*Nine tips for paranoid Windows 10 users

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Windows 10 is well known for its controversial collection of personal and private data. Many people don’t understand the big deal about keeping their personal lives personal. For instance, they share their recent purchases, where they eat, when they are on vacation and vacant from their homes, if they are cheating, their sex life, their spouse’s arguments, photos of their children, and even themselves in inappropriate or compromising settings … everything about themselves on social media, and think it’s harmless.

What’s more, Microsoft has now joined the ranks of personal data collection with Windows 10 as its most recent operating system. Many computer experts are even calling Windows 10 as ‘spyware’. To some degree that’s true whether it matters to you or not.

But if you are serious about wanting to protect your privacy, here are ways that you can avoid, remove, or turn off features that track you in Windows 10. Some of these tactics may seem extreme, but you can obviously pick and choose, depending on what level of privacy you’re comfortable with.

Stop using Cortana

Cortana, the Windows 10 personal digital assistant, indexes and stores your personal data, search queries and commands that you give it in order to provide results personalized for you. Since Microsoft released the Anniversary Update for Windows 10 in July, Cortana can no longer be deactivated. However, you can simply choose not to use it.

And to avoid accidentally doing so, remove the search box from the taskbar: right-click on a blank area of the taskbar, point to “Cortana” on the pop-up menu, and select “Hidden” from the sub-menu. If you need to search files on your computer, do so from the File Explorer instead, which has its own search box in the upper-right corner.

Don’t use Edge as your browser

Users are wondering why Edge, the browser that’s built in to Windows 10, is still in its beta stage. Part of the reason is that Microsoft is using it’s customers to be their online beta testers. That means that everything you do on Edge is tracked and recorded in an effort to make Edge a viable alternative to other browsers. So far it has shown itself to be the weakest browser in use and most Windows 10 users are continuing to use IE-11.

Chrome will track you if you are signed in to your Google account. But don’t sign in and Chrome is just fine. Same for Firefox and Opera. Ultimately, however, the choice basically comes down to whether you’d rather not have Microsoft tracking both your use of their operating system and your web browsing.

Don’t sign in to OneDrive

Like Cortana, Microsoft’s cloud storage service comes baked-in with Windows 10; there is no direct way to uninstall it, but you don’t need to use it. Just don’t sign in to the service — which requires a Microsoft online services user account (an example would be an email account with Hotmail or Outlook.com).

If you are already signed in to OneDrive with a Microsoft user account and want to stop using it: Right-click the OneDrive icon on the notification tray, select “Settings” from the menu that pops open, then under the “Account” tab, click the “Unlink this PC” button. Next, click the “Settings” tab, and uncheck “Start OneDrive automatically when I sign in to Windows.”

Also, make sure that your files aren’t saved to a OneDrive folder by default: Launch the Settings app (which you can do by opening the Action Center and clicking the “All settings” button). Under the “Systems” category and “Storage” section, set the five boxes that are listed toward the bottom of the page (i.e. “New apps will save to:”, “New documents will save to:”, etc.) to “This PC (C:)” (or whichever storage medium you prefer).

Don’t sign into Windows 10 with your Microsoft email account

You can sign in to your Windows 10 system using a Microsoft online services user account, such as a Hotmail or Outlook.com account. Doing so syncs your customizations and preferred settings for Windows 10 to Microsoft’s servers, which in turn can be downloaded to another Windows 10 system you sign in to with the same account.

To avoid all of this, don’t use your Microsoft email account to sign in. If you’ve already done this, create a local account and sign in with it instead: Launch the Settings app. Under the “Accounts” category and “Your info” section, click “Sign in with a local account instead.” You’ll be prompted to enter the password of the Microsoft email account you used to sign in to Windows 10, and then you can set a new username and password that you can then use to sign in just to the Windows 10 computer you’re directly using.

Change your privacy options

Under the “Privacy” category, turn the switches off that appear under these sections: Location, Camera, Microphone, Notifications, Account Info, Contacts, Calendar, Call History, Email, Messaging, Radios, and Other Devices.

Use the ‘stop getting to know me’ setting

Under the “Privacy” category and “Speech, inking & typing” section, click “Stop getting to know me.” Otherwise, nearly everything you type as search queries, and your voice and handwriting style (using a digital pen), is captured and analyzed by Microsoft.

Block diagnostics and feedback

Under the “Privacy” category and “Feedback & diagnostics” section, set the “Feedback frequency” option to “Never” and the “Diagnostic and usage data” option to “Basic.” There’s no choice to absolutely deny Microsoft from gathering information about how you use Windows 10.

Say no to synching

Under the “Accounts” category and “Sync your settings” section, turn off the switch under “Sync settings.” When this function is turned on, the way you’ve customized and set up Windows 10 will be synced to Microsoft’s servers.

Disable device location tracking

Under the “Update & Security” category and “Find My Device” section, click the “Change” button and turn the switch off in the small window that pops open. This tracking feature is primarily to track you if you’re using Windows 10 on a laptop or a notebook. But if you’re using a desktop computer that you don’t anticipate moving around much, you may want to turn this off if you’d rather not have Microsoft know its location.

Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!

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