How bad is the data collection in Windows?

Here is the thing, I care about privacy and am aware that Windows collects a lot of data. But I don’t exactly know what Windows collects. I have disabled all the telemetry and optional data sharing, so what exactly is my PC sending MS? Can anyone give a TLDR on the things Microsoft is collecting when set to the basic data collection with all the options they have given disabled? Knowing this would help me decide if switching to Linux is worth it.

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You can find their official data collection summary here:
https://privacy.microsoft.com/en-US/data-collection-Windows

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What exactly does Windows collect on you? Well…

Just from one angle, the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi?

Geo-location via Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: Whether it is Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, or even Ubuntu. Most popular Operating Systems now collect telemetry information by default even if you never opt-in or opted-out from the start. Some like Windows will not even allow disabling telemetry completely without some technical tweaks. This information collection can be extensive and include a staggering number of details (metadata and data) on your devices and their usage.

Itemized lists:

Mitigation:

Win10Privacy:

  • Download and install W10Privacy
  • Open the app as Administrator (right-click > more > run as administrator)
  • Check all the recommended (Green) settings and save.
  • Optional but recommended (but could break things, use at your own risk), also check the orange/red settings, and save.
  • Reboot

WindowsSpyBlocker:

  • Download and run WindowsSpyBlocker
  • Type 1 and go into Telemetry
  • Type 1 and go into Firewall
  • Type 2 and add Spy Rules
  • Reboot

Also, consider using ShutUp10:

  • Download and run ShutUp10
  • Enable at least all the recommended settings

Settings > Privacy > Diagnostic > Delete all Data

You will need to update and re-run W10Privacy and WindowsSpyBlocker frequently and after any Windows update as they tend to silently re-enable telemetry using those updates.

As a bonus, it could be interesting to also consider hardening your Windows host. (This is a security guide, not a privacy guide.

Notable: Harden Windows 10 for Security

Source: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Online Anonymity
Disclaimer: I am a maintainer.

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Thanks for the detailed explanation and wow the optional data seems so invasive. ShutUP10 seems a pretty good way to mitigate some of the tracking.

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Open Local Group Policy Editor and you’ll see how many data-collect options are with explanations on each settings, it’s mind boggling how much they creeping in and stole our data.