Microsoft’s new and more aggressive monitoring of Windows systems has caused considerable discussion. Whether you believe all the telemetry is a privacy concern or not, you might be interested in an easy way to block the extensive information gathering. The developers at the well-known anti-spyware company Spybot have now provided a free utility called Spybot Anti-Beacon that makes configuring many privacy settings very convenient.
The utility can be used in Windows 7, 8.x, and 10 and comes as either an installer version or a version designated as portable. The portable application actually comes as an EXE installer that places a number of files in a folder. Also the portable is labeled version 1.4 while the installed is version 1.5. I tried both and there seem to be a few added configurations in version 1.5. Normally, I go for portable apps but in this case I would choose the installer version. The download and descriptive pages for each can be reached from this link. The downloads are 1.6 MB for the portable version and 2.6 MB for the installer version. Space actually used when installed is larger at around 4-8 MB.
Added later: There is, in fact, a stand-alone version available from this page.
Because of its nature, the program has to be run with administrative rights and will trigger a UAC challenge. The interface is easy to use. Examples of the interface for Windows 7 and for Windows 10 are shown in the first two graphics below. If changing the settings causes any problems, they are easily undone with the click of a button. Unfortunately, users of Home versions of Windows will not have the group policy settings. There is a Spybot forum thread about the utility at this link.
There is also an optional tab that provides additional settings. The graphic below shows some of them for Windows 10.
All in all, this free program looks like a good choice for those who wish to put some controls on how much information Microsoft finds out about their computer activities.
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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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