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How to disable tracking on Windows 10

Windows 10 is packed with features most people don’t know about. It can monitor your browsing habits, track your location, and gather information about your activity. Windows has never been known for its strong security and privacy, so this extensive user tracking raises concerns. Luckily, you can adjust your Windows 10 settings to prevent anyone from peeking at your activity or location.

How to disable tracking on Windows 10

Does Windows 10 track you?

Windows 10 tracks your activity and collects information about your device, usage patterns, browsing history, and location. Windows 10 claims to be tracking you to provide a better user experience, offer personalized advertisements, improve system performance, and enhance features like Cortana and Windows Store recommendations. But you can never be sure who has access to the gathered user information or how it’s handled.

So if you want to keep your information to yourself, you can enter your Windows 10 privacy settings and stop Windows 10 from tracking you. Read on to find out how to easily disable activity tracker, advertising, location tracking, network discovery, Cortana, and file sharing on Windows 10. And if you’re considering the nuclear option of stopping tracking by deleting your data altogether, check out our article on resetting Windows 10 to its factory settings.

How to disable the activity tracker on Windows 10

Windows creates a timeline of your activity so you can view it and resume your work later. The tracked activity can also be shared with Microsoft to allow you to edit your documents from any device. However, if you don’t want to send your files to Microsoft, here’s how to disable this feature:

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Privacy.”windows10 disable activity tracker privacy
  2. Select “Activity history” in the menu on the left.windows10 disable activity tracker activity history
  3. Uncheck “Store my activity history on this device.”windows10 disable activity history
  4. Go to “Diagnostics & feedback” in the menu on the left and toggle the switch under “Tailored experiences” to “off” position.windows10 tailored experiences

How to disable advertising on Windows 10

Windows 10 advertises apps and services you might not need, like games, photo editors, or music apps. You may have noticed them in your Start menu, the Cortana app, or the Action Center. The ads encourage you to buy software of questionable value and can be annoying. The good news is that you can turn them off:

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Privacy” > “General.”disable advertising on windows10 general
  2. Toggle off “Let apps use advertising ID” to make ads more interesting to you based on your app activity.windows10 change privacy options

Disabling advertising will prevent Windows from showing you ads depending on your purchase history in the Microsoft Store.

But that’s not all. You can also disable ads in the “Start” menu:

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Personalization” > “Start.”windows10 personalizationwindows10 settings start
  2. Toggle off “Show suggestions occasionally in Start.”windows10 show suggestions

How to turn off location tracking

Location tracking on Windows 10 allows the operating system and applications to determine your physical location. Windows 10 tracks your location using GPS, Wi-Fi networks, your IP address, and cellular data to provide you with accurate weather forecasts for your location, suggest nearby restaurants and other points of interest, and offer localized search results and tailored recommendations. However, if you don’t want Windows 10 to track your location information, you can turn this function off completely or leave it on only for some apps.

  1. In your Windows desktop, go to “Start,” then your Windows 10 “Settings,” and “Privacy.” From the left-pane, select “Location.”windows10 location
  2. To turn location off on Windows 10, select “Change” under “Location for this device is on/off.”windows10 change location
  3. Toggle the switch to “off” position.windows10 location access off
  4. If you want to turn Location tracking function off for all apps or keep it turned on for some apps, select which apps can use your location by toggling the appropriate on/off switches to the right of each app.windows10 disable location tracking for apps

How to disable network discovery on Windows 10

Windows 10 allows you to discover other computers and devices on the same network. This feature works only when you’re connected to a trusted Wi-Fi at your home or office — it’s not available on public networks. However, we recommend double-checking your network settings. Otherwise, you may be vulnerable to hackers.

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Network & internet.”windows10 network and internet
  2. Select “Network and sharing center” under the “Advanced network settings” section.windows10 network and sharing center
  3. Select “Change advanced sharing settings.”windows10 change advanced sharing settings
  4. Choose “Turn off network discovery.”windows10 turn off network discovery
  5. Save the changes.windows10 save changes

How to turn off Cortana

Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, is designed to recognize your voice, set reminders, provide recommendations, and answer questions using the Bing search engine. Some users find it useful, but this convenience comes with privacy risks. Cortana can collect a lot of data about you, and this data might later be used by online marketers. So here’s how to disable Cortana:

  1. Open the Cortana app.cortana app
  2. Click the three dots in the upper-left corner.cortana settings
  3. Select “Settings” > “Privacy.”cortana privacy
  4. Click “Revoke permission and sign out.”cortana revoke permission

You’ll be signed out of Cortana, and your chat history will be deleted.

How to stop file sharing

You can share files with other users on the same network without sending emails or using a flash drive. However, doing so can pose security risks because malicious actors might sneak into your network and steal your files. A hacker might also impersonate your co-worker and trick you into downloading malware, steal your passwords, and extract credit card details. Here’s how to stop file sharing:

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Network & internet.”windows10 network and internet
  2. Select “Network and sharing center” under the “Advanced network settings” section.windows10 advanced network settings
  3. Select “Change advanced sharing settings.”windows10 change advanced sharing setting
  4. Choose “Turn off file and printer sharing.”windows10 turn off file and printer sharing
  5. Save the changes.windows10 save changes

If you want another way to share files securely, you can use NordVPN’s Meshnet feature. It allows you to link multiple devices with secure encrypted tunnels, through which you can remotely access any files shared through Meshnet.

How to protect your privacy on Windows 10

If you want to take your privacy on Windows 10 to the next level, use a VPN for PC, like NordVPN. It masks your IP address, encrypts traffic, and blocks annoying ads. NordVPN is an app designed to keep hackers and snoopers away. But it also offers additional security tools for your privacy — its Threat Protection feature blocks third-party trackers from following you online so you can browse with increased privacy.

Make sure to always maintain cyber hygiene and never click on suspicious ads or links in messages and emails from unknown senders. If you are worried your device is already infected by malware, you can follow the instructions on how to remove malware from Windows 10 in our blog.

The less Microsoft knows about you, the better. You never know where your data will end up, who will be analyzing it, and what security measures they will take to protect it. Disabling tracking on Windows 10 is the right thing to do. There’s no such thing as too many precautions when it comes to the most vulnerable asset we have — our privacy.

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