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August 18, 2022

Windows 10, telemetry and groundless paranoia

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a good post on my “virtual home” TenForums.com. The post was refreshing: in it, an unofficial IT support geek for friends and family was questioning his decision to enforce his own Windows policies on those relying on him for assistance and advice. I do not like long quotes, but I think that for the purpose of this post, it is important to quote the whole thing:

I support a dozen or so family and friends PC’s along with several of my own. Windows 10 has got me more perplexed than any other OS. I’m an early adopter of every version and lock them down as much as I can through Group Policy and vetting all the settings.

However I realise that I’m doing this for my family and friends too, without giving them the opportunity to experience Windows 10 naturally for themselves.

Reading alot of tech magazines I have never came across an article where it can be proven that Windows 10 has ever used any data over the last three years for nefarious purposes. They are always on either side of the fence, Microsoft is evil or take off your tinfoil hat. This has left me in the middle chopping and changing OS’s and not really enjoying computing at the moment.

I am at a point in 2019 where I think sod it let Windows 10 use the express settings and just move on enjoying all the cloud applications, cortana, timeline etc… rather than locking everything down. Surely if there were any truly terrible privacy and security invasions someone would have discovered them since 2015.

You can find the original post and the discussion that followed, including my comments at https://www.tenforums.com/general-support/125760-lock-down-windows-10-just-get-over.html

What made me angry was one of the first replies to OP. A fellow member, ignoring the OP’s question, recommended taking these actions when installing Windows 10:

– Disable One Drive
– Disable Cortana and web based search
– Set all diagnostic telemetry as low as possible
– Delay “feature” updates by 120 days (if possible)
– Delay security updates by 11 days (if possible)
– Set default search in any/all browsers to DuckDuckGo
– Install and use browsers that can use HTTPSAnywhere and PrivacyBadger extensions

Windows 10 is capable of taking care of itself, and works best when left to do what it is designed to do. These tips from the “tinfoil hat brigade” do more harm than Windows users often realize. Especially when talking about Windows services and disabling them based on groundless rumours and paranoia can lead to unexpected consequences. Services are intertwined in such a way that a service disabled by a user can cause other services not to work at all, or to work badly or inefficiently.

I am repeating myself, having said this several times on various forums and on social media, but in my opinion it needs to be repeated: The telemetry Windows 10 collects is to learn how you use Windows, what your interests are, what you search for and use. Consider, Windows does all this anonymously. The only goal in collecting this data is to improve Windows and your user experience. Windows “calling home” is so minimal it has absolutely no impact on compute capability, Internet speed or storage space.

Microsoft is not “spying” on users. Thus, the telemetry Microsoft collects is to make Windows better, and to improve the Windows user experience. Microsoft will not call your ex if you called her a stupid cow in a Skype chat with a friend. Microsoft will not print your most embarrassing social media photos and put them on display on Redmond campus to give their personnel a good laugh. Microsoft will not report you to the authorities if you mention in an email that you lied in your tax declaration.

Let Windows to do its job. Since the early days of Windows Vista, I have not used any cleaners, optimizers or tweakers. There’s a clear correlation between posts on tech sites asking for help and the amount of tweaks and disabled Windows features and services these posters have applied. For myself, letting Windows 10 do its job, I have had no issues, excluding of course issues caused by bugs in Insider builds.

Windows collecting telemetry data is a good thing. Let it do its thing. Windows can only get better as a result.



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.

21 Responses “Windows 10, telemetry and groundless paranoia”

  1. CountMike
    January 24, 2019 at 16:49

    Just like most/all conspiracy theories, flat Earth, no moon landings, SSDs not lasting, …. I could go all day long with those. All comes from not using your head but somebody else’s.

    • January 24, 2019 at 17:00


      It makes me sad to see how often stupid decisions are made because of “I heard that…” or “My friends told me that…”.

