You can customize your Windows 10 settings. It's worth it.(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Q. I’m getting a new Windows 10 PC, and I know a lot’s changed since Windows 7. What should I keep in mind as I set it up?
A. Overall, Windows 10 ranks as one of the Microsoft’s better releases in recent years. It smartly incorporates touchscreen control alongside traditional keyboard, mouse and touchpad input, and it’s far more secure than its ancestors.
You can blitz through configuring Win 10 by accepting Microsoft’s “Express Settings” suggestion, but clicking or tapping that setup screen’s “Customize” button will give you a better awareness of how Win 10 works and how to govern its use of your data.
Most of these settings share one common aspect: curt descriptions of your data’s fate that may freak you out if you don’t consult the more detailed accounts at Microsoft’s privacy statement and its walkthrough of Windows 10 privacy.
I would and have accepted Win 10’s invitations to “Personalize your speech, typing and inking input,” “Send typing and inking data to Microsoft to improve the recognition and suggestion platform,” and “Turn on Find My Device and let Windows app apps request your location including history.”
In each of those cases, Microsoft has explained how it uses that data, what benefits I get, and what it does to protect my anonymity. It’s the same fundamental bargain I’ve found reasonable with many of Apple and Google’s free, personalized services.
For instance, Microsoft’s Win 10 privacy explainer notes that the company automatically erases identifying details from typing and inking data and stores it “chopped up in small, random chunks” for later analysis.
But I usually decline Win 10’s request to “Let apps use your advertising ID for experiences across apps." I’ve yet to find personalized ads in the Win 10 app store helpful.
I don’t use Skype much, so the prompt to let that Internet-calling app “help you connect with friends in your address book and verify your mobile number” generally gets a no-thank-you.
Windows 10’s ability to connect your PC to known WiFi networks has been considerably curtailed with this summer’s Anniversary Update, so I’m now okay with having it “Automatically connect to suggested open hotspots.” But since I don’t pay for WiFi when I can tether off my phone for free, I turn down a setting to look for paid wireless.
The one part of Win 10’s setup that everybody should ponder carefully reads “Send full diagnostic and usage data to Microsoft.” As ZDNet’s Ed Bott explains in a thorough guide, that may result in snippets of open documents being sent after an app crash. This dialog’s fallback “Basic” telemetry setting may lead to some bugs going unfixed; if that bothers you, you can switch to the intermediate “Enhanced” level in the Privacy category of Win 10’s Settings app.
These custom-settings screens wrap up with choices about having Win 10’s Edge browser guard against malware (yes, always) and predict search results (a time-saver that risks your privacy no more than typing in a query).
You’re finally asked if you want to use Microsoft’s Cortana assistant, which I think is worth doing, especially if you use an Android phone, since this lets Windows mirror your phone’s notifications for easy reading and dismissal.
On some new Windows 10 devices with a fingerprint scanner or a facial-recognition camera, you can and should enable Windows Hello biometric login, which will free you from having to type in a password every time you unlock the screen. Open Settings, choose Accounts and then “Sign-In Options” to enable it.
Rob Pegoraro is a tech writer based out of Washington, D.C. To submit a tech question, e-mail Rob at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter attwitter.com/robpegoraro.