By default, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 has enabled settings that track you for advertising. Windows 8.1 also try desperately to have you log in to your computer with a Microsoft account. Those settings should be disabled and you should never log in with a Microsoft account because several of my customers have had trouble logging in when they used a Microsoft account to do so. Thankfully, in Windows 10 it is a lot easier not to log in with a Microsoft account. These are the steps to avoid potential problems and to reclaim your privacy. Logging with a non-Microsoft account makes it harder for Microsoft to deliver you targeted advertising. Just because it is very difficult does not mean we should willingly surrender our privacy.

Windows 10

  1. First, make sure you read the end-user license agreement (EULA) in its entirety. There are some things you need to be aware of in it.
  2. One of the earliest pages you will see says Get going fast. Well, make sure you don’t go fast. At the bottom left of the screen in a less obvious way is some text that says Customize settings. Click that.
  3. The next page has two areas, Personalization and Location. Turn everything off.
  4. On the next page you will see two more sections, Browser and protection and Connectivity and error reporting. Turn off everything except the first: the one about smartscreen online services.
  5. For some people, you will be prompted to sign in with a Microsoft account. Do not do this for any reason, no exception. Click Skip this step at the bottom of that page and then add a local account, or username, if asked.
  6. The next page has a part about the new apps for the new Windows. Let us ignore the fact that Microsoft still calls programs “apps”. You want to click the also hard to see text that says Let me choose my default apps. Then you definitely want to uncheck everything.  Once Windows 10 is going, you still want to download Google Chrome or Mozzilla Firefox because they are better any Microsoft browser in everything: speed, ease of use, everything.
  7. Wait until a few more automatic setup steps are performed.
  8. Eventually things are ready. The first thing to do is download a program called O&O Shut Up 10. Run that program and apply all recommend and limited recommend settings, these are the settings with a green check and a yellow triangle.
  9. At the bottom right by the clock is an icon with three lines, the last line being the shortest. Click that icon and a side panel appears.
  10. Next click the box that says All settings. A new window appears like the one below.
  11. In the list you will see a section labeled Privacy. Click that.
  12. Scroll down to Background apps. Turn off everything. You will need to come back to this page later because Windows 10 will add “apps” and they will want to run in the background.
  13. Not done yet. The search box by default searches the web first then your computer. Not only is this a backdoor way of tracking, it also slows down searches. We need to turn it off. In the search, where it says Search the web and Windows, type something, anything you want. It doesn’t matter. The first search is necessary to turn off web searches.
  14. On the left side is a gear icon, the third icon from the top. Click that. Now turn off both settings listed. Now your searches won’t be tracked by Microsoft.  Some of these settings were covered by O&O Shut Up 10 but we need to be sure.
  15. This step is optional, but I strongly recommend it. The default start menu in Windows is difficult to use. It pushes programs (even though they are called apps, they are programs; this isn’t a tablet!) purchased from the Microsoft store so Microsoft can make their 30% cut. The start menu is confusing and programs are listed in a strict alphabetical order, like it or not. Download and install the free ClassicShell and return the easy-to-use start menu and familiar from the old days.

Windows 8.1

  1. You will see a page that says “Settings” at the top. Click Customize at the bottom.
  2. The next pages are about connecting your computer to your network. If you have a wireless connection, you may choose to set it up now but you do not have to. If you are connected with either a wired or wireless connection you will see a page about file sharing. If you want to enable file sharing click the Yes box; otherwise click No.
  3. The next page has settings about updating apps and PC protection, you can leave all those boxes turned On.
  4. The next page is about sharing info with Microsoft and others, turn all those boxes to Off except for the box that starts with “Get better protection from malware”, leave that box On.
  5. The next steps are for setting up an account. The steps to avoid logging in without a Microsoft account are purposefully ambiguous. When you see the page that says “Sign in to your Microsoft account”, click Create a new account at the bottom.
  6. On the next page choose Sign in without a Microsoft account or Continue using a local account.
  7. You may see a page for creating a local account. If so, fill in all the appropriate information. When finished, wait for Windows to finish preparing your account, this will take several minutes.