Windows 10 and Privacy Part 1: General Privacy Options

Let’s get one thing straight: operating systems like Windows have always had to walk a line with privacy: balancing on one side user safety and discretion, while, on the other, features that observe and learn from user behavior.  That being said, Windows 10 incorporates new features for tracking behavior that  a lot of people think are going a bit too far.  They’re not hidden though; in fact, they’re right there in  the install screen.

Windows 10 Customize Settings

So what is this tracking? It’s all about getting to know you. Windows 10 was designed to be a product of a multi-platform environment.  It’s on as many tablets, laptops and phones as it is on desktops.  This means being mobile-friendly, so it incorporates location services that can tell where you are.

It’s also about making things more convenient.  By logging the kinds of things you write, the sites you visit, and the voice commands you prompt to Cortana, the OS can better predict what you’ll want int he future, making searches faster and more accurate.

The truth is, all of this is stuff that some people really want.  At the same time, there’s another faction: those who are so cautious they won’t even open a browser without a pop-up and tracking blocker turned on. To these folks, the new predictive features in Windows 10 are nothing but bad news.

Most of us are somewhere in between the glass house and the tinfoil hat. Fortunately, whichever category you fit into, there are easy ways to monitor, manage and set your privacy preferences in Windows 10.

Getting to the Privacy Settings Window

Follow these steps to set your privacy preferences:

1. If you have a touchscreen, swipe left to bring up the Action Center. Tap All Settings.

2. For a desktop computer or laptop with a standard screen, click the Start button, then select Settings.

3. Tap or click Privacy.

4. You should see the General tab, which displays this list of invasive tracking options, all of which are set to “On” by default. To change the setting, tap or click the ones you want to change and slide the selector button to the left to turn them “Off.”

Windows 10 Privacy OptionsHere’s a breakdown of what each category is and does.

Your advertising ID

… is a tracking number lets advertisers target you inside Microsoft apps.  A refresher: targeted advertising is just advertising aimed at a specific audience, namely, you. So sharing the advertising ID sets up ads for products that advertisers think you will be likely to buy.

When you slide this to Off, the data associated with this number is not shared with advertisers.  It doesn’t mean ads won’t appear on Microsoft apps, they just won’t be targeted to you based on your behavior.

SmartScreen Filters

This item is designed to keep Windows Store apps from sending you to unsavory websites that might contain malware. We recommend leaving this setting on.

Typing and writing

This setting lets Windows actually track the way that you write and type, supposedly to improve handwriting recognition (writing) and autocomplete (typing). It collects information about your personal writing style and chops up the data so that it can’t be put back together and used to predict the sorts of things you’ll want to say.

If you find the idea of Microsoft tracking the way you input text a little creepy, slide this button to off.  If, on the other hand, an autocorrect that more quickly learns what you want to say appeals to you, leave it on.

Locally relevant content

This one applies only if you are using a language other than English. It makes your browser (namely Microsoft Edge) display localized custom search results.

If your first language isn’t English and you want the browser to find sites that better match your language preferences, leave this on.  Of course, depending on your other settings, it will also make advertising language-appropriate too.

Show me tips about Windows

Why not? Leave on to get tips about Windows delivered to your desktop.  Too annoying? Toggle it off.

Manage My Microsoft advertising and other personalization info

Located just above the Privacy Statement is a link to a Microsoft web page.  That page lets you turn on/off advertising that’s personalized according to your browsing and search histories

There’s also an option that’s lets you have it half-way.  You can turn off personalized (targeted) ads in the browser as a whole, but still allow them on those sites that recognize your Microsoft account.  These include, OneDrive and Microsoft Office Online; and it also includes MS affiliated sites too.

Believe it or not, some people like personalized ads – that is – they know ads are inevitable and figure you might as well see stuff that interests them.  You can always ignore them . . . right?

Turn off/on to manage whether your browsing history is shared with advertisers.

Manage Privacy with an Automated Tool

Privacy is a key component of managing a computer.  That’s why utilities like SlimCleaner Plus have incorporated push-button controls for managing privacy settings.  Open the program and look for the icon labeled “Privacy.”

SlimCleaner Plus Privacy 2When the Privacy Manager opens, you can not only control how Windows gathers data, but also manage features related to how  computer behavior is monitored and reported.  Just add or remove checks to the boxes beside each privacy control.


How to Clear Your Browser Cache & Why

Are you having problems seeing the latest up-to-date information on some websites? If so, it may be because you haven’t cleaned your cache lately—or ever.

What is a cache and why does it need to be cleaned?

Your cache is basically a storage unit for your Web Browser. It houses a bunch of files that accumulate on your hard drive every time you visit certain websites.  Why? It’s all about making your browser load faster.  Webpages have a lot of stuff – text and images sure, but also media like video feeds and audio players. The cache basically stores some of that data for you, on your computer. When you go back to a site, the browser accesses the cache and can pull up images and form data quickly from your computer, instead of having to re-download it from the Web.

