Windows

Windows 10 is watching you

Microsoft’s latest operating system has a lot going for it. It’s fast, responsive, easy to use, and more secure than ever before. Unfortunately it also takes advantage of the consumer’s assumption of privacy. And I can assure you that if you’ve just recently bought a new computer or tablet with Windows 10 installed then your information is absolutely not private. This is due to some of the philosophical choices made when Microsoft created Windows 10. The reasoning on Microsoft’s part certainly seems to be benign; they want to collect data on how you use your computer with the intent of making your experience more seamless. I’m reminded of an old saying about paths and good intentions.

So you’ve bought a computer with Windows 10 or recently upgraded to it. What can you do to regain at least a degree of your privacy back? Follow this guide and you will be in much better shape!

General Privacy Settings

  1. Left-click in the lower left-hand “Search Windows” box on your Desktop and type “Settings”. This will launch the settings panel for Windows 10.  Left-click Privacy and follow the screenshots below:
    1. Win10-1
    2. Win10-2
    3. Win10-3
    4. Win10-4
  2. Click the back arrow in the upper left-hand corner of the box to return to Settings, then select Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options > Choose how updates are installed, and turn the first switch off.
    1. Win10-5
    2. Win10-6
    3. Win10-7
  3. Next select Windows Defender and turn off “Cloud based Protection” and “Sample submission”.
    1. Win10-8
  4. Click the back arrow in the upper left-hand corner of the box to return to Settings, then select  Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Manage Wi-Fi settings. We will turn off both switches to disable Microsoft’s Wi-Fi Sense service.
    1. Win10-9
    2. Win10-10
  5. Microsoft has included their Cortana personal assistant service in Windows 10 and their new phone offerings, this is their response to Apple’s Siri. Unfortunately it is also used to provide unique information about you and your habits to Microsoft and their advertising partners. You can disable this feature by Left-clicking in the lower left-hand “Search Windows” box on your Desktop, and clicking the gear icon in the menu that pops-up. From here you will turn off both switches. **This will also improve the speed with which Windows 10 returns search result for items stored on your computer.
    1. Win10-11
  6. And now for one of Microsoft’s most egregious choices with Windows 10, disabling the built-in Data Collection and Telemetry services. What those terms effectively translate to is that Microsoft has built a keystroke and activity logger into the Operating System. Tolls like this are commonly used by less scrupulous people and/or groups to collect personal information in order to steal online identities, banking information, etc. It is a reasonable argument that Microsoft has no intentions of doing anything immediately wrong with the information that they collect in this way, but I and many other people take serious issue with a software vendor monitoring the habits and activities of its users for any purpose. It’s also worth noting that this information would be easily packaged and delivered to a government agency if subpoenaed. In order to disable these services press the Windows key (has the Windows logo on it) on your keyboard and the “X” key at the same time, then left-click the option for “Command Prompt (Admin)”. Then copy and paste the following commands into the prompt:
    1. sc delete DiagTrack
      sc delete dmwappushservice
      echo "" > C:ProgramDataMicrosoftDiagnosisETLLogsAutoLoggerAutoLogger-Diagtrack-Listener.etl
      reg add "HKLMSOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftWindowsDataCollection" /v AllowTelemetry /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
    2. Win10-13
  7. If this is a new computer you were likely prompted to create a new account once you first powered it on, and if your didn’t pay especially close attention to the prompts you may have either created a new online Microsoft account or used an existing one to login to your computer. This configuration will now tie you computer to your Microsoft Outlook.com account and their other online services; inherently making your computer less secure and an even better way for a potential attacker to gain access to your personal information. Not to mention also allowing Microsoft to track the computer’s movements online and in the real world and relate that data to you personally. To resolve this issue go back to the Settings panel and select  Accounts > Your account and click on Sign in with a local account and following the prompts.
    1. Win10-14
    2. If this option is greyed-out for you then go to Sync your settings and turn off the switch in that menu. Then return to the previous step.
      1. Win10-15

Now, that was a lot of steps but once you’ve completed them you should be a lot further down the road to being more secure and regaining some of your privacy while still being able to take advantage of the most important functions of Windows 10. There will likely be more research done over time with this and and I will continue to update this guide accordingly. If you have trouble implementing any of these steps please feel free to contact me by clicking the button below. I’m always happy to help!

Repair Networking in Windows

When dealing with Windows networking issues there are any number of issues that can arise and fixes for those issues, but time and again one of the most reliable resolutions can be to rebuild what we refer to as the network stack. This will not resolve all issues, but if you’ve been working on a particularly stubborn networking issue this is always a safe bet to try.

If you are using Windows XP:

  1. Click on the Start Menu in the lower left of the screen. Then select ‘Run’. In the box that appears type “cmd” and press Enter. *This will provide you with a command line interface from which to apply the fix.*
  2. Type the following: netsh int ip reset c:resetlog.txt then press Enter.
  3. Then type: netsh int ip reset resetlog.txt
  4. Reboot the computer

If you are using Windows 7 or 8:

  1. Click the Start Menu and type “cmd” in the search box.
  2. Right-click the cmd icon that appears and select “Run as Administrator”. *Click Yes if prompted.
  3. Type the following: netsh int ip reset c:resetlog.txt then press Enter.
  4. Then type: netsh int ip reset resetlog.txt
  5. Reboot the computer.

This should reset the TCP/IP stack on your machine.

Fixing the Windows 7 Master Boot Record (MBR)

If you’ve used computers for any length of time you have probably seen your computer fail to boot to Windows once or twice. This will typically be echoed by a message like one of the following:

Error loading operating system

Missing operating system

Invalid partition table

If you are seeing one of these messages there is a very good chance that there is an issue with your Master Boot Record or MBR. The MBR is the section of your hard drive that tells the computer where it can find the Operating System. Sometimes this section can become corrupted and stop functioning correctly. Luckily this is a fairly simple issue to resolve with a little time and patience.

Note** You will need your original Windows install CD for this.

Step 1.

We will need to boot from your Windows Install CD. To do this first insert the disc into the CD/DVD drive, and reboot your computer. You should be met with a prompt asking you to “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD…“. Press any key on the keyboard and this will load up the Windows installer.

Step 2.

You will then be met with the following screen, click “Install Now“.:

fix_windows_mbr_01

Step 3.

You will then see this screen, click “Next“.

fix_windows_mbr_02

Step 4.

Next, click the button for “Use recovery tools” and click “Next“.

fix_windows_mbr_03

Step 5.

From this menu select “Command Prompt“.

fix_windows_mbr_04

Step 6.

From the command prompt you just opened type “D:” to make your CD/DVD drive the working directory. Then change to the boot directory by typing “cd boot“. From the boot directory simply type “bootsect /nt60 SYS /mbr“. 

When you see “Bootcode was successfully updated on all targeted volumes” the process has completed. Type “exit” to return to the previous System Recovery Options screen and click the “Restart” button.

Your computer should now boot to Windows normally.

**If you are having trouble with these steps feel free to comment on this post or send me an e-mail. I’m happy to help you out.**