Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Windows 10

New Features | Personalizing | Privacy Concerns | Security | Should You Upgrade?

Windows 10

Lost files in the Windows 10 October 2018 Update? See your recovery options.

New Windows, New Rules

There's no killer app, no killer service, and certain drawbacks (forced updates, snooping). Windows 10 is good and steadily improving, but not yet compelling. — InfoWorld
In short, Windows 10 is good, but it isn't a slam dunk — and it comes with considerable baggage.

On the other hand, if your machine, drivers, and apps are compatible (most likely they are), you want to ride the wave of the latest and greatest, and you're willing to accept the new Windows-as-a-service world of forced updates and Google-like data collection, you will probably be happy with Windows 10.

But be sure you understand the new rules. —InfoWorld

Supported Lifetime Redefined

Windows 10, released on July 29, 2015 with support ending October 14, 2025.

Microsoft added a wrinkle: support is only valid for the supported lifetime of the device which is undefined by Microsoft.

Legacy Hardware Support Uncertain

More than likely the hardware is going to determine the supportability of your computer. As it ages and newer technology emerges it is likely that support for legacy hardware will be removed and your computer could become unsupported.

Prior versions of Windows, including Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, have limited support when running on new processors and chipsets from manufacturers like Intel, AMD, NVidia, and Qualcomm. — Microsoft

However, Intel may be building a new version of its Coffee Lake chipset just for Windows 7.

Windows 10 will not upgrade older systems including those running the Atom processor-based systems past the Anniversary Update (video). Device support can be affected by the manufacturer's discontinued support for hardware, including the loss of support of a component within your system.

Mobile-first, Cloud-first

Windows 10 is a “mobile-first, cloud-first” hybrid of Windows 7 and 8. It is a single operating system capable of running on every device from Windows Phone to Xbox to the 84-inch Microsoft Surface Hub conferencing system.

Windows 10 is a mobile operating system designed to work with a Microsoft account, which provides access to OneDrive cloud storage and a growing number of online applications, such as Calendar, People, Tasks, Office, Sway, etc. It allows you to save files from your PC to OneDrive (eg from WordPad), as well as to create files online. — The Guardian
It's almost impossible to avoid the cloud now, because of the movement of commercial and government services to the web, the multiplication of computing devices and the rapid growth in smartphones. These different trends reinforce one another. — The Guardian

Windows 10 Editions

Windows 10 is designed as a single operating system running on any device in 12 different editions.

Windows 10 Downgrade Rights

Downgrade rights is the terminology Microsoft used to allow users to run an earlier version of Windows using the license for the current version.

Start Menu “Restored”

The Start menu has been restored — sort of.

It is an improvement for Windows 8 users but not as flexible as the Windows 7 Start menu. Windows 10 pins large icons onto the right of the new Start menu:

Windows 10
The open Start menu in desktop mode.

Many non-touch users have opted to ignore these pinned apps (even removing the default pinned icons) and pinning their favourite program icons onto the desktop.

Windows as a Service

Windows 10 is Software as a Service (SaaS) — software running on the Internet.

We think of Windows as a Service — in fact, one could reasonably think of Windows in the next couple of years as one of the largest Internet services on the planet. — Microsoft Blog
Microsoft executives made it very clear that buying a Windows license — or a device with Windows 10 on it — would ensure Windows owners had a license to Windows 10 for the life of the device. But Microsoft has also said that it wants to entice you to pay for additional services over that lifespan. — PCWorld

Microsoft Managed Desktop

Upcoming changes to Windows 10 could change it from a fixed desktop experience to one that is virtual and which has additional fees. Given the frequent updates failures, do you really want Microsoft to manage your desktop for you?

Microsoft is getting ready to replace Windows 10 with the Microsoft Managed Desktop. This will be a "desktop-as-a-service" (DaaS) offering. Instead of owning Windows, you'll "rent" it by the month.

If Microsoft continues on this course, soon your only real choices if you really want a "desktop" operating system will be Linux and macOS.


DaaS may only be for enterprise uses at this time, but it may show up on Home and Pro editions once the Microsoft alternatives to Windows 10 have expired.

Service Packs No Longer

Service Packs are a thing of the past, replaced by an “all or nothing” approach to updates. Windows is a continually evolving project with a cycle that changes every 18 months rather than every decade.

