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Security & privacy

Windows 10: New feature stops potentially dangerous apps from running – Check if it’s enabled

When using a computer for some time, there are bound to be some apps and software on the machine that you don’t want. Installed applications can be uninstalled by going through the ‘Remove Programs’ setting, but that doesn’t always do the trick.

Small pieces of data like cookies or text files can remain. Sometimes software developers will add in other things that you don’t really need or wanted. This can include advertising pop-ups, website redirects, or software referred to as bloatware.

To combat the growing concern over the tactics used by these developers, Microsoft released a solution. It’s been in Windows for a while but has only now been activated.

Here’s the backstory

The added software that often comes bundled with new computers or fresh installations can pose a risk to your data and personal information. Microsoft calls these Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs) and is giving you the ability to block them.

It explains that PUAs “can cause your device to run slowly, display unexpected ads, or install other software which may be more harmful or annoying.” Microsoft also clarified that PUAs aren’t classified as malware but just software that you don’t want.

The option to turn off unwanted applications was introduced last year, but it had to be activated manually for it to work. If you didn’t know that the setting was there, you wouldn’t have used it.

How to block unwanted apps

In a Windows update scheduled for later this month, the blocking of unwanted applications will be turned on by default. You can access the feature by going to Settings, then Update & Security. Click on Windows Security, then App & browser control, and click on Reputation-based protection settings.

You have the option of blocking an application and/or blocking additional downloads.

Microsoft explained that Block apps would “detect PUA that you’ve already downloaded or installed” and restrict their activity. Similarly, the Block downloads will constantly scan for PUAs being downloaded. But it comes with a caveat: it can only detect PUAs when downloading through the Microsoft Edge browser.

When a PUA is detected, you’ll receive a notification and the option to act. This can range from removal, quarantine or allowing the app access.

If you are worried about malicious applications, you should have trustworthy antivirus software installed on all of your devices. We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV.

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