Sunday, December 13, 2015

[Tutorial] How to prevent Windows 10 spying, the easy way

Windows 10 is one of the most controversial Windows releases to date, due to one major thing: privacy. However, in this tutorial I'll show you a very easy tool that even novice users can use to help cut down on the Windows 10 tracking (telemetry, etc). I wrote this one up kinda fast, but I think that everyone can learn from this.


One of the easiest thing that you can do without running any utility is to just simply go to the settings app, and click on the privacy button in the main menu. These privacy options concern the "modern", or "metro" as some would say, applications. Traditional desktop applications do not apply to these privacy settings. I would advise turning off whatever you know you don't use. However, be wary about some things like access to your email. If you use the Mail app, for example, do not disable its access to your email. This would understandably break the app.

However, the settings app doesn't cover everything. There are still plenty of telemetry-related services that haven't been disabled, and can't be disabled without using the registry editor or the group policy editor, the later of which is only available on Windows 10 Pro.

Spybot Anti-Beacon

There's tons of 3rd party utilities out there that promise to disable Windows 10 spying, but in my experience, Spybot Anti-Beacon is the best. It also doesn't come bundled with any kind of adware itself, which is actually a little amusing because some Windows 10 anti-spy tools actually come with adware. They remove tracking done by Microsoft, but conveniently add tracking from themselves instead. 

Below is a simple product description of Spybot Anti-Beacon:
Spybot Anti-Beacon is a standalone tool which was designed to block and stop the various tracking (telemetry) issues present in Windows 10. It has since been modified to block similar tracking functionality in Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 operating systems.
Spybot Anti-Beacon is quite literally one of the simplest programs ever to do away with Microsoft's data collection services.
A screenshot of Spybot Anti-Beacon 1.4 (an older version) running on Windows 10, with not protections applied yet. Photo courtesy of Spybot.
Immunization of Windows 10 data collection services is as simple as clicking the "Immunize" button. It's literally all that you have to do. After you've clicked the button, your screen should look something a lot like this:
Spybot Anti-Beacon 1.4 (an older version) showing all protections applied under Windows 10. Photo courtesy of Spybot.
Spybot Anti-Beacon also includes the ability to block optional things as well. Those include things such as Cortana, Web search via the search box, OneDrive, and more. As stated, these are optional.

At the time of this post, here is what you can choose to block under the optional tab:
  1. Web search
  2. Cortana
  3. OneDrive services
  4. OneDrive
  5. Remote Registry service
  6. Bing's IP addresses
  7. Extensive list of telemetry hosts
  8. Office 2013 telemetry and scheduled tasks
  9. Office 2016 telemetry and scheduled tasks
Personally, I've blocked Cortana, the extensive list of telemetry hosts, and the Office-related telemetry and scheduled tasks.

Donate to Spybot

I've included this in the post because I believe that the folks over at Spybot deserve a buck or more, just for this small utility alone. If you have a few bucks to spare, I highly encourage that you folks donate to them.