Windows 10 has dozens of useful features, that’s true. But there’s no denying the operating system is really not privacy-friendly at all.
After all, every Windows 10 user gets assigned an advertising ID. The ID is tied to your email address, and Microsoft uses it to expose you to targeted ads.
What’s more, it seems that Windows 10 will send your activity data to Microsoft even if you disable that feature.
Also, the DPA (Data Protection Authority) for the Netherlands accused the OS of violating privacy laws by not properly informing users of what data it collects, and that it collects it continuously.
Lastly, there’s also the fact that Microsoft was the first partner of the PRISM surveillance program. Being part of that program means the company shares connection logs, videos, images, audio files, emails, and live chat info with the NSA.
Oh, and let’s not forget how Microsoft gave the NSA access to unencrypted messages in the past.
Pretty decent reasons to start securing your privacy if you’re a Windows user, right?
The Best Privacy Apps for Windows 10
Before I start, I should mention that not all these apps are Windows 10 exclusives. Some of them work on previous versions too.
With that out of the way, here are five privacy-friendly applications you can use on Windows 10 to better protect your data:
1. O&O ShutUp10
O&O ShutUp10 might have a weird name, but it’s a must-have if you want to secure your privacy on Windows 10.
Using the app is simple – just run it, and you’ll instantly see a list of data collection option in Windows 10 you can easily toggle on and off. Best of all, the list divides the options into different categories, making it easier to keep track of what you’re disabling.
One useful thing about O&O ShutUp10 is that it tells you what telemetry you can turn off without impacting Windows 10 functionality too much. Keep in mind that if you disable certain telemetry (like an app’s access to your webcam), you will limit what Windows 10 can do.
Of course, if you don’t mind any potential loss of functionality, you can safely disable everything.
Another nice perk is that you can export and import user settings. So, you can easily share your own privacy tweaks with your friends, import some of their own, or save time when installing Windows 10 on another device.
2. Win10 Spy Disabler
Win10 Spy Disabler is pretty similar to O&O ShutUp10, but it includes a few more privacy-oriented options. For example, besides just offering you privacy tweaks, you can also play around with system tweaks (like showing hidden and system files).
Plus, this app allows you to easily disable Windows updates, Windows Defender, and the SmartScreen Filter.
Win10 Spy Disabler also has some Windows app-related tweaks which can’t be undone once you enable them – like removing things such as the built-in Windows Store App or the built-in Voice Recorder application.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that you can install this app directly on your device, or download a portable version of it too.
A VPN is an online service that hides your IP address and encrypts your online traffic, making it indecipherable. Using it is a great way to protect your privacy on Windows 10 because you make sure that:
- Cybercriminals can’t exploit weak WiFi networks to eavesdrop on your online communications.
- ISPs and government surveillance agencies can’t keep tabs on what you do on the Internet.
- ISPs can’t sell your data to third parties.
- Advertisers can’t aggressively target you with “relevant” ads based on your browsing history.
- People can’t use your IP address to find out personal things about you – like what country and city you live in, what your ZIP code is, or who your ISP provider is.
Still, choosing the right VPN might not be easy since there are so many options on the market (easily over 200).
But you can save some time and effort by just checking out IPVanish – the service offers tons of privacy-oriented features like a no-log policy, strong OpenVPN encryption, DNS leak protection, and a Kill Switch.
If you want to find out more about the service, take a look at this review for IPVanish.
If you need an extremely comprehensive privacy app for Windows 10, you can’t go wrong with W10Privacy.
Currently, this app comes with 14 tabs you can tweak to your heart’s content – from telemetry and firewall options to background apps, system apps, and OneDrive. Each tab has dozens of options you can disable or re-enable.
Besides that, W10Privacy uses color-coding to help you decide which features you should disable or leave the way they are:
- Green means you should go ahead and disable the feature.
- Yellow means there can be some loss of functionality.
- Red means the changes might have negative effects on your OS.
Even though W10Privacy is pretty user-friendly, it can still feel daunting – especially to people who are new to Windows 10 – because of the sheer amount of options that are available.
WPD stands for Windows Privacy Dashboard, and it’s an easy-to-use app that gives you decent control over your privacy settings. The dashboard is very intuitive, and you can quickly turn off any telemetry options you want.
But that’s not all. WPD also lets you customize the OS’ firewall, and offers an AppX uninstaller that helps you quickly get rid of any built-in Windows 10 apps.
Which Windows 10 Privacy Tool Is the Best?
It’s really up to you to decide. You can try all of them, one by one, to see which one offers the best control over your privacy settings.
But while you will likely end up using just one Windows 10 app that handles telemetry, privacy and system tweaks, and built-in apps, you should definitely use a VPN alongside it. That way, you can protect your privacy outside the operating system too – like when you’re browsing the web.