Windows Telemetry: Is Your Computer at Risk?

Companies gather diagnostic data to improve their products and, by extension, their clients’ experiences. Microsoft is no different. Windows Telemetry is a tool designed to collect information about the use of Windows systems, but does it gather only relevant data?

What is Windows Telemetry?

Windows Telemetry was introduced in Windows 10 and is present in the newer version of the system – Windows 11. It replaced the old Windows Error Reporting tool, which notified Microsoft when something went wrong with the system.

Windows Telemetry is a feature enabled by default when a fresh copy of the system is installed on a computer. But what does it do, exactly? It monitors your settings and collects important data to further improve your user experience.

The information gathered by Telemetry is sent to Microsoft and then used to improve Windows, which sounds good in theory. Still, many users are concerned about the amount of seemingly insignificant data that is collected by this feature. This is because Windows Telemetry can also monitor your apps, visited websites, and much more.

This seems a bit unnecessary in the context of product enhancement. No wonder people are concerned – especially now that online privacy is such a frequently discussed topic. You can use an incognito browser or install a tracker blocker, but they can’t fully protect your privacy when your entire operating system sends your personal data to Microsoft.

Windows Telemetry – pros and cons

The Windows data collection feature has its pros and cons – like everything. What are they?

Pros:

  • The feature enables Microsoft to improve its products.
  • The gathered data is used to enhance Windows security by fixing problems and loopholes.
  • Microsoft says it minimizes the gathered data by collecting some optional information from only a small percentage of sample devices.

Cons:

  • The collected data is not anonymous.
  • Some people view Window Telemetry as a spying tool.

Can you disable Windows Telemetry?

Windows Telemetry has settings that group the collected data into categories:

  • Basic (required) – vital information about the device and its settings.
  • Full (optional) – data about the device and its settings, applications used, websites visited, and memory usage. It may include fragments of files opened at the time of a crash.

The amount of data Microsoft collects bothers many people, but what’s more disturbing is that the feature can only be easily turned off in certain cases. Users with the Windows Enterprise, Education, or Professional editions can turn off data collection, but on the Home edition, they can only limit it to the Required setting.

Does this mean you can’t disable Windows Telemetry in Windows Home at all? Not exactly. You can do it, but it requires some technical knowledge. You will either have to install third-party software on your computer, run a script or manually go through numerous settings. Fortunately, Windows-savvy users have come up with handy instructions for others.

You can also set the amount of collected data to Required by going into Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics and feedback. Windows will still send some information, but only the relevant ones.

What can you do to improve your privacy?

Technically, you can disable Windows Telemetry or at least reduce the data it sends to almost zero, even if it takes some time and effort. But should you do it? The answer depends on you – do you want Microsoft to collect your data? Keep in mind that if you choose the Required option, Windows will not send data that is not absolutely relevant to your device’s performance.

There are other, easier ways to improve your privacy. For example, using an up-to-date web browser with an ad-blocker installed disables some malicious ads and pop-ups that can track you. Connecting to the Internet through a VPN is also a great way to maintain your privacy and security – it masks your IP address while strongly encrypting your data.

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