  2. LTL
    January 26, 2019 at 18:27

    Thanks for a very refreshing point of view, Kari. Let me get you a coffee.
    This site and your tools should get more attention.

    • January 26, 2019 at 19:33

      Thank you!

  3. supergirl
    February 4, 2019 at 03:27

    I dont know you & have never been here before .. but if this is a sample of your work & ideas you are an F-ing idiot.

    • February 4, 2019 at 09:40

      Thank you for your refreshing comment, Supergirl!

  4. Sergio
    March 24, 2019 at 19:06

    The Windows 10 64 bits telemetry is slowing down my system. It’s impossible to delay the time that telemetry starts. Why telemetry service starts at boot without no reason?

  5. Metalsand
    April 3, 2019 at 14:53

    I generally agree with you – the vast majority of the privacy settings are fairly benign or neutral. Though, I would say that blame doesn’t solely lay on users for their paranoia – it doesn’t help when Microsoft doesn’t properly explain what it all is and lets imaginations run wild.

    Anyways, at an enterprise deployment level, the telemetry feature concerns me as it does log keystrokes. This can be a major concern with regards to the regulations businesses are under with regards to safeguarding customer data.

    Yet, oddly enough I’ve been unable thus far to find any real good write ups on the specifics of these settings. Any time I search for info or articles on the subject, I do see more of the groundless paranoia that you mention. When I get discussions that aren’t groundless paranoia, it’s mostly sysadmins that don’t trust that it’s safe and secure and would prefer to err on the side of caution.

    Would you know of any resources that I would be able to find more definitive answers and explanations about these privacy settings?

    • April 4, 2019 at 05:46

      I fully agree with you, telemetry documentation is almost completely missing. Not clearly documenting what various telemetry settings do makes Microsoft itself partly guilty for the paranoia we are seeing.

      My Win10.guru partner Ed is about the best Windows security expert I know. I’ll take this topic up with him and ask if there’s some information available you and I are not able to find.

  6. teo
    April 26, 2019 at 13:06

    ”only goal in collecting this data is to improve”… that said by all ”googles” on your machines.
    I want to see what they collect… is this legitimate or not? What you think or no idea of whhat they collect?
    I pay a product like is it and may be i dont want this better by invading my privacy.
    Information win the wars… that true.

  7. Passerby
    November 27, 2019 at 22:20

    Yeah, you tell that to all the child porn producers and Gitmo residents.
    If the government comes knocking on Microsoft door and they are ABLE to give them access to your information, then it is as good as if they have given it to them. Whether you know about it or not.

    Can’t recall how Dread Pirate Roberts was discovered, but pretty sure that if the FBI could use companies to get his info- they would.

  8. wpontius
    December 22, 2019 at 00:00

    Even Microsoft says that unneeded services should be disabled. There are many services that can be disabled without any determent to Windows operations. For example: All five remote desktop services, three peer-to-peer networking services, computer browser and server (smb n/w), distributed link and tracking client and coordinator, remote registry, retail demo srvc, TCP port sharing, four Xbox services, three bluetooth services, TCP netbios, …etc. If not on a network, use bluetooth, xbox or need remote desktop why have them running? Certainly no need for retail demo.

    OneDrive is uninstalled through control panel and does not affect the operation of Win10. Cortana is not needed by me so I have disabled it. I do use Privacy Badger and Google for my searches.

    Yes, I do have something to hide. Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s they called it privacy, personal information and minding your own business.

  9. W Pontius
    December 22, 2019 at 00:18

    There are many services that can be disabled with out any determent to Windows 10 operations, e.g: XBox, Bluetooth, M/S peer to peer, computer server, workstation and browser, five remote desktop and access plus Windows remote management, remote registry, retail demo, UPnP, TCP netbios, phone, fax, three smart card…etc. If not on a network or unneeded why keep them running? Including uninstalling unneeded or unused Windows add-ons (features) in Programs and Features.