For the past year, I've been hearing a steady stream of complaints from longtime Windows admins and users. Consistently, those grumbles all boil down to a single objection: Because of "Windows as a service," we're losing control of our desktop PCs. — ZDNet

Designed for Mobile Access

The world is changing rapidly. The proprietary desktop scenario of Windows XP, Vista and 7 has been replaced with “bring your own device” in many workplaces.

People are more mobile and many want to access all their information on the go. Windows 10 was designed to meet the needs of the mobile user.

You Sacrifice Privacy for Convenience

Windows 10 does allow you to move quickly between devices, but you sacrifice your privacy for this ability.

In the Cloud

Windows 10 is a cloud-based operating system hybrid.

In the past, Windows could be thought of as software that only exists on your device. Now, with Windows 10, important parts of Windows are based in the cloud, interacting with online services. — Microsoft

Placing your data “in the cloud” provides the ability to stop working on one devices and resume on another. Users can move between desktop and mobile devices as needed without losing productivity.

You No Longer Control Your Data

Of course, this also means that you no longer have direct control of your data and it is accessible to anyone anywhere in the world if your password is compromised (and probably without compromise to the cloud storage facility staff).

Local Searches Sent to Cloud

For example, when you do a search for a local document or file on your Windows 10 computer, Microsoft sends the information about your system files up to their servers and does the search there. That's what it means to be a cloud-based Windows system.

That might not make sense unless you consider two things. First, it would allow for thin-client integration (computers that depend upon the cloud-based server to function) and it would provide more information about the sorts of files you have on your computer.

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New Windows 10 Features

Windows 10 is designed to take advantage of newer hardware and enables futuristic technologies like holographic computing, biometric login and 3D printing. Additional features are added with each Windows 10 Update (now named by the release date).

See the Windows 10 update history for details of all the updates to Windows 10.

At Launch

PCWorld's Windows 10 review provides a decent overview of the new features when Windows 10 was initially released including some useful hints on getting the most out of the new OS.

Cortana (a digital assistant) and Microsoft Edge (the replacement browser for Internet Explorer) were the most notable new items. Several of these new features will require you to sacrifice at least some of your privacy to benefit from them.

The monetization of Windows includes ads and the subscription fees to get rid of them but also the collection of personal data (meta data).

Interim Updates

Be sure to backup your files before updating Windows. Acronis True Image is strongly recommended for backing up your system (I use it for both Windows and Mac systems).

The following are the major Windows 10 updates since launch:

  • The Anniversary Update was released a year after Windows 10 launch (and just after Microsoft closed the free upgrade option for Windows 7 and 8.1 users).
  • The Creators Update (Spring 2017) was designed to spark and unleash creativity, bringing 3D and mixed reality to everyone and enabling every gamer to be a broadcaster.
  • The Fall Creators Update (Fall 2017) completed some of the work started with the Creators Update and focused on the ability to move between devices when working on projects (even to and from Android and iOS apps).
  • The Spring 2018 Update (1803) included the Timeline feature and the ability to share content with other computers via Bluetooth or WiFi connections. The New Application Guard (Pro only) protects against Ransomware.

If you have trouble updating Windows 10, try these resources:

Windows 10 October 2018 Update

The Windows 10 October 2018 Update (1809) includes the delayed Cloud Clipboard, dark-mode File Explorer and other tweaks.

Unfortunately many folks unexpectedly lost files during the update process, so Microsoft pulled the update. The Acronis blog has more.

Recover Your Lost Files

I strongly recommend you backup your system before installing any Windows Update (especially with Windows 10). This provides a recovery option if something goes wrong.

The following resources can help you to recover files lost in the faulty 1809 update:

Build 17763.104 is the second release of the update to Insiders since the file-eating monster was unleashed on an unsuspecting public back on 2 October before being yanked back into its kennel. — The Register

Yet another file deletion bug hit Windows 10's October Update, this time affecting the safety mechanisms of the Zip file compression settings.

Ongoing Updates

Windows 10 continues to be updated. Check out the most recent features.

Internet Explorer Replaced but Not Gone

Microsoft Edge replaces Internet Explorer (which is still available via the Edge menu). Edge is designed for modern websites using HTML5 and JavaScript rather than traditional plugins. So far only Bing is supported for search options.

