Should You Disable Windows 10 Telemetry?
While the overall reception to Window 10 has been mostly positive, more than a few IT administrators remain wary of potential privacy and security issues. Central to the issue is the telemetry service in Windows 10, which periodically sends usage and performance data to select Microsoft IP addresses so that they can improve user experience and fix potential issues, and is enabled by default. This has raised privacy concerns for some users. To help you manage privacy in Windows, we have a few tips and tools to clamp down on data you send to Microsoft.
What is telemetry data?
Windows 10 telemetry data includes basic system diagnostics information, logs of how frequently you use features and applications, system files, and likely more metrics that have yet to be disclosed. Microsoft allows users to set the amount of data they wish to share, but it cannot be completely turned off. Enterprise installations have an even more minimal setting but even then a small amount of security and diagnostic information is sent.
Microsoft splits telemetry settings into four tiers.
- Security – Data and logs pertaining to Windows security, including client settings and metrics collected from the Malicious Software Removal Tool and Windows Defender. Available only on Enterprise installations.
- Basic – Device information including application compatibility and security.
- Enhanced – Everything from the Security and Basic tiers, plus data on how Windows and Windows applications are used and how they perform.
- Full – Everything from the three other tiers and more. This information can include user content that may have triggered a crash or problem.
So what exactly is sent to Microsoft and how often is it sent? According to InvestmentWatch, Windows 10 transmits the following data back to the company:
- Typed text on keyboard sent every 30 minutes
- Anything you say into a microphone is transmitted
- Transcripts of things you say while using Cortana
- Index of all media files on your computer
- When your webcam is first enabled, 35mb of data
- Telemetry data
How do I turn off telemetry?
To completely shut down telemetry the quick and easy way, Reddit user 10se1ucgo created a user-friendly program in Python that shuts down telemetry and diagnostic services. Aptly named DisableWinTracking, the program can be found for free on GitHub.
Another option is to use the Microsoft Telemetry Removal Tool, which works across Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10. It goes far beyond turning off telemetry however, and will disable your Windows Update settings, SkyDrive, and several other useful features. In short, it declares total war on Windows automated features.
But keep in mind the fact that you’re running third party scripts and applications to fix what you feel is a privacy issue. If you don’t want to send Microsoft your telemetry data, is running a program from an unverified source you found online any better? Thankfully, there is documentation for turning off telemetry manually.
Disabling telemetry the manual way
Microsoft has published a TechNet article detailing how to disable certain features for Enterprise users. For users of Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Home, Reddit user lit3brit3 has compiled a list of common settings that controls the amount of telemetry that is collected and sent. Unlike running a script or program, you are responsible for changing each of these settings manually. While more time consuming, you can be sure that you won’t be introducing a backdoor or other malware into your system.
Microsoft assures users that they collect telemetry data only to help them improve user experience and fix bugs and problems. Still many system administrators don’t want sensitive user or company information sent over the Internet. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments if you support or are against the gathering of Windows 10 telemetry.