It’s probably pretty obvious by now that Windows 10 is a hot topic. One of the more controversial features that Microsoft has added to its newest operating system is the ability for third-party apps to access your personal data, including emails and chat messages – without any kind of warning or dialogue box asking if you’re sure about it. We’ve put together this list of 10 settings you should disable right away in order to maintain some semblance of privacy with your computer while still being able to use Windows 10.
1. Disable Cortana
Cortana, Windows 10’s personal digital assistant, is enabled by default in Windows 10. While she can prove quite useful in finding files and apps on your computer or providing you with the weather forecast for your location, Cortana also has access to all kinds of data about you – including things like your calendar , contacts, location, browsing history and much more – in order to provide you with an improved experience.
Since Cortana will be using this information for her own purposes to try to improve your Windows 10 experience, end users are not even made aware that this data is being accessed or transmitted in the background when they use Cortana. If you’re concerned about your privacy, you should disable Cortana and remove the Windows 10 search box from your taskbar .
2. Disable Location Access
Since it’s inception in Windows 8, Microsoft has made a big deal out of location services. A large part of this is driven by the “cloud” of data that Windows can access to try to provide an improved experience for its users. This includes things like searching the web using Bing, underlining misspelled words when you’re typing into your word processing application, and recommending apps in the Start menu that you might be interested in. However, just accessing the location of your PC isn’t enough – these features also rely on knowing where you are at all times. If you’re concerned about your privacy, it’s a good idea to disable location access in Windows 10.
3. Disable Web Tracking
One of the major ways that Microsoft is tracking what its users are up to is through web cookies. Cookies are a means of keeping track of website activity – including which websites you’ve visited and how long you’ve spent on each of them. If you’re concerned about who might be able to access information about your browsing history, it’s a good idea to disable cookies in Windows 10.
4. Disable Wi-Fi Sense
Wi-Fi Sense is one of the features that Microsoft has introduced into Windows 10 that not only makes using public hotspots easier, but also shares your wireless network password with your contacts. While this might sound like a great idea, particularly for those of you who need to share your home or work Wi-Fi passwords, it also means that unless you disable Wi-Fi sense, other people can access your network without ever needing to know the password. If you’re concerned about security, it’s a good idea to disable Wi-Fi sense in Windows 10.
5. Disable SmartScreen Filter
SmartScreen is a feature of Internet Explorer and the new Edge browser that makes using the web less safe by checking each website you visit against a local list of known malicious sites and applications before allowing you access to them. While this may sound like a good idea, particularly for those of you who have no anti-malware software installed on your computer or don’t have an antivirus application, this feature can also be used to check the files that are downloaded through torrent clients against Microsoft’s list of known malicious items. If you’re using Windows 10, it’s best to disable SmartScreen.
6. Don’t Use the Guest Account
The guest account in Windows 10 is enabled by default, allowing anyone to use your computer without needing a password – which can be a real security risk if you’re using it somewhere like a library or cafe. If you’re concerned about privacy and security while using Windows 10, it’s a good idea to disable the guest account.
7. Disable Automatic App Updates
Automatic updates for apps in Windows 10 works a bit differently than it does in previous versions of Windows, primarily because Microsoft has decided to move apps from being managed by the operating system to being managed by individual developers and applications. If you’re concerned about updates, particularly because they might include updated information about your location or web browsing history, you should disable automatic updates in Windows 10.