Support for third-party browser addins such as ActiveX, Java, etc. are not available in Edge because of the vulnerabilities they introduce. Flash (a vulnerable and dying technology) can be disabled in Edge's settings.

Some reviewers were disappointed in what they see in Edge but it is a definite improvement over Internet Explorer. Performance has improved over time with updates to Windows 10. Promised browser extensions have been slow in coming (there were 21 last time I checked and you had to be running the most recent version of Windows 10).

With the Creators Update, Edge became the only browser capable of downloading Netflix at 4K resolution although I expect other browsers to add the same capability at some point.


If Continuum recognizes that a keyboard is installed Windows 10 automatically switches to the desktop mode. In Windows 10 desktop mode, apps can be windowed and resized (unlike Windows 8 which ran everything full screen).

Xbox Integration

The integration of Xbox with Windows 10 will allow gamers to play their Xbox games on their PC. It cannot be uninstalled.

Xbox is the portal to all of Microsoft's entertainment offerings: the movies you can rent or buy and the Groove music services they hope you'll subscribe to.

Like Windows 10, Xbox is tied to an online account using your Microsoft ID and provides the ability to play online with friends. Playing “as a guest” serves video ads lasting up to 60 seconds between games (you can pay to disable them).

These instructions on removing Windows 10's bloatware include links to two freeware apps (10AppsManager Read more at: and WXAR) that can remove Xbox and other unwanted Win10 apps. Your mileage may vary.



It is hard to justify these prices when providing what Google does for free and exacting the same costs in terms of advertising and privacy.

Additional features available in Pro include BitLocker encryption (see Encryption: Protecting Your Data), Remote Access, and the ability to run Hyper-V virtualization on your PC. Some features require special hardware.

Getting Started Guides

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Personalizing Windows 10

Personalizing Windows involves changing the way Windows 10 does certain tasks or displays its content. You'll want to make Windows 10 your own.

The Windows 10 Lock Screen can be configured in Settings

Click on the Start button then Settings then Personalization (or right-click the desktop and choose Personalize.

Personalization has options to change your desktop and lock screen background (shown above), how the Start menu is configured and more.

The Taskbar

I recommend pinning only the most frequently used apps on the taskbar. Unpin the Microsoft defaults you don't want or use then choose what works for you.

There are several new icons on the right side of the taskbar including Task View (next to Search), Notifications and a new way of displaying the language bar.


Windows 10 uses Settings to manage much of what was contained in the Control Panel in earlier versions of Windows, including Personalization.

Screen capture showing the Windows 10 Settings

The Settings panel includes System, Devices, Network & Internet, Personalization, Accounts, Time & Language, Ease of Access, Privacy and Update & Security categories.

The majority of settings are found under the Settings (listed in the Start menu).

Searching for Advanced Options

If you don't find the setting you're looking for, try searching using the “Find a setting” search box.

For example, I found that I needed to search for “advanced printer setup” when installing a networked printer when the default Devices settings couldn't locate it.

Legacy Configuration Tools

Right-clicking the Start icon allows you to see a list of useful configuration options like Programs and Options, Device Manager, System, Disk Management and Control Panel without resorting to searching.

Tablet Settings

Screen capture showing the Windows 10 Tablet Settings

In Windows 10 you have much more control over how your computer starts and the transition is much smoother. You can switch between tablet mode and desktop mode.

  • In tablet mode the appearance and function is much like Windows 8.1 with the large “Modern” touch interface dominating the look and feel.
  • In desktop mode the Start menu uses a combination of some Windows 7 features but pinned apps are displayed on the right as smaller (and configurable) “Modern” style tiles.

I'm a keyboard and mouse user and don't run Windows on a touch-enabled device. I neither like the “Modern” interface nor find is useful. I've noticed many that do are more likely to search for programs and settings than to look for them in a menu. You'll need to customize your experience for what works best for you and your hardware.


The notifications includes a series of options for autoplay and program alerts as well as several settings. It is the highlighted taskbar icon located beneath Flight mode:

Screen capture showing the Windows 10 notifications center

Wireless and Location are selected. I have set my older laptop for maximum performance, which would explain the grayed out Battery Saver button.

