How to protect your Privacy in Windows 11

Microsoft has been getting a lot of criticism lately for adding unnecessary background services, running active telemetry to track your activity, adding unnecessary malware to the system, and more. Many critics have even called out Microsoft and compared Windows to spyware.

The truth is that since the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has been increasingly collecting more user data. And that’s not the case with Windows 11. So if you’re worried about your privacy in Windows 11, follow our guide to protect your privacy in Microsoft’s latest desktop OS. We’ve mentioned the key settings you should turn off to protect your privacy in Windows 11.

We’ve added 10 different ways to protect your privacy in Windows 11. At the end, we’ve also included a third-party program to make Windows 11 a privacy-friendly OS. On that note, let’s dive in and check out the privacy settings you should change right now.

Сhange the general privacy settings

  • First, press the Windows 11 “Win + I” shortcut to open the Settings application. Now go to “Privacy and Security” in the left sidebar and click “General” under “Windows Permissions” in the right sidebar.
  • Disable all switches here. This will prevent Microsoft from tracking your app launches, learning about your interests, and showing personalized ads. This will also block sites from accessing your default language.

Disable online speech recognition

If you don’t want to use the new Windows 11 features such as voice input and voice access that use Microsoft’s online speech recognition, you can disable it. This will prevent Microsoft from sending your voice data to the cloud, thereby preserving your privacy. Here’s how to do it.

  • Go to the Privacy and Security settings and click Speech.
  • Here, turn off the “Online Speech Recognition” switch. That’s it.

Disable sending diagnostic data

To keep Windows 11 secure and up-to-date, Microsoft sends a limited amount of diagnostic data that is required by default. However, there is another set of optional diagnostic data that allows Microsoft to access your browsing history, how you use an application or feature, and much more. If you don’t want to send optional diagnostic data to the Redmond giant, follow these steps.

  • Go to the Privacy and Security menu and go to the Diagnostics and Feedback settings section.
  • Expand the Diagnostic Data section here and disable the Send Optional Diagnostic Data switch.
  •  In addition, I also suggest that you disable all three switches directly below. This will prevent Windows 11 from using your diagnostic data to display personalized tips and recommendations. It will also prevent Windows 11 from sending your handwritten data and diagnostic data entry to Microsoft.

Disable activity history

In 2018, Microsoft introduced a timeline feature in Windows 10 that tracked all your actions on your PC. It was later renamed Action History. In Windows 11, it doesn’t show a timeline of your tasks and actions, but Microsoft still stores all your actions, which is pretty amazing. If you want to protect your privacy in Windows 11 and prohibit Microsoft from tracking all your actions, follow these steps and disable this feature.

  • Go to the Privacy and Security menu in Windows Preferences and click Activity History in the right pane.
  • Here, uncheck the “Store my activity history on this device” box. Then click “Clear” to delete all activity history sent to the cloud.

Permission to change your location

If you don’t want apps to access your location in Windows 11, you can block access with a single click. However, completely disabling location services in Windows 11 will also prevent you from finding your device if it is stolen.

To avoid this, I suggest that you only allow location permission for apps that really need it. Here’s how to manage location permission and protect your privacy in Windows 11 from aggressive apps.

  • From the Privacy and Security menu, scroll down and click Location under App Permissions.
  • Then give location permission to the applications that really need it, and remove permission for other unwanted applications. By the way, you can completely disable location services in Windows 11 by disabling the switch at the top.

Change Camera and Microphone Permissions in Windows 11

Among the many permissions, the camera and microphone are the most important, and you should make changes to your Windows 11 PC to prevent nefarious applications from accessing your camera and microphone in the background. This will greatly protect your privacy in Windows 11. Here’s how to do it.

  • From the Privacy and Security menu, scroll down and open the Camera permission settings.
  • If you want to disable the webcam/camera on a Windows 11 PC, turn off the “Camera Access” switch. If you want to give the camera permission to select applications, be sure to review the list of applications and disable access to unnecessary ones.
  • Similarly, open the “Microphone” permission setting and review the list. Disable the “Microphone access” permission for applications that don’t need it.