It’s a good thing, but that doesn’t mean it needs to accumulate data forever.  Not only does this take up space, but – yeah – it can be a place where personal data gets stashed, not to mention the fact that the cache basically makes a profile of the websites you visit.

Additionally, if you don’t clean it out or refresh your browser, you might be seeing an older version of the page. In these cases, refreshing the page won’t help because the browser just looks right back into the cache to reload those cached images.  Normally this doesn’t matter, but sometimes the page displays dynamic data: shipping and form updates, as well as some life feeds can be interrupted by the cache.

How do I clean out my cache?

As with pretty much everything else, each browser has its own procedure for cleaning the cache. Fortunately, while some of them can be tricky to find, most of them are fairly quick and easy to do.

In fact, there’s a shortcut key. In any browser you can push CTRL + R to refresh the page. To go further though, you can do a refresh that forces the browser to ignore the cache.

shortcut_CTRL_F5If you’re goal isn’t to simply ignore the cache but to clear it out, follow the instructions below for your browser. You can also use these steps to access the data management and privacy settings of a given browser, letting you have more control over what gets logged and when. Continue reading

404 Error and 504 Error: When a Webpage Won’t Load

You’re browsing online. Everything is going smoothly. And then it isn’t: you get an error message and suddenly you’re outta luck opening the webpage. A 404 or 504 error stops you dead in your tracks. The fact is, these web-based errors aren’t likely to be your fault. It’s usually a result of an error on the back-end, that is, on the server that’s hosting the webpage.  That being said, it’s still frustrating.

In the case when the problem does have something to do with your system setup, you wanna know how to fix it. And in any situation, you want to know where the root of the problem is.  Use this article to learn about the 404 and 504 errors: what they are and why they happen.  And then learn how to troubleshoot the problems, getting to the heart of the matter and finding out how to tackle the errors without going crazy.


A 404 error can appear in many different ways. Some cheeky websites even make 404 errors into a sort of joke. But sarcastic error messages aside, you’re still up against an error.


Basically, you get a 404 error if the page you are looking for isn’t on the website’s server any more. You can get the error in two ways. One, you may have simply typed in the URL wrong and send your browser to a bad location. Two, the website you’re trying to work with may have deleted or moved the page you’re looking for without redirecting the old location to the new one. Continue reading

How to Associate File Types in Windows

You want to open an attachment or file. You click on the file and one of three things can happen.

  • » It might open just the way you wanted it to.
  • » It might open, but in a program you don’t want to use.
  • » Or it might not open at all … without your assistance.

Who doesn’t love a message telling you to “Choose how this type of file is opened…”? If the computer can’t figure it out, how can you?

Actually it’s not that hard to sort through this type of issue. If a file is opening in a program you don’t want to work in or it won’t open without your input, you simply need to associate that type of file with a particular program. The key to this is simply choosing “Open With” on the file itself.


Opening Files in the Right Program

It’s very common for pictures to open in a program you don’t want. After all, there are many different programs on your computer that will allow you to look at pictures.

To set your preferences for how your computer opens certain files, follow the same steps you would for setting preferences with image files. (1) Right-click on an image on your machine. Select (2) Open with” and then move to the bottom menu option to (3) Choose default program.


In the menu that appears you have the option to choose from common programs already associated with that particular type of file.  Alternatively you can browse for a particular program.


If you see the program you prefer, simply select it and be sure that the “Use this app for all .jpg files” option is checked. This ensures that all similar files are opened the same way every time. Continue reading

How to Protect yourself from Ransomware: 5 steps

It’s astonishing how far hackers will go to make a few dishonest bucks. One shady scheme that has recently become more prominent is malware that is called Ransomware.

So what Is Ransomware and How Does It Work?

As the name implies, ransomware is a virus or worm that locks you out of your computer or files until you pay money to some shady hacker for the code that will supposedly unlock it. Ransomware usually works in one of these ways. You get infected and …

•    It encrypts the files on your computer’s hard drive.
•    It locks your computer and requires that you enter a password to unlock it.
•    It prevents you from using your web browser.
•    It accuses you of doing some illegal activity and tells you that you need to pay a fine.

The model for a ransomware alert
The model for a ransomware alert

Pretty nasty, right? For a lot of people, they’d almost rather have a bug that damages their computer than threatens their data.  That’s because, in many ways, the landscape of user computing has changed.  Computers, while not cheap by any measure, are far less expensive than they used to be.  What matters to people then is the time and effort spend in making stuff: documents, projects, photos, video. As infuriating as it is, ransomware represents and evolution in an old scam. Leave the hardware out of it, it’s kidnapping for your data.

So, how does ransomware spread? Sadly, the means by which these viruses get around is the same as it’s always been, so it’s more important than every to start practicing better behaviors. Usually computers become infected when you do one of the following:

•    Open an unsolicited email attachment, even if you think you know the sender.
•    Click on a suspicious link in an email.
•    Downloading something from peer-to-peer networks. Continue reading