Windows is an operating system, which is a software program that supports basic functions like managing your files and running apps, and uses peripherals like your printer, monitor, keyboard and mouse. In the past, Windows could be thought of as software existing only on your device. Now with Windows 10, important parts of Windows are based in the cloud, interacting with online services. Learn more about Windows 10 here.
This article gives concrete examples of how and why Windows sends and gets info for these benefits: to give you access to online services like Outlook, OneDrive, Cortana, Skype, Bing and the Windows Store, to personalize your experiences on Windows, to help you keep your preferences and files in sync on all your devices, to help keep your device up to date, and so that we can make the next features of Windows ones that you’ll enjoy.
To understand all of the details of how Microsoft uses info, read the Microsoft Privacy Statement. Windows offers you great control over your privacy settings.
Your device may have a camera, microphone, location services, messaging, contact list, and calendar—typical features of a tablet, smartphone, or PC. Windows Store apps which use any of these features must say so in the app's product description page in our Store. They must also provide a link to a privacy statement to describe any use of your personal data. To see and control which of these apps have access to features like camera, microphone and location services, go to Settings > Privacy.
When you communicate with your friends, family, and business associates, like text messaging (SMS, MMS, etc.) on a Windows device, we have to get the content of the message to deliver it to your inbox, display it to you, enable you to reply to it, and store it for you until you delete it. For real-time communications, a phone-calling app needs to know the phone number of the contact you want to reach.
To help others connect with you, some services let people look you up by your email address or phone number. For example, people who know your email address or phone number can use it to search for you on Skype and send you an invite to connect with them.
To understand and set boundaries on what kids can do on their devices and online, adults can choose to use family settings like screen time, activity reporting, and more. Adults in the family only need to go to one place, account.microsoft.com/family, to manage children’s activities across their devices, including turning activity reporting and other settings on or off.
To show you the quickest route around an accident on the interstate, a mapping app needs to know your current location. If you lose your phone, you can locate your Windows phone on a map using Find My Phone at account.microsoft.com. Even if you have turned off all other access to the location service on the phone, this feature can still work. For more info about how location permissions and settings work, read Location service and privacy.
Cortana can give you breaking news about the sports teams you follow in the MSN Sports app, get recommendations based on your favorite places marked in the Maps app, and alerts when there’s a change in your planned airline flight, and more. You're in control of how much data you share with Cortana. Cortana works best when you sign in with your Microsoft account and let her use data from your device and Microsoft and third-party services you choose to connect to. However, even if you choose not to sign in to Cortana or share additional data, you can still chat with Cortana and use her to help you search the web and your Windows device. Cortana is only available in certain countries/regions, and some Cortana features might not be available everywhere. To learn more about Cortana’s settings, read Cortana and privacy.
When you contact us for support, you might give us your name, phone number, or email address so we can call you back or send you email. You’d also describe the problem you need help with, which might include what kind of device you’re using, what version of Windows, and other details about your software, the printer you’re trying to connect to, or other pertinent information so that we can help you. If you need a physical device repaired, we’ll need to know your physical address so we can ship it back to you, fixed.
To give you text suggestions and auto-corrections that actually help, we make your personalized dictionary by using a sample of your typed and handwritten words.
The typing data includes a sample of characters and words you type, changes you manually make to text, and words you add to your dictionary. This personal dictionary can stay on your device or you can choose to roam it across multiple devices by syncing your settings. If you turn on Cortana, speech, inking, and typing data is also shared with Cortana to help her provide personalized suggestions. To change these settings, go to Settings > Privacy > Speech, inking, & typing.
To set up all your devices the way you want them, automatically, use a Microsoft account to sign in to a Windows device, and choose to sync settings across all your devices. After that, if you change settings on one device, we sync the changes to the other devices you’ve chosen to keep in sync when you sign in to those other devices with your Microsoft account.
For example, we’ll sync your account picture, background, and mouse settings, settings for your Windows Store apps, your personalized dictionary, and web browser history and favorites. To change web browsing and other sync settings go to Settings > Accounts > Sync your settings.
If you upload a file to OneDrive, it’s available to you from any Internet-connected device. To make it available, we need to collect the content of that file to send it to storage, show it to you in storage, and make it ready for you to download again.
In Microsoft Edge you can annotate webpages by inking (handwriting) or typing your notes, then clip, save, or share those notes. You can also create and manage reading lists, and put all those lists, favorites, downloads, and history in one area. Because you create it directly in our service, you can access it from all your devices.
To help us decide which services are working well and which need improvement, we pay attention to how people use Windows. We can spot patterns in the problems our customers have, understand the cause, and fix the issues quickly. We can also focus our resources on upgrading the things people use the most, and to improve or even retire those that don’t get used. This data, collectively called 'telemetry', can also help us understand gaps in our services so we can help people use Windows more effectively.
When people choose to turn on location services, we get to improve our location services by collecting information about the location of cell towers and Wi-Fi access points. This information is stored in a database without data identifying the person or device from which it was collected.
If you turn on Send Microsoft info about how I write to help us improve typing and writing in the future, we collect samples of your typing and handwriting info to improve our dictionaries and handwriting recognition for everybody who uses Windows. We take care to remove identifiers and store the data chopped up in small, random chunks so that we can use the information for product improvement while protecting the identities of users who submitted it.
Windows also offers previews to people who sign up for our Windows Insider program, so they can provide us feedback while the product is still in development. By studying how they use Windows, and listening to their feedback, they help us build better products that more people and companies will enjoy.
If you’d like to join our Windows Insider Program and provide us feedback, you can join at Insider.windows.com.
To fight malware and help protect your device, we created features and tools like SmartScreen, Windows Defender, and the Malicious Software Removal Tool. SmartScreen checks downloaded files and web content as you use them, helping to screen out malware, malicious websites, unwanted software, and other threats to you or your device. SmartScreen will show you a warning if it finds the file or website as unknown or potentially unsafe.
To check devices for malware we know about, and help to remove it, the Malicious Software Removal Tool runs on your device at least once per month as part of Windows Update. During the malware check, it may send a report to Microsoft with specific data about malware detected, errors, and other data about your device, so that we can fight these threats better.
If no other antimalware software is actively protecting your device, Windows Defender automatically turns on to help protect your device against malware and other unwanted software. If Windows Defender is turned on, it monitors the security status of your device. It automatically prepares reports to send to Microsoft about suspected malware and other unwanted software. Sometimes, the report includes files that may contain malware. Files that aren’t likely to contain user data are sent automatically. However, you’ll be prompted for permission if Windows Defender wants to send a document, spreadsheet, or other type of file that is likely to contain your personal content. To stop Windows Defender from sending reports and suspected malware to Microsoft, choose Settings > Update & security > Windows Defender > Sample submission.
For Windows to just keep working, we keep it up to date with product updates, security updates and new features. To make sure updates will run properly on your device, we need to know what your device can do, and what drivers and other software you have installed. We also check whether the update has been successful.
When something goes wrong in the services you use, Windows collects information to diagnose and help to fix problems. For example, when a problem occurs, we might collect basic software and hardware information, noting possible software performance and compatibility problems, and/or the apps, drivers, and devices that you have running at the time, and the type or severity of the problem. When solutions are available, we offer the steps to solve a problem or updates to install. Sometimes, the errors people report help us prevent future problems for other people, by including solutions in future releases and updates to the service.