The Flight and Tablet modes (normal on smart phones but unusual on computers) demonstrate the cross-platform nature of Windows 10.

Start Menu

The Start menu can be customized to remove Most Used and Recently Added apps. I found these worked poorly in recording frequent use of non-Microsoft apps, but hopefully that will change.

Pinned Apps

Start menu tiles (pinned apps) can be resized and live tiles turned off. There is a setting to extend the Start menu to show more apps in Settings.

Pinned third-party apps are not handled as well as Microsoft apps, particularly when displayed in the smallest size. This may improve for currently-supported apps as developers tweak for Windows 10 requirements but Microsoft benefits if you relent and use their new monetized apps.

Start Menu Alternatives

Microsoft made a lot of fuss about the return of the Start button, but let's face it, it is nothing like Windows 7 and barely useful (you'll probably find yourself going back to dumping program icons on the desktop).

If you don't like the default Start menu, third-party options are available:

Task Bar

The task bar can be customized to show or hide certain icons and you can pin applications to it.

Search Options

One of the first changes I made was to remove the huge search box next to the Start button. Right-clicking on the taskbar brought up a menu. Click on Search and you see three options: Hidden, Show search icon and Show search box (the default). I elected to use the search icon option.

If you install Cortana, it replaces these search options.

Learning More

These resources offer more help in personalizing various aspects of Windows 10:

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Privacy Concerns

Your Microsoft Account Tracks You

Microsoft requires a Microsoft account for access to the Microsoft Store and for other services like playing games in Xbox.

This requires that you accept the Microsoft Services Agreement, a 12,000-word document where you essentially agree to give up your privacy.

Even the “free” Microsoft Solitaire Collection entices you with the following if don't sign in (play as a guest):

By signing in with a Microsoft Account, you earn Xbox Live Achievements, view Leaderboards, and save your game data in the cloud. Are you sure?

You can allow a family member or other user to use your computer with assigned access. They need to sign in with their Microsoft Account which provides access to their own data (assuming the user's data is in the cloud or on a removable device attached to your device).

Even if this isn't a big deal to you, Microsoft is still using your bandwidth to upload all this telemetry data.

Monetizing Windows

Don't believe what Microsoft tells you — Windows 10 is not an operating system. Oh, sure, it has many features that make it look like an operating system, but in reality it is nothing more than a vehicle for advertisements. — BetaNews

Continuing cash flow for Microsoft is an obvious plus and consumers will always get the latest and greatest without making a major purchase.

Like mobile phone contracts, it assumes that you'll gladly trade in your computer every two or three years and that you're willing to sacrifice your privacy for very little in return.

Free Apps Now “Freemium”

Many of the Microsoft Windows 10 apps could more accurately be called “freemium” rather than free. Advertising is built into the Microsoft Solitaire, News, Money and Weather and other apps.

the Microsoft Solitaire Collection contains ads which can be disabled for US$1.49 per month or US$9.99 per year (more in Canada). How Windows 10 ruined Solitaire.

Cortana ramps up Bing's market share with every search you make. OneDrive backs up everything to the cloud, and of course you can buy more storage space if you need it.

The Video, Groove Music, and Xbox apps encourage entertainment purchases through Microsoft.

The new Edge browser and the very operating system itself track you to serve targeted ads. The free Office apps encourage paid Office 365 subscriptions to unlock full functionality.

Underneath it all, the Windows Store is the repository for all of Microsoft's vaunted universal apps (and plenty of other things to buy).

Significant Privacy Issues

The fact that Windows 10 collects a lot of personal information has significant privacy issues, particularly in how your private information is used.

Privacy is a basic human need and has nothing to do with having something to hide.

Unlike an erroneous credit card purchase, you can't simply undo the loss of privacy information. Once it is collected, it is extremely unlikely that it can be expunged.

Microsoft has been reluctant to get too specific about the sorts of data it collects and the mechanisms used. Maybe they have something to hide.

Here's what one source says Microsoft collects:

  • Search queries submitted to Bing
  • A voice command to Cortana
  • Private communications including email content
  • Information from a document uploaded to OneDrive
  • Requests to Microsoft for support
  • Error reports
  • Information gathered from cookies
  • Data collected from third parties

Default Settings Turn Everything On

If you purchased a computer with Windows 10 pre-installed or chose the default options when installing Windows 10 then chances are every privacy protection is disabled by default.

