How to Change Your Windows 10 Privacy Settings

Know what you're sharing and protect your personal information

Maybe you just want to limit the amount of personal data your Windows 10 PC sends out. Or maybe you just don't want much data gathered about your computing activities to begin with. Regardless of why, if you'd like to adjust how Windows 10 gathers your data and sends it out, you'll need to how to change your Windows 10 privacy settings. Here's how to access and adjust each of the five main Windows 10 privacy settings, what each type of privacy setting is, and how it affects you.

The instructions in this article only apply to PCs running Windows 10. This article focuses on adjusting the five main privacy settings categories in Windows 10. While the privacy settings menu in Windows 10 does allow you to adjust app permissions, these app permissions are numerous and beyond the scope of this guide.

How to Adjust Windows 10 Privacy Settings

The privacy settings section of Windows 10 Settings menu is divided into two main sections: Windows permissions and App permissions. For the purposes of this guide, we will be focusing only on the five main privacy settings categories within the Windows permissions sections. The categories within the App permissions section are numerous and only pertain to adjusting the settings for individual Windows apps.

Within the Windows permissions section, the five main settings categories are known as: General, Speech, Inking and Typing Personalization, Diagnostics and Feedback, and Activity History.

General

The General privacy settings category is a series of four toggle options. Each toggle option can be turned off or on by selecting the toggle once. The first option (at the top) asks if you'd like your apps to use advertising ID to deliver more interesting ads "based on your app activity."

The second option asks if you want to let websites access your language list in order to provide "locally relevant content." The third option asks if you want to allow Windows 10 to track you when you launch an app so that Windows can improve your Start and search results. And finally, the fourth option asks if you want to see suggested content in the Settings app.

Here's how to access the General Privacy settings:

  1. Select the Windows Start menu icon in the bottom left corner of your screen. The Start menu should appear once you do so.

  2. In the bottom left corner of the Start menu, select the Settings gear icon. This will open the main Settings menu for your Windows 10 device.

    Screenshot of accessing the Windows 10 Settings menu via the Settings icon in the Start menu.
  3. In the main Settings menu, select the option labeled Privacy.

  4. The Privacy menu should automatically open itself to the main General privacy settings section. If it doesn't, select the option labeled General from the left-hand side menu of the main Privacy settings screen.

  5. Once in the General settings menu, you can now adjust each of the four options by tapping on the on/off toggle buttons until you reach your desired privacy setting.

    Screenshot of General privacy settings section in Windows 10 Privacy settings menu.

Speech

The Speech category also has an on/off toggle, but this section only has one setting to adjust. This section asks if you would like to turn on a feature known as Online speech recognition. This feature lets you speak to Cortana (Microsoft's virtual assistant), take dictation with your voice, and access other services that use Windows cloud-based services.

If you turn this feature on, you can do all of the above. If you turn it off, you'll lose access to Cortana and the dictation feature but you will still be able to use the Windows Speech Recognition app and other services that aren't reliant on Windows cloud-based services. According to Microsoft, leaving this setting turned on does allow Microsoft to gather and use your voice data to "help improve our speech services."

Here's how to access the Speech Privacy settings:

  1. Follow steps 1 - 3 of the General settings category instructions to access the main Privacy settings menu in Windows 10.

  2. Once you're in the main Privacy settings menu, select the Speech option from the menu on the left side of the Privacy settings menu screen.

  3. Selecting the Speech option should cause the Speech settings menu to appear on the right side of your screen

  4. Tap on the toggle button until it reaches either the On or Off position to choose your setting for the Online speech recognition option. Choose On if you plan on using Cortana or the dictation feature. Choose Off if you'd rather not let Microsoft gather and use your voice data.

    Screenshot of the Online speech recognition option in the Windows 10 Privacy settings menu.

Inking and Typing Personalization

Like the Speech settings category, the Inking and Typing Personalization category only has one option to adjust and it can be adjusted by just tapping the on/off toggle provided. This option asks if you would like to let Windows gather your typing history and handwriting pattern data to develop a "local user dictionary" for you.

If you decide to turn this option off, the personal dictionary Windows made for you will be deleted but Windows will still provide other services such as handwriting recognition and typing suggestions—but these will be based on the system dictionary.

Here's how to access the Inking and Typing Personalization Privacy settings:

  1. Follow steps 1 - 3 of the General settings category instructions to access the main Privacy settings menu in Windows 10.

  2. Within the Privacy settings menu, select the Inking & typing personalization option from the menu located on the left side of the main Privacy settings menu.

