I've been maintaining this guide since 2015 when the first version of Windows 10 came out. To be fair, it was already clear back then that Microsoft had decided to drive power users away from Windows, but I liked the OS so I persevered, and tried my best to make it as usable as possible using this guide.
With the release of the 1903 update a few weeks ago, which broke a lot of things on my computer, I just couldn't take it anymore; I'm sorry to let you down but Windows nowadays is as unstable as a crappy arch linux distro, I cannot be productive if the OS keeps breaking with every update.
So that's it, I have decided to quit Windows, and I'm now using Linux (Kubuntu, to be specific) as my main OS for everything except games (for which I'll keep a machine with Windows 10 LTSC, offline). As a result, 1903 will be the last update for this guide unless some good soul wants to take up the task of maintaining this project.
I know there are some skilled users out there who can do it, if you're interested, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Windows 10 has raised several concerns about privacy due to the fact that it has a lot of telemetry and online features. In response to these concerns, Microsoft released a document explaining exactly what data they collect, and now Windows 10 even has a Diagnostic Data Viewer. Most of it seems pretty legit stuff when telemetry is set to basic, but still, if you don't trust them, here's how to prevent Windows 10 from sending your data to Microsoft.
Last update: July 5, 2019
Important: This procedure cannot be reverted without reinstalling Windows. Do not follow this guide if:
You are not an experienced user
You need to use a Microsoft Account for any reason (outside of your web browser)
You need to download anything from the Windows Store (including distros for the Linux subsystem if you want to use it)
You need to add/remove user accounts to your PC (new accounts will not work properly)
You're doing this at your own risk, I am not responsible for any data loss or damage that may occur.
Do not use the default settings
At the end of the setup process, create a local account, don't use Cortana and turn off everything in the privacy settings.
If you already installed Windows with the default settings, go to Start > Settings > Privacy to turn them off. You should also go to Account and disconnect your Microsoft account because this guide will prevent it from working properly.
Let it download all the updates
Once you get to the desktop, go to Settings > Updates and security, and let it download all the updates. Reboot and repeat until no more updates are available.
This is important because Windows Update may interfere with our activities.
Now open the Store app, and let it download updates too.
Again, this is important because updates would interfere with our activities.
This may take some time.
Now that the system is fully updated, make sure Windows is activated with your license (or KMSPico).
Remove everything you can
Open the start menu and remove all the applications. Some of them, such as Microsoft Edge, will not have an uninstall option; we'll remove them later.
What's important now is to remove all the OEM software and the shitty games like Candy Crush and Minecraft.
If you used previous versions of Windows 10, you'll notice that this time we can remove more stuff, like Paint 3D, without resorting to tricks.
Here's what we need:
Install_Wim_Tweak: Download this archive, extract it to your Desktop, then move it to C:\Windows\System32. This is a very handy tool that allows us to remove Windows components with a single command. You can delete it from System32 when you're finished with this guide.
We need a command prompt, so click start, type cmd and run it as administrator
We will also need PowerShell, so click start, type PowerShell and run it as administrator
This will take 1-2 minutes.
Unfortunately, since June 2018, the Windows Security icon in the Start menu can no longer be removed without breaking the system.
If Windows complains about the system being unprotected, right click the notification and hide it.
We will now remove almost all UWP features in Windows. The only UWP app you'll have left will be the settings app.
If you manually install UWP apps later (like cracked UWP games) they may not work properly.
Note: if some of the apps reappear after a few minutes, it's because you didn't wait for the updates to finish. You can simply remove them again using the same commands.
We will use our command prompt and PowerShell to remove everything we can.
The commands in green are for the command prompt; the ones in blue are for PowerShell.
Reboot the system and you're now free of UWP garbage.
With the Anniversary Update, Microsoft hid the option to disable Cortana. Warning: Do not attempt to remove the Cortana package using install_wim_tweak or the PowerShell, as it will break Windows Search and you will have to reinstall Windows!
Open our command prompt again and use this command:
Press Win+R, type regedit, press enter, and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services
Here we need to locate the follwing keys:
These keys have messed up permissions. To delete them, we must fix them, here's a video showing how to do it:
Right click the key and select Permissions, then click Advanced, change the Owner to your username, check "Replace owner on subcontainers and objects" and "Replace all child object permission entries with inheritable permission entries from this object", if inheritance is enabled, disable it and convert to explicit permissions, apply, remove all the permission entries and add one for your username with Full control, confirm everything and delete the key.
Repeat for the 3 keys and you're done.
Windows 10 has a huge amount of scheduled tasks that may report some data. Type these commands in the command prompt to remove them:
We must disable Windows Spotlight, and other "Suggestions".
Go to Start > Settings > Personalization > Lock screen:
Set the background to Picture
Set "Get fun facts, tips, tricks and more on your lock screen" to off
Go to Personalization > Start:
Set Show suggestions occasionally in Start to off (They're literally ads)
Go back to Settings and go to System > Notifications and actions
Set Get tips, tricks, and suggestions as you use Windows to off
Set Show me the Windows welcome... to off
Go back to Settings and go to System > Multitasking
Set "Show suggestions occasionally in your timeline" to off
Go back to Settings and go to Privacy
Under General, turn off everything
Under Activity history, turn off everything
Under Speech, turn off everything
Under Inking, turn off everything
Under App diagnostics, set Let apps access diagnostic information to off
Go back to Settings and go to Search
Under Permissions & History, turn off everything
Later on, you might get a "Suggestions" notification. Right click it and turn it off.
Use a firewall!
For some applications (such as the settings app), the only way to prevent them from reporting data is to block them with a firewall. This is why you should use a firewall to block all traffic except what you explicitly allow.
Personally, I allow Windows Update, Network discovery and sharing, DHCP, DNS, my web browser and nothing more. This will limit the traffic of undesired applications to DNS queries, they won't be able to send or receive anything.
SimpleWall is the new recommended firewall for this guide. If you used TinyWall before, it no longer works on 1903, so uninstall it.
SimpleWall can block/unblock individual executables, UWP apps, and services, as well as filter by address, port and protocol.
Unlike TinyWall unfortunately, it doesn't have an autolearn mode, but it has a very useful notification that pops up when an application is blocked, so you can decide if you want to block it or allow it permanently. This is very useful when installing new software. Get used to seeing a lot of these in the first hours.
My recommended configuration for SimpleWall is this:
Under Settings > Mode, use Whitelist. This will block all traffic that you don't explicitly allow
Under Settings > Settings > General, enable "Load on system startup", "Start minimized", and "Skip User Account Control prompt"
Under Settings > Settings > Rules, select "Enable boot-time filters"
Under Settings > Settings > Rules > System Rules, allow smb (inbound and outbound), if you plan to use network file sharing, and also Windows Update
Under File > Import, you can load my preset: download. It blocks some Windows features that aren't already blocked by the guide, and allows all apps to access the local network but not the Internet.
Click on Enable filtering, then select Whitelist
Feel free to experiment with SimpleWall, it is a very powerful tool.
The only disadvantage at the moment is that it blocks Windows Update even if you explicitly allow it. The developer is aware of this issue and it will probably be fixed in later releases. A temporary workaround is available here.
Congratulations! Your copy of Windows is now Debotnetted!
Things will change in the future, and I'll do what I can to keep this guide updated.
As of May 2019, this guide works on Windows 10 Pro.
Can Windows revert these changes?
When a major update is installed, almost all changes will be reverted and you'll have to repeat this procedure. Major updates come out about twice a year.