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User – The biggest threat to Windows

First, let me openly admit that most of this post is based on my subjective, personal opinion and experience, rather than statistics based on facts. I follow and subscribe to TenForums.com, biggest non-Microsoft Windows forums, in addition to some Finnish, Swedish and German sites.

As I see it, it’s the users themselves that pose the biggest threat to Windows 10. I’ll try to explain why I think so.

Introducing the Tinfoil-hat Brigade

Some of this is because of the powerful tinfoil-hat brigade. Users don’t think clearly and logically. Instead, they trust any and every “news” topic they’ve seen that claims “Microsoft is spying on you”. When such paranoia hits, the first thing to do is of course to stop this and that service.

Stopping native, default Windows services and telemetry is always a risky game. An average user lacks the information and knowledge to understand the relationships between these services. Disabling one service might make another important one fail to work as designed because the latter depends on the disabled service.

Adam Wilson from the Windows Search team at Microsoft wrote about this in a blog post a few weeks ago. Quoting Adam:

Anyone hanging around a Windows forum for too long eventually sees the same thing. Something is going wrong on a Windows PC and the accepted recommendation to fix it is by disabling the Windows Search service, also called the indexer or search indexer.

For us on the Windows Search team, the real questions that matter are: Are people really following these instructions to turn off the Windows Search service? And if they do, what problem are they trying to solve?

That’s just one example.

For you tinfoil-hat brigade members, I have this to say: Microsoft is not spying at you. Telemetry collected is to improve Windows, fix its bugs and make your user experience better. They do not have a group of people tasked with digging into every aspect of your life. They do not print and pin your embarrassing photos on the Microsoft campus café’s wall for their co-workers to share a good laugh. They do not call your ex when they notice you called her with ugly names in a Skype chat.

Windows telemetry does not even identify you. Please read Ed’s post about Windows Telemetry and why it is a good thing.

Tweakers, Optimizers and Cleaners

When you start following an issue thread on the forums, you will quite often notice that some users start new threads complaining that “Windows sucks, it’s not working and is bricking my PC”. Reading a bit more, when the user has answered some additional questions from those trying to assist, it is then revealed that he or she has used tweaker A and optimizer B on a regular basis, in addition to cleaning their registry with cleaner C every day.

Cleaning the registry is much like the placebo pills a doctor orders for a hypochondriac to get rid of him or her. The way Windows registry works is in no way affected even if an application uninstall does not completely remove all remnants as part of its cleanup maneuvers.

When Windows starts, to simplify this a bit, not all of the registry is read. The system only reads and handles those registry entries necessary to boot Windows and run start-up apps. Everything else is ignored. Removing some registry entries can save maximum a kilobyte or two and does not speed up the boot process at all.

In fact, for those insisting that cleaning registry speeds up Windows or its boot, I make this promise: please prove without a doubt that running a registry cleaner made your Windows boot up at least 0.3 seconds faster, and I will eat a can of cat food on a live Internet broadcast!

The most amusing defence for using a cleaner on a regular basis is that “It has never caused any issues“, without providing any factual information to show it has helped in any way. The fact that you have never had any issues with an application does not automatically mean it has helped you.

Benchmarks & Overclocking

Overclockers are one group that constantly complains about Windows not working as it should. Personally, I have some difficulties in understanding that a user has a PC so they can run various benchmarks and post such results on different forums.

I mean, who cares about boot time being a second faster? How does it affect the functionality of Windows? What difference does it make if you get 92 FPS on your game instead of 90 before overclocking?

One thing about overclocking: I must admit that I might be the wrong person to talk about it. I have never done it myself, and have never really understood the point.


I have not used any registry cleaners, optimizers and such since Windows XP and Vista. I have generally speaking very few issues with Windows, which I believe is because I let Windows take care of itself as it is designed to do. Of course, I must occasionally edit a registry value or two, but I do not clean it. There’s simply no need.

I strongly recommend that users leave Windows alone to do its job. All cleaners, tweakers and optimizers are just like those placebo pills I mentioned earlier. They don’t do anything that native Windows tools and editing settings can’t, but they can make Windows unusable or unstable.

In my opinion, all of this: disabling telemetry and services and using various third-party tools to “tweak, optimize and clean” Windows is something you shouldn’t do. This is especially important if you have volunteered as Windows beta tester, and serve as a Windows Insider testing preview versions of future releases.

That’s it this time.




Author: Kari Finn

A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.

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