The alternatives are displayed in much smaller fonts and often are not clearly labelled to enable you to make an informed decision even if you do notice them.

Often when updating Windows 10 (now mandatory) you'll find that these low-privacy defaults have been restored along with restoring the Microsoft apps as default rather than your chosen (and probably safer) alternatives.

Remember, Microsoft is planning on making money the same way Gmail and other free Webmail vendors do — by culling and marketing your profile to advertisers.

Details are Sketchy

Because the details of what is collected and under which conditions it is used, there has been a lot of speculation running from “its what everyone else is doing” to “they vacuum up every detail about you.”

Whether or not you might be considered a “privacy nut,” this should alarm you at least a little. Windows 10 opts you into a number of iffy tracking features by default, and it's up to you to go in and opt out. — BGR
With Windows 10, Microsoft has failed to be completely transparent with users about just what is going on in the background. Sure, the information is out there, but it is hidden away, difficult to interpret, and — let's face it — not something that the vast majority of people are going to spend the time to hunt down and digest. — BetaNews
[Windows 10] is fundamentally insecure and scoffs at privacy, Windows is an open window onto you. — The Free Software Foundation
Here's a non-exhaustive list of data sent back: location data, text input, voice input, touch input, webpages you visit, and telemetry data regarding your general usage of your computer, including which programs you run and for how long. — Electronic Frontier Foundation

But Perhaps Improving

More recently, Microsoft has tried to be more forthcoming with Privacy at Microsoft and Windows 10 and Your Online Services. These pages indicate how Windows 10 collects information and what it is used for.

But European Union privacy watchdogs say Windows 10 settings still raise concerns:

Microsoft should clearly explain what kinds of personal data are processed for what purposes. Without such information, consent cannot be informed, and therefore, not valid. — European Union privacy watchdogs

I suspect that the data you share online and keep in your OneDrive is more vulnerable to this, but Windows 10 is a “mobile-first, cloud-first” operating system and will try to store information there first.

By default, Microsoft sets all the privacy settings to ON, collecting everything and allowing apps to have access to your contacts, mail and more.

Spybot Anti-Beacon

Microsoft doesn't necessarily retain your privacy choices when installing the now non-optional updates.

Spybot Anti-Beacon allows you to make significant choices about your Windows 10 privacy settings including many that are hidden or not easily altered. It immunizes your computer so you can check then reset your privacy settings after rebooting your computer (particularly after a Windows Update).

Microsoft has begun to respond to these issues. On January 10, 2017 a new web-based privacy dashboard was released where you could manage your browse data, clear your search history on Bing, review and clear your location data and edit Cortana knows about you.

We want you to be informed about and in control of your data, which is why we're working hard on these settings and controls. And regardless of your data collection choices, we will not use the contents of your email, chat, files, or pictures to target ads to you. — Microsoft Blog

Learning More

The following articles shed more light on Microsoft's data collection:

Microsoft Not Alone

It is likely that much of this information is already collected on your mobile device under your current terms of service.

Corporations have taken advantage of our ignorance to gather our personal information for profit. Many ask for access to your contacts, even if there is no functional reason to do so (flashlight apps in Apple's iOS are an example).

We Didn't Complain

It is partly our own fault for blindly accepting the sorts of privacy invasions that Facebook, Gmail and other services extort as the price for their “free” products.

Information on PCs More Sensitive

However, many of us keep much more critical and private information on our PCs than on our mobile devices. As such, leaks can have much more serious repercussions.

Governments Also to Blame

To their credit, Microsoft successfully fought the U.S. government's attempts to obtain non-U.S. customer data stored off-shore in Ireland. This may have had more to do with meeting tougher European privacy rules than protecting North American customers.

Whatever you allow Microsoft to store or process for you may be provided to the government and the vetting process (i.e. court order requirements) are often circumvented or simply a rubber stamp from a secret court. Even Congress has no real knowledge of how the process works and what is actually being collected by their spy agencies.

Cortana: Your Personal Assistant

Cortana, like Siri and Google Now, is a surprisingly effective virtual assistant.

However, accuracy comes at a priceyour privacy.

