Even though Windows 11 is being rolled out massively, the majority of PC users around the world are still on Windows 10. And with everything going digital nowadays, you should know how to keep your digital information private.
There’s a lot of nuance to digital privacy, and luckily – Microsoft left it up to you to decide how, when, and where you want to give up your info. Here’s a list of things you can do to boost privacy on your Windows 10 device right now.
Start with a secure setup
The best way to make your Windows device secure is to start from scratch. If you don’t have the time to do a clean OS reinstall, you can skip this tip. But if you can spare an hour or two, there are some subtle options and features you need to look out for.
Before you boot a fresh copy of Windows 10, Microsoft will offer you a whole bunch of settings to toggle on/off. Most of these are there for a better, tailored experience while you use the OS, and as such, these features stay on by default.
Go through this process carefully. The biggest privacy issues are trackers that enhance your Windows experience by collecting tons of data.
Use the full potential of the Microsoft privacy dashboard
The Microsoft privacy dashboard is a web app that provides a clear overview of all the data that Microsoft collected about you while you were using their operating system.
The dashboard is split into three sections:
- Activity data – a list of your activities on Windows 10;
- Privacy for Microsoft products – here, you can tweak the privacy settings of MS apps;
- General privacy settings – an overview that lets you change ad settings, as well as privacy settings related to apps and services that are not necessarily Microsoft’s.
Switch off location and ad tracking
If you didn’t turn off data tracking features when you reinstalled Windows 10, you can also use the privacy dashboard to do so.
Location tracking has its benefits. After all, it can help you locate a stolen device. But if Microsoft can track your location, so can malware distributors. On the other hand, ad tracking is still a relatively ambiguous term.
A lot of your browsing and activity data is sent to Microsoft to help curate your experience. In truth, the data is collected even when you’re not using their products, and we can only hope that they won’t use it for malicious purposes, or at least that no one else will get to it.
Keep your passwords strong and fresh
If you’ve been using Windows for a while, you surely notice that you need to log in at every boot.
The very first thing you need to ditch is the PIN – use a password instead. Windows 10 suggests using a PIN for simplicity’s sake. It may be more convenient, but a string of a few numbers can be cracked in a matter of microseconds nowadays.
Another reason to keep your passwords strong and complex is that you can access your browser’s (e.g., Google Chrome) password management once you log into your Microsoft account. So, in a sense, your MS login is the key to every other password. For this reason, a separate password manager from a third party may be a safer option than your browser’s built-in one.
There’s no need for a dedicated Microsoft account
Lastly, if tracking and managing your Windows 10 activities isn’t something you want to do, you can always opt out. To use a Windows 10 device, you don’t necessarily need a Microsoft account.
There is a downside to creating a local account for your device – you won’t be able to use the integrated cloud services or any paid apps from the MS store.
On the other hand, you won’t have to search through all sorts of privacy options, looking for the small print.
You were in control all along
Microsoft fully allows users to opt out of all the “experience-enhancing” (i.e., data collection) features. By turning the trackers off, you get to keep your activity to yourself.
To summarize – a fresh Windows 10 install with tracking features off is the best option. If you can’t do that, start by getting your passwords in check and turning trackers off. Also, make sure to check the MS privacy dashboard every now and again. Stay safe!