O&O ShutUp10 Review - Windows 10 Privacy & Security Settings for the Fainthearted
key review info
- Application: O&O ShutUp10 1.0.1345
- Reviewed on:
- Disable telemetry, Wi-Fi Sense, and app access
- (9 more, see all...)
Microsoft's approach toward privacy in Windows 10 continues to be a controversial topic.
On the one hand, the software maker says that it does not collect personal information without the user's consent. On the other hand, data collection tools and services are turned on by default after setting up Windows 10, and there's little customization to be done during installation. This is not only a debate over the policy adopted, though, since it can also leave room for security vulnerabilities.
Regardless of Microsoft's intentions, the issue remains that many Windows 10 users prefer to prevent the company from gathering private information about their PC activity, such as installed programs, OS error reports, voice and handwriting samples, or keyboard entries, among others.
Although some privacy-related services can be disabled by digging into the system's settings, this isn't easy for the casual computer user, since many aspects are not properly explained.
However, not long after Windows 10's release, third-party applications started to pop up, offering a simple workaround, through one-click actions for disabling telemetry and automatic data mining tools performed by the computer.
Gain access to Windows 10 security and privacy features
O&O ShutUp10 is a free utility that lists a wide range of security-oriented Windows options which can be seamlessly deactivated and re-activated with one click. These are grouped in Security, Privacy, Location Services, User Behavior, Windows Update, and Miscellaneous.
Installation is not required, so you can simply double-click the .exe file to run the program. Moreover, the application will modify itself on exit to remind your choices next time you open it, so no .ini files or registry entries are added for that purpose.
The program shows descriptions for all options in these categories and lets you disable any of them. If you're not sure, you can apply the configuration recommended by O&O ShutUp10, or all recommended and limited recommended settings. The icon next to each option indicates its status: recommended (safe to deactivate), limited recommended (may affect other programs), or not recommended (not safe, unless you have better alternatives).
Before making a modification, the application offers to create a system restore point, and this can also be done any time from the menu. It also has an option for restoring all settings to default (turns on all Windows 10 data collection tools and services).
We're going to break down each option to find out what you are actually disabling.
When trying to log into a website in Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer (versions 10 and 11), an eye button temporarily appears next to the password box and shows the typed key when holding down left click. By disabling this feature, the eye will no longer appear.
The Steps Recorder is a desktop tool that works somewhat like a keylogger. It can be launched to monitor your activity and create a recording and log details with mouse clicks and screenshots taken between mouse clicks. You can add comments, review the recording, discard it, or save it to file and send it to Microsoft support for diagnosing and repairing issues. By disabling this feature, Steps Recorder can no longer be launched, which will also stop unauthorized attempts to run it without your knowledge, which is something a piece malware might do, for example.
There are three separate entries for disabling telemetry, the Microsoft service that collects information about your system, installed software, and possible OS issues (including error reports). However, they cannot be distinguished through the utility's descriptions, so make sure to check all three options to prevent data mining.
Wi-Fi Sense establishes a connection with your wireless network automatically, and it can also do this for a list of suggested public hotspots, based on data collected by Microsoft from your PC and other users. Furthermore, it shares access to password-protected wireless connections with your Facebook, Outlook and Skype friends by looking into your contacts information. They cannot actually see the password, but it's stored on a Microsoft server. The Wi-Fi Sense automatic connections and access to contacts can be separately disabled.
It's also possible to disable app access to wireless connections and loosely coupled devices (like printers), as well as web access to DRM-protected audio and video files. DRM copyright allows the media items to be played on your computer and forbids you from making copies. Windows Defender can be deactivated too, but this is only advisable when switching to another antivirus application.
Following up on apps access, programs can be prevented from displaying notifications on tiles when the screen or desktop is locked, as well as using calendar entries and account information (name and picture).
Moreover, you can restrict apps from turning on your camera (like Skype, Edge, Facebook and Twitter), activating your microphone and recording your conversations, knowing your location, or reading messages (such as notifications or emails).
For Windows 10 tablets, the system monitors your typing pattern to automatically learn your handwriting style based on the words you use. You can send handwriting samples and related error reports to Microsoft for enhanced recognition functions based on your personal style and vocabulary, or disable the two options for preventing data sharing.
Similarly, Windows 10 transfers data with your writing habits, but what exactly it is and whether or not it's anonymous remains unclear, so a safer solution would be to deactivate this transmission.
Inventory Collector is a tool that builds reports by cataloging your software and hardware to identify all installed programs, devices and system information. It can be disabled.
The biometrics feature uses fingerprint scanning, facial recognition or iris scanning for unlocking your devices. It may be blocked, along with browser access to your local language, which is used for displaying local contents when surfing the web.
The SmartScreen Filter checks the websites you're visiting in Edge and Explorer for reported phishing attacks and malware content, in order to warn you before trying to visit them, as well as when downloading files with potentially dangerous content. This means that it collects data to send to Microsoft, but it can be deactivated. Just like in the case of Windows Defender, this is only recommended when you have other anti-phishing software installed.
Cortana, the personal assistant bundled with Windows 10, uses most of the aforementioned information to answer your questions, remind you of important events, detect language patterns, analyze handwriting, and so on. It can be disabled and reset.
On a similar note, you can stop the system from sending to Microsoft your personal data based on input personalization (like voice, handwriting, keyboard entries, calendar and contacts), which is needed for Cortana.
Plus, you can disable and reset the advertising ID and information, which is created and used by Windows to suggest more attractive commercials based on installed and used programs and browsing history. They are not only shown in Microsoft apps but also others.
Location Services and User Behavior features
Location services are used to display the most relevant results when asking for directions or searching for shops nearby. These can be disabled, along with scripting functions and GPS receivers necessary to pinpoint your device's location.
While the previously discussed telemetry feature applies to the system, O&O ShutUp10 has three separate entries for deactivating telemetry that gathers usage data about installed programs, crashes, your entry behavior, and other related events.
Windows Update and Miscellaneous features
Windows Updates have become automatic and mandatory in Windows 10 Home (can be delayed in Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise), which means they are now unavoidable, on top of the fact that it's not possible to opt out of specific updates as easily as in previous OS editions. Although this is not recommended by O&O ShutUp10, it lets you disable automatic updates not only for the operating system, but also for other Microsoft products (like Office) and hardware drivers, while upgrades can be postponed (doesn't apply to security updates).
Because Windows Updates may also be downloaded from other computers in your local network or over the Internet to speed up the task, which means that your computer's update details are sent to the remote devices, you can separately block this feature.
As far as other options are concerned, you can disable OneDrive and feedback reminders prompted by Microsoft to transfer diagnostics and user data, or turn off default search results in Bing when looking for a local app or setting without typing the exact name, in order to show more relevant results from the local disk instead.
O&O ShutUp10 has many options for disabling security, privacy, location services, user behavior, Windows Update, and other features in Windows 10. They can be enabled or disabled with one click, and most of them are accompanied by relevant descriptions.
If you're unsure about what to deactivate, you can resort to the program's recommended settings. However, you should verify the options afterwards to make sure you're not turning off something you actually use.
In this order, if you apply all recommended settings, then switch to all recommended and limited recommended settings, then all settings, it's not possible to go back to a previous set without undoing all changes (enabling all data collection features).
However, you don't have to take our word for it. Feel free to download and test O&O ShutUp10 for yourself.