Accuracy requires a lot of very personal information about your calendar, contacts, habits, relationships, current location, likes, dislikes, etc. Because you're signed into your Microsoft Account, nothing is anonymous.

Cortana's built from the ground up to get you using Bing — even if you aren't aware you're doing so — and to create a remarkably detailed profile about you for Microsoft. — PCWorld

Changing Privacy Settings

So how do you protect your privacy in Windows 10?

One of the first things you'll want to do is to make changes to the default settings. Some of these settings are chosen during the installation process. The others can be modified.

You might not be able to control all the privacy settings but you should reset the ones that you can.

As with Facebook, updates to Windows 10 may change the way you control privacy or even undo privacy choices you've made in the past.

Open Settings (look under Start) and click on Privacy. You'll want to turn off at least these two privacy settings (click on Privacy in Settings):

  1. The advertising ID is a unique identifier that helps to provide “personalized” ads (i.e. ads that are based upon sites you've visited, etc.).
  2. The “about how I write” allows Microsoft to track your keystrokes.

You'll also want to click on the “Manage my Microsoft advertising and other personalization info” link and look at the settings for each of the browsers installed on your Windows 10 computer to change those privacy settings.

Shared Updates

By default, Microsoft will obtain updates not just from their servers but can also share them from other computers on your network or the Internet. The latter is not a good idea from a security point of view.

  1. Click on Settings then open Updates & Security.
  2. Click on Advanced Options then Choose How Updates are Delivered.
  3. Turn off Updates from more than one place.

If you're using wireless you can also limit the downloads of Updates by indicating that you're on a metered connection. This won't work for LAN (non-wireless) connections.

Taming Cortana

Cortana requires a lot of personal information to be most effective, but it comes at a cost. Taming Cortana became harder after the Anniversary Update.

The data you provide will be used to personalize advertising. The term “personalize” is a euphemism for profiling. This data will make it more likely that you'll click on ads (and your personal profile data can be sold to others).

Change Cortana's settings to reduce what you provide or turn it off altogether.

Other Privacy Guides

The following articles provide more information about restoring some of your privacy:

These Microsoft sites offer insight into setting privacy preferences:

A Local Account Helps to Preserve Privacy

I'd recommend that you can sign in with a local account unless you need to move your work between multiple devices (and have considered the privacy implications).

Should you use a local or a Microsoft account in Windows 10? is a tutorial that can help you evaluate your choices.

A local account limits or removes many of the capabilities of Windows 10 including personalized searches, effective use of Cortana and the ability to continue your current work on another device even if the data is stored in the cloud.

You will probably find that you don't need all these features but you will better preserve your privacy.

Microsoft tells you how to create a secondary Local Account (one in addition to your Microsoft Account) but that still leaves you vulnerable, at least when logged into the Microsoft Account.

To preserve your privacy you'll need to do a clean install with only a local account after you've obtained your Windows 10 upgrade.

Privacy Statements

Privacy statements and terms of use often change but companies seldom dump existing information even if a customer declines the new policies.

After Microsoft's “Scroogled” campaign, they proceeded to do exactly what they accused Goggle of doing.

As invasive as it is, Microsoft does allow Windows 10 users to opt out of all of the features that might be considered invasions of privacy. Of course, users are opted in by default, which is more than a little disconcerting…. — BGR

Google Also Ignores Your Privacy

If you have a Gmail account and use Google Chrome as your default browser, then you've already given up much of your privacy, particularly if you've signed into your Google Account while browsing.

Remember, unlike Gmail and similar services where you're exchanging your information for a free service, Windows 10 is NOT free, even if you took advantage of the free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1.

Your Data “In the Cloud”

Your data is stored in the cloud on Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) by default rather than on your computer but this setting can be configured to save data only on the computer.

Apps like Mail and Calendar can access other cloud services like your iCloud or Gmail accounts.

The Nature of Mobile Access

Microsoft is responding to the demand for “anywhere, any time, any device” access but will benefit greatly by monetizing the data they'll collect as a result.

Cloud based information is accessible from anywhere with anyone having your login credentials. More significantly, once data is in the cloud you no longer completely control what happens to your personal information or how it is used.

Other Concerns

You should also be aware of issues with security when using free WiFi unless you're using a VPN. More about VPNs.