    I see no paranoia in turning off telemetry, even if used for Windows improvements. Most of the improvements, Cortana, Xbox, phone connectivity, new browser, ads, games, metro start menu, PowerShell are unneeded or unused by me. Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s we called it privacy, personal information and minding your own business. If that is called something to hide or being paranoid then so be it.

  10. mamutKaraibski
    January 3, 2020 at 13:25

    I strongly disagree with your article. I am ok with some telemetry, location tracking etc on my smartphone because from the beginning I knew the nature of the device. It’s for killing time with a cat video or some game, navigating and connecting with people. I made a decision that sharing some of my information is a fair price for extra functionality and benefits of social medias, navigation services etc.
    My PC on other hand is a PERSONAL COMPUTER, I use it for work, for banking, for researching, for hobbies. It was my private device for years. And suddenly it’s not. MS can promise that all data is anonymous the whole day, I don’t care. I don’t want my code, my documents or my banking details be logged on MS servers. Yes maybe MS won’t call the police if I cheat on taxes but in few years maybe police will kindly ask MS to give them all my logs so they can check themselves.
    I am not asking MS to remove telemetry, I am asking MS to give me a choice of turning all of the tracking stuff off, just like they do for Enterprise users. Right now as a personal user I cannot opt out of the MS tracking even if I would pay extra for a version that does not track.
    If asking for that bit of privacy on a PC is paranoia then let it be so.

    P.S. About MS making fun of your photos… well it kinda happened with Amazon Alexa (I know it’s not MS). You know a Romanian center where people were making transcripts of Alexa users private conversations, and sometimes sharing funny sound bits on a group chat at work? Funny story. I wouldn’t be surprised if MS had it’s own listening center for improving speech recognition in Cortana.

  11. luka
    February 13, 2020 at 04:17

    Comment removed.

    • February 13, 2020 at 08:42

      Luka, your long rant was removed. As you let us know that you represent EFF (“We at EFF…”), please send it from an official EFF email address, and we will publish it. Send it to info (at) win10.guru

  12. Robert
    July 25, 2020 at 08:40

    Sorry, but Windows 10 Enterprise does not equate to Windows 10 Home/Pro. I worked with many different individuals (attorneys, mostly; all working for Microsoft in their Privacy Department) to identify if Windows 10 Home/Pro could be made to be HIPAA compliant, specifically in regards to ePHI and unauthorized access.

    Long story extremely short, the attorneys/managers always suggested that I use Windows 10 Enterprise; being a small office, this is not a viable due to economic reasons. What they did not say spoke louder than what they did say. If I cannot trust Windows 10 Home/Pro to not grab any identifying information on my clients, how can I trust it to not grab any identifying information on myself?

    I think that you’ve drank the Microsoft Jim Jones koolaid for too long to not recognize that there are legitimate concerns about privacy when running Microsoft products.

  13. Lucas
    October 15, 2020 at 12:42

    Could I undisturbedly wish to have an OS in my machine that just mind working as it should be – an OS, minding its own basic functions and not collecting data for their own interests and what not, or is it so wrong? Can I have a raw and simple, out of bothersome bloatware system without being labelled as “tin foil hat brigade”? CAN I OWN MY OWN PC?
    As I see it, if the OS gives us the option to disable something, there shouldn’t be any problem with that…
    sorry for my english.

  14. Lucas Mariano
    October 15, 2020 at 12:48

    Could I undisturbedly wish to have an OS in my machine that just mind working as it should be – an OS, minding its own basic functions and not collecting data for their own interests and what not, or is it so wrong? Can I have a raw and simple, out of bothersome bloatware system without being labelled as “tin foil hat brigade”? CAN I OWN MY OWN PC?
    As I see it, if the OS gives us the option to disable something, there shouldn’t be any problem with that…
    sorry for my english.

  15. CC
    November 14, 2020 at 00:07

    “The telemetry Windows 10 collects is to learn how you use Windows, what your interests are, what you search for and use.”

    This is called “spying”. Your manipulation attempt is transparent.

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