How to Enable or Disable Location Sensing in Windows 7 and 8

It’s not just your phone that can know where you are. Did you know that many laptops and desktops have location sensing built into the hardware? There is also software to allow location sensing. Windows 7 and 8 support location sensing but it is disabled by default. These days many applications like to use your location. In this tip, I’ll show how to turn location sensing on or off, depending on your preference. I will also show how to find out in Windows 7 if any application has been using this service to send out information about your location.

Enable or disable location sensing in Windows 7

  1. Open the Start menu
  2. In the Search box, enter “sensor” (without quotes)
  3. In the Control Panel list, select "Enable location and other sensors"
  4. A list of installed sensors will be given. 
  5. Enable or disable them as preferred by using the checkbox next to a sensor. An example is shown in the figure below.
  6. Click “Apply”

Enable location sensors in Windows 7

When a program or service requests location information from a sensor, Windows 7 shows a small icon in the notification area (system tray) for most, but not all, requests.

Enable or disable location sensing in Windows 8

  1. Open Control Panel. Possible shortcuts to Control Panel are given in this previous tip
  2. In the Control Panel search box, enter “sensor” (without quotes)
  3. Click “Change location settings”
  4. The dialog shown below will open
  5. In the settings, you can choose whether to let users turn on location sensing for individual apps (administrator privileges required for this setting)

Enable location sensors in Windows 8

Checking for location  activity in Windows 7

The Event Viewer can be used to see a log of what location requests have been made.

  1. Open the Start menu
  2. In the Search box, enter “sensor” (without quotes)
  3. In the Control Panel list, select “View location activity”

The figure below shows an example log. (This one is empty on purpose.)

Location sensor activity log

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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by steves36043 (not verified) on 1. December 2012 - 15:50  (103173)

Would I be naive in thinking that one must have a device capable of geo location before any such sensors can be implemented? A cell phone's location can be triangulated off towers and a smartphone may have GPS capability. I haven't seen IP address locations to be reliable (currently, my aircard is located in Seattle, WA and/or Los Angeles, CA ... I'm 300 miles from L.A. ?!).

by v.laurie on 1. December 2012 - 17:00  (103176)

Apparently some PC systems come with GPS hardware these days. In the absence of hardware, there are software approaches like the free program Geosense shown in the tip example. These software methods require you to enter your location. This data can then be used by other programs.

Incidentally, IP addresses are used with varying degrees of success to guess where you are. Some programs are better than others. Bing thinks I live 70 miles away but Google knows the town where I am. Staples thinks I live in Philadelphia.

by Anony_mous (not verified) on 1. December 2012 - 13:25  (103164)

Just checked ten machines of varying ages and brands, some upgraded, all with various iterations of Windows 7. Not one had a sensor installed. Judging by the comments, this tip only applies to Windows 8.

by v.laurie on 1. December 2012 - 14:05  (103167)

The first figure in the tip shows a Windows 7 example.

by df1995 on 28. November 2012 - 22:27  (103032)

I have Windows 7 Starter and there's no sensor or “View location activity” on the control panel.

by v.laurie on 28. November 2012 - 23:48  (103035)

I guess that's one of the many things that got left out of the Starter edition.

by Al (not verified) on 28. November 2012 - 20:48  (103030)

Thanks for a valuable tip, but when I went to "Sensors," it said at the top of the window, "No sensors are installed." My computer was custom-built and the software installed by a local computer expert, not some large manufacturer (e.g., HP, Dell, etc.), so perhaps that explains the lack of an installed geo sensor (which frankly suits me just fine).

by v.laurie on 28. November 2012 - 21:16  (103031)

Many Windows 7 systems will show no software sensors already installed. In Windows 8, a lot of the standard apps that come already installed will ask if they can use your location- weather, for example,

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