Enable encrypted DNS

Another way to protect your privacy in Windows 11 is to encrypt the web traffic on your computer. Encrypted DNS (also known as DNS-over-HTTPS) is becoming the accepted standard for encrypting DNS requests.

Whenever you try to open a website or an application tries to connect to its server, your computer contacts the DNS server to look up the domain name. This exchange goes largely unencrypted and can be a major source of leakage.

If you are serious about your privacy, you should definitely enable encrypted DNS in Windows 11.

We’ve already written a detailed guide on how to enable DNS over HTTPS in Windows 11, so read our guide and make the necessary changes. This will go a long way toward protecting your Internet activity not only on home networks, but on public networks as well.

Switch to a local account

By now you know that Microsoft is pushing users to choose a Microsoft online account over a local Windows 11 account. And judging from the latest news, Microsoft is also looking to introduce an online account requirement for Windows 11 Pro users.

All of these changes are being made to collect more user data, create a monetizable user profile and target customers with personalized advertising. Essentially, the online account requirement allows Microsoft to track your usage and create an online profile tied to your Microsoft account.

So, the first thing you must do to keep your privacy in Windows 11 is to switch to a local account. We have a detailed guide on how to switch from a Microsoft account to a local account in Windows 11, so follow the instructions in the linked article. This will prevent Microsoft from creating an online profile associated with your activities on the device.

Delete your Microsoft cloud data

No matter what you do on your Windows 11 PC, Microsoft tracks all your activities and sends the data back to its server. Microsoft says the data is used to improve its services and products, personalize your online experience and provide better recommendations. The data is designed to understand your behavior and provide you with targeted advertising. i

If you want to delete all of your cloud data, including location information, browsing history (collected from Edge or Windows search), app and service activity, media activity, and performance data, follow these steps.

  • First, open the link to open the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard. Now sign in with the Microsoft account associated with your Windows 11 PC.
  • Next, expand the Location Activity section and delete the data immediately. For example, I have location services disabled on my Windows 11 computer, so there is no cloud data. However, the “browsing history” section stores all the sites I’ve visited using Edge. You can click “Clear all browser activity” to delete all browsing data.
  • Similarly, expand the Search History section and you’ll find all the searches you’ve made from Bing search, Windows search, Cortana, etc. To delete all of your search data, click “Clear All Search History”.
  • After that, click Application and Service Activity and click Clear All Application and Service Activity. This will remove all of your app and service activity from the Microsoft cloud.
  • Perform a similar action for Media Activity and Application and Service Performance Data. This will delete all your personal data from the Microsoft cloud server and protect your identity from being profiled by targeted ads.

Protect your privacy in Windows 11 with ShutUp10++

Finally, we have O&O ShutUp10++, which allows you to disable all kinds of telemetry, background access to applications, data collection, suggestions and more in just a few clicks. ShutUp10++ is an anti-spyware tool created by the German company O&O.

It is a free tool that offers recommended settings to ensure maximum privacy in Windows 11. You don’t need to open Windows 11 settings, and you can make your own privacy-friendly changes.

This program does it all seamlessly and changes basic configurations through the registry and group policy that are not available in Windows settings. In addition, for security purposes, ShutUp10++ also creates a system restore point in case something goes wrong.

To learn how to use ShutUp10++ to protect your privacy in Windows 11, follow the instructions below.

  • Download ShutUp10++ link. After that, launch it.
  • After that, click Application and Service Activity and click Clear All Application and Service Activity. This will remove all of your app and service activity from the Microsoft cloud.
  • You will be prompted to create a system restore point. Click “OK”.
  • All privacy settings will now be applied instantly. Now close the application and restart your computer. This time, your Windows 11 PC will boot with all the privacy changes. No need to fiddle with Windows settings or anything else.
  • If you want to undo changes, open the program again and select “Undo all changes” from the “Actions” menu. Now restart your computer and you will be back to your original state.

Here’s how you can easily protect your privacy in Windows 11. I would advise you to review all the Windows 11 privacy settings that you should disable, and then use ShutUp10+ to make other recommended changes. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments section below.

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