The companies collecting your personal data are willing to spend less on securing your data than what they spend protecting their own data. This won't change until the cost of being hacked is more than the cost of the necessary security upgrades.

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Windows 10 Security

Windows 10 is touted as the most secure Windows yet.

Better Security at What Price?

Microsoft boasts that Windows 10 is the most secure ever, but part of that may be its ability to know exactly what is running on your computer — your applications and data.

Data Collection Disturbing

The sort of information that Microsoft collects is disturbing and can be shared with “unnamed partners” according to the Microsoft Services Agreement.

Microsoft is collecting user account information, credit card details and passwords following the installation of Windows 10, according to an updated privacy statement. — The Telegraph

“Trusted Partners” Unnamed

Who are these unnamed “trusted partners” referred to by Microsoft?

You Need a Security Suit

While improved, Windows Defender isn't enough.

One of the most common questions we get asked at Tom's Guide is “Is Windows Defender good enough to protect my PC?”

The short answer is: Nope. The longer answer is: No, but it might be someday. — Tom's Guide

Windows 10 has a significantly more secure architecture and is also better equipped than its previous versions. Nonetheless, good security software is absolutely essential.

The basic protection delivered by Microsoft through Windows Defender may be good, but it's a long way from being very good. Especially in the vital detection of malware, 17 out of 19 products were mostly far better. That is why users ought to rely on one of the tested security solutions. — AV-TEST: 20 security suites put to the test

While Windows Defender offers decent antimalware support, to protect your system you need a security suit.

Continual Updates

Continual (non-optional) updates greatly improve overall security but can also force updates that are undesirable because the engineers at Microsoft count on a uniform platform in a Windows as a Service environment.

Windows 10 may even evolve to have undesirable features without your permission.

Potential Problems with This Model

Because Windows 10 Updates are an all-or-nothing deal, there are a couple of problems.

  • Microsoft has released disastrous updates in the past (even on Windows 10).
  • A bad update cannot be singled out for removal. You can't uninstall only one of the updates installed each month.
  • Major updates like the Anniversary Update can take considerable time to download and install. If this happens in the middle of your workday or an important project that could be much more than inconvenient.
  • Microsoft insists on restoring their apps as defaults after major updates. Not cool. Users wanting to use third party apps should be free to do so.

You can use System Restore to recover from a bad update, but you'll have to turn on System Restore in Windows 10 before that happens.

Ability to Delay Updates Coming?

Depending upon the version of Windows 10 you have and on changes brought about by the major updates, you may allow you to delay updates for up to a year.

Complex Passwords Necessary

Because the Microsoft ID is an online login ID, a very long, random and complex password is necessary.

This makes logging in prone to “fat finger” errors. The option to reveal what you've typed can guard against entry errors but doesn't help your memory.

The PIN Option

Thankfully, an option to use a 4-digit PIN is available. The PIN only works on the current device (it is not a universal replacement for your password).

Hello's Biometric Verification

Windows Hello provides a secure method of replacing passwords with biometric verification, provided you have the supporting hardware.

Unfortunately, that hardware is rare on consumer-class computers except for Microsoft's Surface machines.

Two-factor Authentication

Microsoft is requiring two-factor verification when accessing certain information from your Microsoft Account such as:

  • when doing a clean install and registering it to your Microsoft ID;
  • when making changes to your Microsoft ID; or
  • any suspicious activity leads Microsoft to believe someone else might be using the computer or signed into your account.

Two-factor Options

The two-factor verification includes options to email or text special codes to an already-registered email address or phone number for your Microsoft Account.

Two-factor verification is only available when signed in with your Microsoft Account (but not to Local Accounts).

See About two-step verification for more information.

Protecting Your PC

Learn more about protecting your PC while running Windows 10.

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Should You Upgrade?

If you're using Windows 7, I'd recommend that you carefully re-assess an upgrade to Windows 10.

Given that Windows 7 has less than one year of support remaining, you will want to re-evaluate your options.

Windows 10 is better than Windows 8, but not as stable as Windows 7. — InfoWorld
If you're using Windows 7, and it's properly patched up and working for you, and you've stopped using Internet Explorer, you really have to consider whether it's worth the effort to upgrade to Windows 10. — ComputerWorld

Hardware Influences Options

Whether it's worth upgrading now depends on what sort of PC you have, but the more mobile, the better.