  3. Select the On/Off toggle button underneath the Getting to know you option until you reach your desired privacy setting.

    Screenshot of Inking and Typing Personalization section of Windows 10 Privacy settings.

Diagnostics and Feedback

The Diagnostics and Feedback settings category has six different settings options you can adjust. The first option allows you to choose how much diagnostic data about your computer you'd like to send to Microsoft. You can choose between either the Basic or Full options. The Basic option only sends information about your device, while the Full option sends information about your device and some of your personal data as it relates to how you use your device (like web browsing history).

The second option is only adjustable if you chose the Full option from the first section. This option allows Windows 10 to send your inking and typing data to Microsoft. If you chose Full earlier, you can still turn the inking and typing data option off.

The third option is called Tailored Experiences and this allows you to choose whether or not Microsoft provides tailored tips or ads based on your diagnostic data settings. The fourth option asks if you want to view your diagnostic data in the Diagnostic Data Viewer. If you toggle this option on, Windows will use up to 1GB of hard drive space on your device to devote to this data.

The fifth option allows you to delete whatever diagnostic data Microsoft has already gathered about your device. And lastly, the sixth option is called Feedback Frequency and this option allows you to choose how often Windows asks for your feedback.

Here's how to access the Diagnostics and Feedback Privacy settings:

  1. Follow steps 1 - 3 of the General settings category instructions to access the main Privacy settings menu in Windows 10.

  2. Within the main Privacy settings menu, choose the Diagnostics & feedback option from the menu on the left side of the Privacy settings menu.

  3. In the Diagnostics & feedback section, there are six options you can potentially adjust. The first option is listed as Diagnostic data. Underneath the heading Diagnostic data, choose between either the Basic or Full options, by selecting one of the circles next to either option.

    Screenshot of first half of Diagnostics and feedback section of Windows 10 privacy settings.
  4. If you chose the Full option from step 3, you can adjust the option underneath the heading called Improve inking and typing. To turn this option on or off, tap on its corresponding toggle button. If you chose Basic from step 3, you won't have access to this option.

  5. You can turn on or off the Tailored experiences option by tapping on the toggle button found under the Tailored experiences heading.

  6. The View diagnostic data option can be turned on or off by tapping on the toggle button underneath the View diagnostic data heading. If you turn this option on, you'll be able to click on the Open Diagnostic Data Viewer button to view your diagnostic data.

    Screenshot of View diagnostic data section of Diagnostics and feedback option within the Windows 10 Privacy settings.
  7. You can also delete your diagnostic data by clicking on the Delete button located underneath the Delete diagnostic data heading.

  8. You can also choose how often Windows asks you for your feedback by selecting a frequency option from the drop-down menu that is located underneath Feedback frequency heading.

    Screenshot of Feedback frequency drop-down menu in Diagnostics and feedback section of Windows 10 Privacy menu.

Activity History

The Activity History privacy settings category has four options you can adjust as they relate to the gathering and sending of your activity history with your Windows 10 device. In this context, your activity history is personal data gathered about how you use apps and services and information about the websites you visit.

The first option in this category lets you choose whether or not you want to store this history on your device. The second option asks if you want send your history to Microsoft. The stated benefit of allowing your device to keep your history and allowing Windows to send your history to Microsoft is that it presumably allows you to quickly resume your activities even if you do something like switch devices (this feature is known as Timeline).

If you linked your various Microsoft accounts with your Windows 10 device, you'll be able to adjust the third option which lets you hide the activity history of these accounts from your Timeline feature. The fourth and final option allows you to clear your activity history.

Here's how to access the Activity History Privacy settings:

  1. Follow steps 1 - 3 of the General settings category instructions to access the main Privacy settings menu in Windows 10.

  2. Once you're in the main Privacy settings menu, choose the Activity history option from the menu located on the left side of the main Privacy settings menu.

  3. There are four options you can potentially adjust within the Activity history section. The first option asks if you want to store your activity history on your Windows 10 device. If you do, select the box next to the phrase Store my activity history on this device.

    Screenshot of Activity History options in Windows 10 Privacy settings menu.
  4. The second option asks if you want send your activity history to Microsoft. If you do want to send your activity history to Microsoft select the box next to the phrase Send my activity history to Microsoft.

  5. The third option is only available to those who have linked their Microsoft accounts to their Windows 10 device. If you have accounts linked to this device and you want to show or hide your activity history from these accounts on your Timeline, tap on the toggle buttons next to each account listed until you reach your desired setting.

  6. The fourth and final option allows you to clear your activity history by clicking on the Clear button underneath the Clear activity history heading.