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A Guide to Windows 10 Security Settings

Sara Angeles
Sara Angeles

Windows 10 offers a spectrum of security settings to help keep your computer safe. However, navigating so many security options can be complex and confusing for the average business owner. You'll find these settings scattered throughout your control panel, meaning you won't find all security options conveniently located on one page. 

To help you with your Windows 10 security settings, here are five important security risks to consider and how to fix them. From there you'll also find other security options to help keep your computer safe. 

1. Privacy

One security risk with Windows 10 is the sharing of private data, particularly for the use of personal services. For instance, Windows 10 automatically assigns an advertising ID to each user to provide tailored ads while they surf the web and use supported apps. Microsoft also collects and syncs users' data with its servers, which is especially problematic for business users. 

To protect your privacy, Windows 10 lets you disable specific types of data sharing. Here's how:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Click on Privacy.
  3. Click on the General tab.

From here you can toggle different privacy settings, such as disable advertising ID and location tracking. You can also restrict access to your camera and microphone, as well as control which apps have access to your contacts, calendar and messages. You can set how much data Microsoft collects about your speech, typing and other computer usage to personalize Cortana and other services. 

2. Windows updates

Like previous versions of Windows, Windows 10 sends out regular software updates, fixes and security patches, and then automatically installs them. The problem arises when updates interfere with your work or slow down performance, and when there are security risks to installing them. 

Although users don't have the freedom to choose parts of an update to install, the Windows 10 security settings do let you choose how updates are delivered and when you want to install them. 

Here's how to access your Windows updates settings:

  1. Click on the Start button.
  2. Go to Settings.
  3. Choose Update & Security.
  4. Select Windows Update on the left.
  5. Click on Advanced options.

From here you can choose to have Windows automatically install updates when you are not using your computer, as well as make sure your updates are coming directly from Microsoft and not third-party networks or services. 

3. Wi-Fi settings

Securing your Wi-Fi settings is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks. Windows 10 makes finding and connecting to hotspots easier, but doing so comes with significant security risks. Hackers can easily access your private data over public networks, so your best bet is to turn off connections to open hotspots. You can do this by going to Settings, clicking on Network & Internet, and then choosing Manage Wi-Fi Settings.

Windows 10 also lets you share your Wi-Fi connections with friends using certain apps, such as Facebook and Outlook. Although the concept is great in theory and when your friends really need it, it is generally a security risk if it is always turned on. You can disable Wi-Fi sharing in the Network & Internet settings page.

4. Backups 

Windows 10 can automatically create backups to restore your system in the event of a crash or cyberattack. However, these backups are not secure and can be accessed by anyone who hacks into your computer. As an alternative, you can create your own full-system image on external storage, such as a USB, DVD or external drive.

Here's how:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Go to File History.
  3. Click on System Image Backup.
  4. Choose where to save your backup.
  5. Click on Start Backup.

If you have Windows 10 Professional, you also password-protect your backup. Just right-click on the file, click Advanced and check the box next to "Encrypt contents to secure data." You will then need to enter your Windows 10 password to open and run the backup. 

5. Hidden extensions

To give Windows 10 a cleaner look, the OS automatically hides file extensions. For example, your budget spreadsheet will simply say "budget" instead of "budget.xlsx." The upside is that hiding file extensions gives the interface a less cluttered look. The downside is that it makes it easy to inadvertently open malicious files that only look safe because you can't see what type of file they are.

As a security measure, it may be safer for some users to display file extensions. Showing file extensions is easy. 

Here's how to stop Windows 10 from hiding file extensions:

  1. Go to Control Panel.
  2. Open File Explorer Options.
  3. Click on the View tab.
  4. Uncheck "Hide extensions for known file types."

Here you can also adjust settings for hidden files. Some files are hidden by Windows 10 automatically, but some viruses and malware also store themselves in your system as hidden files. To unhide files, toggle "Hidden files and folders" to "Show hidden files, folders and drives" and uncheck "Hide empty drives."

Image Credit: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock
Sara Angeles
Sara Angeles
Business News Daily Staff
Sara is a Los Angeles-based tech writer for Business.com, Business News Daily and Tom's IT Pro. A graduate of the University of California, Irvine, she has worked as a freelance writer and copywriter for tech publications, lifestyle brands and nonprofit organizations in the Southern California area and throughout the U.S. Sara joined the Purch team in 2013.