Increase Security Settings in Windows 10
The easiest way to turn of these settings is to never allow them to be enabled when you are installing and setting up the software. However, if these settings have already been enabled you will have to manually disable them.
If you are about to install or upgrade to Windows 10, on the other hand, make sure that you don’t proceed with an express setup. Click the option that allows you to customize your settings instead.
On the very first configuration page, disable every setting you see. This will prevent any targeted advertising and sharing of geo-data. Simply make sure that none of the options are set to “on.”
Then, on the next page, you can pick and choose settings at your own discretion. To maximize your security, you will want to disable settings such as connecting to open Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Sense, and predictive web browsing.
Furthermore, you can limit the amount of information you send to Microsoft by not logging in with a Microsoft account. Alternatively you can create a local user account. To do this, select “Create a new account” when setup asks for your Microsoft account credentials. Then select “Sign in without a Microsoft account.” This will break the link between your user account and Microsoft Corporation, helping to increase your online privacy. However, it will prevent your data, files, and settings from syncing among all of your Microsoft devices. This is a small price to pay for increased security, though. Then simply complete your installation or upgrade of Windows 10.
Once you can boot into your new operating system, you will want to open the settings app and click on the privacy button. Though some of these settings were turned off during the installation process, you will want to double check and clean up anything that wasn’t disabled. Optionally, you may choose to allow the SmartScreen Filter.
Disable Cortana to Increase Security
Even if you’re a fan of the Halo series, you should also disable Cortana. She may have a pretty voice, but she is a wicked woman that wants to betray your trust by sending your information to Microsoft. Click on the start button and begin to type to open the search window. You should see an icon to click on that will open up the settings for Cortana. Simply turn her off or selectively disable some of her settings at your discretion.
After all of these configuration changes, you have drastically increased your security and privacy by severely limiting the amount of data that your operating system sends to Microsoft. Yet again, remember that you are making a sacrifice for increased security and online privacy. On the one hand, everyone wants their digital activities to be private. The biggest downside is that you lose a lot of voice features. Most (if not all) of the features disable during the installation process don’t really add any value to your user experience, though, so you should turn off those features at a bare minimum.
Editing Group Policies for Additional Security
In addition to the previous configuration changes, you can edit how the “Feedback Options” setting operates. By default, you can’t completely turn it off – you can only set it to basic mode. The most basic settings may or may not make the data it transfers to Microsoft anonymous, but to be sure it doesn’t send any data back, you will want to disable this feature. However, you can only completely disable this option if you are using the Enterprise and Server editions.
To begin, fire up the group policy editor. The name of this application is gpedit.msc. Then you will need to browse through the following navigation settings: Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, and finally Data Collection. Then you need to enable the policy and change the value to “0 – Off.”
Changing the Way Windows 10 Receives Updates
Furthermore, you may also want to turn off peer-to-peer (P2P) updates. Windows 10 will propagate updates to other Windows computers by downloading them from peer Windows machines on the Internet instead of completely downloading them from a Microsoft update server. The process is very similar to the way that BitTorrent operates.
To change this feature, start by opening the Settings application and browse to Update and Security, Windows Update, Advanced Options, and choose how updates are delivered. Once you reach this settings screen, you can either choose to completely disable this setting or limit it to computers on your local area network.
Though users don’t have a high level of control regarding what data is sent back to Microsoft, disabling these settings will drastically improve your privacy. The fact of the matter is that Microsoft code is proprietary, and consumers can’t see how the code is structured or written. Because of that, we can’t identify every iota of data that is sent back to Microsoft. But if you are even a little bit concerned about your privacy and you use Windows 10, you really should disable these settings.