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Windows 10 is watching you. To quote a famous Christmas jingle, “It sees you when you’re sleeping, it knows when you’re awake, and it knows if you’ve been bad or good.”

While Bill Gates isn’t going to come crashing down your chimney anytime soon, Microsoft’s latest operating system is undoubtedly harvesting more of your personal information Privacy and Windows 10: Your Guide to Windows Telemetry Privacy and Windows 10: Your Guide to Windows Telemetry With the advent of the Windows 10 Creator's Update, Microsoft seems to have decided to be more transparent about their data gathering activities. Find out how much is gathered, and what you can do. Read More than ever before. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on your standpoint.

If you’d like to get a better grip on your privacy, you have a few options available to you. There are native Windows tools like the Group Policy Editor and Settings app, but also third-party tools which are specifically designed to disable various aspects of the Windows telemetry.

If you want to stop Windows 10 spying on you (and make sure you get some Christmas presents this year), keep reading to find out more.

Native Windows 10 Tools

Let’s begin by looking at which privacy management tools are natively part of Windows 10.

1. Settings App

The easiest and most accessible way of managing your privacy on Windows 10 is to use the Settings app.

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You can find the privacy options by going to Settings > Privacy. The number of settings you can change in the new Creators Update can be overwhelming for new users. The settings are split into a bewildering 18 sections.

windows 10 privacy options

Microsoft might argue all these settings are giving you a granular level of control. Critics would say the app is confusing by design — Microsoft doesn’t want you to disable all the privacy settings.

Working through each setting individually is beyond the scope of this article, but don’t worry, we’ve still got you covered. Check out our complete guide to Windows 10 privacy settings Privacy and Windows 10: Your Guide to Windows Telemetry Privacy and Windows 10: Your Guide to Windows Telemetry With the advent of the Windows 10 Creator's Update, Microsoft seems to have decided to be more transparent about their data gathering activities. Find out how much is gathered, and what you can do. Read More and you won’t go far wrong.

2. Microsoft Account Privacy Dashboard

At the start of 2017, Microsoft completely overhauled the Privacy section of your Microsoft Account online portal. Some of the new settings protect your online privacy, some of them protect your privacy while using Windows 10.

In a blog post, the company claimed it made the changes to “support [its] privacy principle of transparency.”

To find the new settings, head to account.microsoft.com and fill in your credentials. When you’ve logged into your account, click on the Privacy tab at the top of the page.

edit cortana data

The settings are divided into five primary areas: Browsing history, Search history, Location activity, Cortana’s notebook, and Health activity.

From a Windows 10 perspective, you should focus on Location activity and Cortana’s notebook. Click on the corresponding link to see what Microsoft knows about you and edit or delete the data.

I have all tracking disabled on my main machine, but on my testing machine, I have everything turned on. It was frightening to see the amount of data Microsoft held.

bing location tracking

3. Local Group Policy Editor

By default, the Group Policy Editor (GPE) is only available in Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions. It is not available in Windows 10 Home, though there are some workarounds to enable it How to Access the Group Policy Editor, Even in Windows Home & Settings to Try How to Access the Group Policy Editor, Even in Windows Home & Settings to Try Group Policy is a power tool that lets you access advanced system settings. We'll show you how to access it or set it up in Windows Home and 5+ powerful Group Policies to boot. Read More .

At its core, the GPE is a powerful tool that lets you configure and control your system in much greater detail 12 Ways Windows Group Policy Can Make Your PC Better 12 Ways Windows Group Policy Can Make Your PC Better The Windows Group Policy grants you advanced control over your system, without having to mess with the registry. We'll show you how to easily customize Windows in ways you didn't think were possible. Read More than you can achieve solely by using the Settings app. Because it’s so powerful, it’s a great tool to manage your privacy.

windows 10 group policy editor

Best of all, you don’t even need to be a GPE guru to take advantage of it. You can grab a copy of The Group Policy Pack: Privacy and Telemetry for $108. It aims to block all Microsoft telemetry. The pack includes 70 policies with 250 Registry keys, deactivation of 40 background apps, scripts to remove pre-installed apps like OneDrive, and scripts to add entries to the hosts file and thus block telemetry servers.