If you have an old desktop PC with no touchscreen, no camera and no microphone, there are fewer benefits.

If you have a modern Windows laptop or 2-in-1 with UEFI firmware, the upgrade is more attractive. — The Guardian

Many of the newest features in Windows 10 are not supported by the hardware that was around when Windows 7 was released.

[S]ome systems are just so well suited to Windows 7 that it makes sense to keep running them to end-of-life on Windows 7. — ZDNet
  • Few computers other than the Microsoft Surface would do all of what Windows 10 promised when it was released. However, other manufacturers now release computers more suited to Windows 10 and its special requirements.
  • The newest features in Windows 10 like Hello and Ink are unlikely to be supported by older hardware.
  • Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform still needs much work.
  • Microsoft's own apps, including Edge, are generally poorer than alternatives.
  • Some older peripherals (printers, scanners, etc.) may never have Windows 10 drivers developed.

However, if you upgrade to the newest hardware, you may have no choice.

Privacy Considerations

Unlike its predecessors, Windows 10 is Software as a Service, aggressively collects personal information and is heavily monetized.

Most people end up not really caring about such corporate spying because they don't understand the harm, but enough do where it becomes an additional justification to stay away. —InfoWorld

Upgrade Issues

Microsoft has consistently fallen short in keeping their promises about Windows 10.

See 10 reasons you shouldn't upgrade to Windows 10 (slide show) for other trade-offs and shortcomings.

Xbox Uninstallable

Xbox gamers may think Xbox is great, but it cannot be uninstalled (it is a key component of Microsoft's money-generating multimedia offerings).

These instructions on removing Windows 10's bloatware (including Xbox) may work for you but you might also create issues with future updates to Windows 10 which tend to reinstall default apps.

Is it Worth Upgrading?

Many of the “improvements” in Windows 10 had more to do with fixing issues with Windows 8 than providing improvements to Windows 7.

  • The Windows 10 Start Menu tiles are suitable for touch screens.
  • Windows 7's Start Menu works better for mouse & keyboard users.
  • While features like Libraries are available, they are not enabled by default.
  • The new Quick Access replaced Libraries, but might not be what you want.

That said, the various Creators Updates have added much new functionality to Windows — provided it is supported by your hardware.

More on upgrading:

Preparing For Upgrade

I suggest you take some precautions before beginning the upgrade process.

Backup Data

Prepare for the worst by backing up your data to an external drive or other reliable media. If the upgrade fails, you may have no other copy of important data and program settings.

Verify Programs and Hardware

The upgrade assistant will advise you whether your hardware is capable and if any programs will not be able to run under Windows 10 but the process is not perfect.

People have experienced catastrophic failures during the upgrade process, including losing the ability to boot the computer at all.

In such cases you can try to do a clean install of Windows 10 or your previous Windows version. In either case you're going to need those backups.

Remove Unnecessary Applications

I recommend that you remove all unnecessary applications, backup your data to an external drive and ensure that all essential Windows Updates and hardware updates are installed before upgrading.

30 Days to Recover

After 30 days the restore files are deleted and you'll need to do a clean install of your previous Windows installation and programs. There have been cases where the recovery files were somehow deleted prior to 30 days.

Clean Install

A clean install is where the hard drive is wiped and the base operating system is installed then updates applied then programs reinstalled and data restored.

Problems Resolved

Because your drive is wiped, issues with broken drivers, missing files, incorrect settings, malware and other problems will be dealt with.

Care must be taken to ensure that boot-sector viruses aren't present.

Long Process

This can be a long and tedious process with hundreds of updates to restore as well as your programs and data and their settings.

Recovery Media Required

If you've lost the recovery media for your computer or never created it in the first place it may be impossible for you to recover your system.

Programs & Data Gone

You'll need to determine that your backups are intact and complete before beginning this process.

If you've lost the installation media for your programs you may need to purchase them again.

Local Account

It also provides the option for a Windows 10 local account, which is less likely to send your private information to Microsoft — if you make the correct choices during setup.

Downloading Windows 10

You can immediately download the Windows 10 upgrade, activating it by providing a legitimate Windows 10 license key.

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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

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Updated: April 8, 2019