many “anti-spying” apps have sprung up. They promise to keep Windows 10
from tracking you–but often, they can cause more problems than they
We recommend changing privacy settings using the normal options in Windows. These invasive tools can break things and cause a variety of system problems you may not notice until later, with no indication that the problem was caused by the tool.
They promise to quickly stop Windows 10 from “spying” and communicating with Microsoft in just a few clicks. They do this in some good ways–like changing basic settings–and some bad ways–like blocking web addresses in the hosts file and flat-out deleting services that are part of the Windows operating system.
Blocking Windows Update completely, preventing the installation of important security updates and leaving your PC vulnerable.
Breaking the Windows Store, preventing you from installing apps from there and preventing it from updating the included applications in Windows 10.
Disabling the Windows Defender antivirus, which helps keep Windows 10 secure, and other system components you may actually want, like OneDrive.
Deleting various services and parts of Windows 10, breaking various things and potentially blocking you from installing major updates like the Anniversary Update and November Update before it.
For example, if you downloaded the “windows-10-tracking” PowerShell script from GitHub and ran it, the tool will block various Skype domains in your hosts file, preventing Skype from working properly. It can also delete various services from Windows rather than simply disabling them. The download page warns you should use this script at your own risk and that “We have not personally tested every HOSTS entry. Some of them may cause applications and services to stop working.” Running a not-properly-tested script that takes a shotgun approach to your operating system sounds like a bad idea (and it is).
Download DWS and you’ll see it will “disable Windows Update” so you will “not receive updates of new spyware”. The tool also notes that the changes made are “irreversible”, so there’s no easy way to undo them without just reinstalling Windows. That means you won’t get important security updates and stability fixes to problems like the recent webcam breakage, either.
These are just a few major problems we found with a quick look at a few of these tools.
Rather than relying on some tool to change the settings for you, learn what Windows 10’s privacy settings do and change them yourself. They’re a bit scattered throughout Windows 10, but they’re not hard to find if you have a good guide.
In other cases, Microsoft can easily work around these changes. Windows 10 actually ignores the hosts file for certain domains, which means attempting to block domains in your hosts file won’t actually do anything. So once again, these anti-spying tools and scripts aren’t living up to their promises.
Instead of using one of these tools, do your research on what these controversial Windows 10 features actually do. That way, you can turn off the stuff that actually matters to you. Microsoft uses the telemetry features to identify bugs and decide which features it should work on, not to steal your personal documents. So you may find these features are not as sinister as they might seem.
If you have a major philosophical problem with the fact that Windows 10 doesn’t let you avoid non-security updates or disable telemetry, don’t try to fix it. Instead, just switch to another operating system, like Linux or Windows 7 (or Windows 10 Enterprise, if your organization is eligible).