Microsoft Windows is by far the most widely used operating system for desktop and laptop computers, making it a prime target for cybercriminals.Microsoft has gotten better at keeping its software secure over the years, and Windows 10 and Windows 11 are far more secure than their predecessors.
However, there are ways to enhance Windows' security while improving your privacy.Here's a list of the best, free Windows tools to help you do just that.
Blackbirdis a simple, lightweight, yet powerful security and privacy tool that will also boost the performance of your Windows PC.
You don't need to be a technologist, or even a mid-level user, to get the most out of Blackbird.The program comes as a compressed file, requires no installation, and does almost everything on its own.
When you start Blackbird, it starts scanning your system for potential problems, then offers to fix, block, disable and otherwise modify thousands of small Windows settings that could compromise your security and privacy.
So, what exactly does Blackbird do, and how does it improve Windows security and privacy? Blackbird completely blocks Windows telemetry, removes all ads and any built-in programs you wish, disables annoying pop-ups, Windows services, notifications, and more.
With Blackbird, you can also protect your contacts and passwords, disable dozens of data collection tasks, stop your PC from downloading Windows-affiliated software in the background, and generally prevent Microsoft from collecting and harvesting your data.
Blackbird itself does not run in the background.You can just run it once and forget about it, or run it every few months, and whenever a new Windows update comes out (Blackbird does it regularly).
2. O&O ShutUp
If you don't like the humble, old-school look of the Blackbird, or just don't like it for some reason,O&O ShutUpis a good alternative.
O&O ShutUp is sleek, simple, and incredibly easy to use for Windows 10 and 11.This tool does exactly what it says on the jar: it disables all sorts of stubborn, annoying Windows features.
O&O ShutUp doesn't even require installation; you just download the EXE file, run it, and you're done.Once you run it, you'll immediately see a very long list of Windows features that the tool can block.
For example, O&O ShutUp can disable the camera on the login screen, ads, timeline suggestions, bug reports, feedback alerts, automatic installs, Cortana, and more.
O&O ShutUp comes with tons of categories for you to explore.Each of these categories has dozens of features that you can disable or enable.Of course, you could do most of the work manually via Windows itself, but that would take a lot of time, and you risk messing up your system configuration, so O&O ShutUp is pretty handy in that regard.
Download: O&O ShutUp
Windows Defender, Microsoft's own anti-malware software, has come a long way over the years.Therefore, installing additional anti-malware software is not as important as it used to be.After all, Windows Defender is free and comes with the operating system itself.
Speaking of which, you can greatly improve your security by installing Kaspersky Security Cloud, arguably the best free anti-malware software available today.
Unlike some antivirus software, Kaspersky Security Cloud is lightweight, doesn't affect your computer's performance, and doesn't bother you with notifications.
Kaspersky Security Cloud uses the same malware detection engine as the paid version of Kaspersky, plus you get a bunch of other cool features for free, including data protection, private browsing, cloud protection, vulnerability settings controls, and apps control.
Kaspersky Security Cloud also comes with a built-in password manager and a VPN service.Both of these features are limited in the free version of the program, but can certainly prove useful, depending on your needs.
Note that you may not be able to use Kaspersky Security Cloud if you are in the EU, UK or California.If this is the case, consider installing other free anti-malware software on your Windows computer.
Download: Kaspersky Security Cloud
4. Tor Browser
There's nothing wrong with using a normal browser for your day-to-day internet activities, although you should probably switch to a secure Windows browser instead of Chrome.
However, if you want to stay as safe and anonymous as possible in certain situations, no browser comes close to Tor. Tor Browser is the official browser of the Tor (The Onion Router) project, and it is an indispensable privacy tool.
When you launch Tor Browser, it effortlessly connects to the Tor network, sending your traffic through a series of encrypted relays for anonymous browsing.
While powerful, Tor is very easy to install, set up, and use.The browser comes with a range of integrated privacy tools and blocks invasive scripts and plug-ins on its own.
The default privacy and security settings should be adequate for most users, but can be enhanced by changing the security level from Standard to More Secure or Most Secure.
The only downside is performance.Because it routes traffic through volunteer relays, Tor is significantly slower than most major browsers.
In short, every Windows user who cares about security and privacy should have Tor installed on their computer, even if they only use it occasionally.
Download: Tor Browser
Improve your Windows security with free apps
The tools we've covered above don't require much expertise, are very easy to use, and do exactly what they're supposed to do without any hassle.Your security is ultimately your responsibility, though, so make sure to adjust your Windows PC accordingly, especially if you've switched to Windows 11.
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