If $108 is too much money (we didn’t test it either), you can create the scripts yourself. Of course, doing so is much more complicated and time-consuming for the average user.

Download: The Group Policy Pack: Privacy and Telemetry ($108)

Third-Party Tools

If using the Group Policy Editor sounds too complicated, but the Settings app and Privacy Dashboard don’t give you enough control, you can turn to some third-party tools instead.

You’ll find lots of tools on the web, many of which we’ve looked at in detail elsewhere on the site 7 Tools to Manage Privacy Settings in Windows 7 Tools to Manage Privacy Settings in Windows Every Windows version has its flaws and user privacy is one that haunts them all. We'll introduce you to seven tools that can help you manage native Windows privacy settings. Read More . Nonetheless, here are three of the best.

1. Privacy Repairer

Privacy Repairer is a small portable app that takes its user interface inspiration from Windows 10.

The app is split into seven sections: Telemetry and Diagnostics, System, Windows Defender, Windows Store Apps, Cortana and Start Menu, Lock Screen, Edge and Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player.

privacy repairer

Within each section, you’ll find several settings you can tweak. Each one has a recommended setting along with a complete explanation of what effect the change will have on your system.

It also comes with a system-wide one-click privacy solution. Although the idea sounds nice, it might not be practical to make so many changes at the same time. Use the feature with caution.

Download: Privacy Repairer (Free)

2. O&O ShutUp10

O&O ShutUp10 is arguably the most well-known out of all the third-party privacy tools.

Like Privacy Repairer, the app is portable, comes with recommendations for each setting, and has a one-click solution that’ll change all the settings to the developer’s recommendation.

There are more than 50 settings you can tweak, and they are subdivided into Security, Privacy, Location services, User behavior, and Windows Update for easy navigation.

On the downside, it lacks the detailed explanations that you’ll find in Privacy Repairer. As such, it might not be a suitable tool for novices.

Download: O&O ShutUp10 (Free)

3. Spybot Anti-Beacon

Spybot Anti-Beacon is developed by the same team responsible for the anti-malware tool, Spybot Search & Destroy.

Its sole focus is Windows 10 telemetry. It’ll prevent apps from using your Microsoft advertising ID, block all P2P updates outside your local network, kill telemetry services, stop your computer from sending data to the Consumer Experience Improvement Program, and more.

spybot anti-beacon

Unlike O&O ShutUp10 and Privacy Repairer, there is no granular approach to the settings; you can either turn them all off or leave them all on. The single button — labeled Immunize — will take care of the protection process.

Download: Spybot Anti-Beacon (Free)

How Do You Manage Your Privacy?

Now you know about three native ways to manage your privacy on Windows 10, as well as a further three tools that go above and beyond the settings offered by the operating system itself. Using a combination of native settings and third-party tools will make sure Microsoft has no idea what you’re up to.

Do you use Windows 10’s own tools or rely on third-party apps? Which is your favorite privacy management tool? You can leave all your opinions and suggestions in the comments below.

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  1. Criosdean
    July 10, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Thanks for a great article. I use a combi of both Microsoft (group policy etc) and 3rd party software (SpyBot Anti-Beacon) which I have just updated after reading your article. I really loathe Cortana and the fact that it still turns up in task manager despite my best efforts at stopping it! I think it's because I still find 'search' useful and it's woven into the fabric. :(

  2. Gaurav Saini
    July 9, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Thanks For the great information, Now I'm able to change my windows settings correctly

  3. Flip
    July 6, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Windows 7 was the better OS. I particularly hate the apps and prefer justs programs as they open quicker. Windows 10 is far too fussy for my liking

  4. RW
    July 5, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    First and foremost, I don't use either MS browser. I also do not use the Bing search engine.

  5. David Campbell
    July 5, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    I will NEVER install Win 10. It is the most evil piece of crap I have seen in a long time and I was writing machine level assembly code in 1966. When I can't get Win 7 to run then I will go to linux. SCREW MICROSOFT.

    • Kurik
      July 6, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      Why be it so much more evil than the others other than the privacy issue? I am curious to hear your thoughts on this.

      • David Campbell
        July 6, 2017 at 11:25 pm

        Until Windows 10 you could control what "updates" and what info went to Microsoft. There is no way to turn this crap off in Windows 10.