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3 Windows 10 privacy settings you need to change

After the much-awaited Anniversary Update last August, Microsoft now claims that there are 400 million active Windows 10 machines in the world.

There's a lot to like about Windows 10. It is an integrated way of compromising between the stable functionality of Windows 7 and the futuristic, touchscreen-focused features of Windows 8.1.

However, some new features collect your data like never before and by default it has them all turned on.

With these added features, users also need to be aware of any added security concerns and how to protect their systems from any unwanted vulnerability.

Let's walk through some of the automatic default settings that increase security risks, and how to turn them off.

What to know before installing Windows 10

If you haven't installed Windows 10 yet, there's something you need to know.

When you install Windows 10, you can choose the "easy" installation or a custom installation. The easy install will give you the default, not-so-private privacy settings.

You'll definitely want to choose the custom install option. This lets you turn off location tracking, Wi-Fi sharing, advertiser information collection and more right from the start.

During installation, Windows will also ask you to create a new Windows Account or sign in with an existing one. Linking a Windows Account with Windows 10 lets you have easy access to OneDrive for storing files in the cloud, syncs up with Bing for better searches and it backs up your settings in case you need to reinstall Windows. However, it also sends a lot of information back to Microsoft.

If you want, you can choose the link to install Windows using a local account. This will keep Windows from sharing as much with Microsoft, but you will have to give up some of the cloud-based features.

If you've already installed Windows 10 and want to adjust your account, go to Start >> Settings and choose Accounts. You can create a new local account and remove your Windows Account from Windows.

Of course, if you already installed Windows 10, or it came pre-installed on your computer, you'll want to tweak the other default privacy settings as well. Let's look at where those are located.

In Windows 10, Microsoft helpfully put a lot of major privacy settings in one location. Go to Start >> Settings and select Privacy.

You'll get a long list of areas from "General" and "Location" to "Contacts," "Calendar" and "Feedback." You can poke around each one to see what it controls and shares with Microsoft. However, there are a few you'll want to do right away.

1. Cortana: Getting to know you

Cortana is Microsoft's digital personal assistant. It's designed to learn about your movements, browsing habits, contacts, calendar and more.

That way, it can give you the information you need before you ask. Of course, that means it has to learn a lot about you.

Windows 10 Cortana

If you don't think you'll use Cortana, you can turn her off completely. Simply click the Magnifying glass icon in the taskbar and go to the gear icon.

In the Settings, you can switch Cortana off, and there's a link to manage what she already learned about you. You can also stop Bing from recording information about you to improve your searches.

Windows 10 Search

Of course, you can check to make sure that she really isn't still learning about you.

Back in the Privacy screen, under "Speech, Inking & Typing" find "Getting to know you." This controls whether or not Cortana is learning certain things about you. Make sure it's off.

Once you're done with that, keep looking through the Privacy area for more things you aren't comfortable with.

2. Turn off your location tracking

Next in the Privacy screen, head to the "Location" area. Here, you can tell Windows to stop tracking your location entirely or choose specific apps that can and can't use your location.

Location is useful for apps like the weather or when you're looking at maps because you don't have to put in your address every time. However, other apps might use it to keep tabs on you.

Cortana, Windows 10's built-in personal assistant, uses your location to suggest items of interest near you or learn the places you like to go (if you're using a laptop or Windows Phone).

3. Turn off ad notifications on your locked screen

Microsoft also has a way of sneaking ads through Windows 10's lock screen via the "Windows Spotlight" feature.

To turn off Windows 10 lock screen ads, on the same Settings page, go to "Personalization" and click the "Lock Screen" section. Under "Background," switch to another option other than "Windows spotlight." (You can set it to either "Picture" or "Slideshow.")

Next, on the same page, scroll down and turn off "Get fun facts, tips, tricks, and more on your lock screen." These tweaks will stop ads and tips from invading your lock screen.

Bonus: Turn off your advertising ID

Like every other major online company, Microsoft is using targeted advertising to drive revenue. That means it's sending advertisers your data so they know what ads to send you. While you can't shut off the advertising, you can stop advertisers from seeing what you're doing.

In Privacy, go to "General" and switch "Let apps use my advertising ID" to Off. Now, advertisers won't get your advertiser ID when you visit a page.

You can click the link for "Manage My Microsoft advertising and other Personalization info" to set your global Microsoft Account preferences for seeing advertising on other Microsoft products. Note that if you're using a local Windows account, this link won't do much.

In "General," you might always want to turn off "Send Microsoft info about how I write," although Microsoft says this is just to improve auto-correct and handwriting recognition.

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