How to: Safely Disable Windows 10 Tracking

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Tom H. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I'm currently running Windows 7 and would like to upgrade to Windows 10. However, the one thing I'm greatly concerned about is how Windows 10 will track and share my information online. In your opinion is Windows 10 worth it or should I stick with Windows 7? "

My response:

That's a good question, and there a number of things to consider.

Updates for the Life of the Machine

In my opinion, it's definitely worth the upgrade to go from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 simply for the fact that you will be running the latest operating system from Microsoft and it will be supported indefinitely.

As long as you upgrade to Windows 10 before July 29, 2016, you can get a free license. If you absolutely hate Windows 10, then you can downgrade back to Windows 7 or 8 (within 30 days) and you won't lose anything.

You can then upgrade to Windows 10 again in the far distant future at no cost (2 or 3 or more years later if you really wanted to), so long as you do the upgrade before July 29, 2016 -and- the system is registered with Microsoft. The system will automatically register with Microsoft so long as you have an Internet connection and you check the system properties to see that Windows has been activated.

I recommend you do a disk image backup before you try the upgrade just in case something goes wrong, and so you can reinstate your old operating system beyond the 30 day limit imposed by Windows 10.

Compatibility Issues with Windows 10

You may face some compatibility issues after the upgrade, where programs don't work like they should. In that case, you can either look for an alternative program, or you can contact me and I'll try and make the program work for you using remote desktop support.

Windows 10 Privacy and Tracking

As for the privacy and tracking issues: you can disable many of the tracking features in Windows 10 manually.

That's exactly what I did; I chose to manually make these adjustments so that they can be undone later (if needed). At the time, there were a few free programs online that would disable the Windows 10 tracking permanently, but the ones I came across did not have a feature to undo the changes. As such, I decided not to go that route.

Unfortunately, the steps I took to disable the Windows 10 tracking were not enough. Whenever I wrote an email or an article, I found the cursor would lag, which signaled to me that my data input was being recorded. I should mention that data input in Windows 10 is recorded for various reasons - one of them being to make Cortana useful. Since I don't use Cortana and because I hate a laggy cursor, I decided to do a bit more research to see if I could find a program that could disable Windows 10 tracking and have the ability to undo the changes if necessary.

How to Safely Disable Windows 10 Tracking (Automated)

In the end, I decided to give Spybot Anti Beacon a try. First, the interface was very simple to use. Second, there were only a few options that I needed to work with, which also made it simple to use. And third (and perhaps most importantly), I could undo the changes later if I wanted to.

After I used the Spybot Anti Beacon, my cursor doesn't lag anymore. But, the Bing search engine doesn't work, either. If you use Windows Mail, Spybot Anti Beacon might break that as well, and the same goes for One Drive. There are some options within the program that allow you to get around that issue, but then some of the anti-tracking will need to be disabled. You'll just have to find a happy-medium.

I should also mention that after I upgraded to the latest Windows 10 build (version 10586), some of my anti-tracking settings were lost because of the way the upgrade was carried out (system files and settings get overwritten). Keep that in mind the next time a major Windows 10 build gets released - you'll want to re-run Spybot Anti Beacon again and have it reset its configuration.

So there you have it. I'm using Windows 10 and I'm relatively certain that I'm not being spied on, and things work relatively good.

You can download Spyboy Anti Beacon from

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If all of this is over your head and you need help with the anti-tracking or upgrading to Windows 10, I can help. Simply contact me and we can set up a time to meet online using remote desktop support.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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hrleno's picture

Sounds great, Dennis, that we can safely disable Win10's tracking. However you did state that it broke a few other programs in the process. That says to me that if I want the full features of Win10, I have to put up with the tracking. I choose to stay with Win7, just because there is no tracking involved (that we know of!) and when and if Microsoft stops supporting it, I'll go to a Linux derivative. Intuit can then make a Linux version of TurboTax and Quicken if they want to keep me as a customer, else I'll visit H&R Block and use a spreadsheet.

Dennis Faas's picture

Most of the tracking has to do with new features in Windows 10, such as Cortana. If you've never used Cortana before then you probably won't miss it. But if Cortana is something you absolutely must have, then you have no choice in the matter because that's how Cortana works - it must 'get to know you' by 'watching' what you do.

As for One Drive, there are other alternatives including Google Drive that you can install that provide the same functionality. The same goes for Windows Mail - use Thunderbird instead, it's way better, anyway.

nospam_5346's picture

While I don't think it blocks the keystroke logger, WinPrivacy allows you to block any program that connects to the Internet on an .exe by .exe basis. I haven't tried it in Windows 10 yet to see if I can block Cortana or not since I only use Windows 10 on an absolutely need to basis.

As for updates for the life of the machine, I read that support for Windows 10 will end in 2025. I'm not entirely sure what they intend to do then.

I have found that Cortana will load into memory and will phone home even when everything connected to it is turned off. If you kill the process, it respawns in a second or two. I'm hoping that somewhere down the line someone figures a way to keep it from loading into memory.

Windows 10 is still a phone/tablet OS and that is why it tracks you like your phone does. They put lipstick on a pig to make it look less like a phone OS, but it is still basically a phone/tablet OS with apps instead of applications and an ugly GUI optimized for touch screens. And, like phones, they built many of those apps into the OS so you can't get rid of them (although you can jailbreak your phone and do so, you can't jailbreak your desktop).

And, if you've installed all those Microsoft Updates to Windows 7 that have to do with upgrading to Windows 10, you have already installed the telemetry updates which spy on you and phone home anyway. So, even if you use Windows 7, you need to uninstall those updates. Before I uninstalled them, one of these updates tried to phone home about 50 times in a week (WinPrivacy keeps track of how many times a blocked program tries to connect).

I'll have to check out Spybot Anti Beacon.

Joe M's picture

I am using Spybot Anti Beacon on Windows 10 Preview and Windows 8.1 Professional.
I tell it to Immunize everything on both computers. I noticed on the 8.1 computer that after a Windows update, the only thing that changed is in the Optional settings. The Telemetry Hosts settings shows 20 of 70 items being blocked. I will Immunize it again and now it shows 70 of 70 items being blocked. The program is simple to use. I just wish it had the ability to show what was being blocked in Telemetry Hosts. I have yet to see any problems with everything being Immunized.