Blackbird is another Windows privacy, performance and security tool in the seemingly unlimited arsenal of these tools that is been designed to improve user privacy on Windows machines.
Privacy tools come in all flavors; from one-click scripts to sophisticated programs that list dozens or even hundreds of settings for you to tweak and adjust.
Blackbird falls in the former category on first glance. It seems to be one of those programs that makes all changes automatically when you run it on a Windows machine. The application is compatible with all recent 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows. To be precise, it supports Windows Vista and up.
The program displays several items when you run it that it will modify, e.g. telemetry, privacy, services, or scheduled tasks, but that is about it.
While that is comfortable, it is rather problematic from a "control" point of view. You have to look at the website of the software to find out what it does.
The documentation on the Blackbird website highlights what it does:
> Disables OneDrive
> Disables Cortana
> Disables Bing-integration
> Disables all AutoLoggers
> Disables Wi-Fi Sense
> Disables system-wide telemetry (on all editions of Windows 10 and older)
> Disables Start menu ads
> Disables all Xbox Live services
> Disables web content evaluation ("SmartScreen") and prevents URL check-in
> Disables Windows Media online DRM
> Disables Windows P2P Update sharing
> Disables hidden Windows metric startup tasks
> Disables all diagnostic tracking services
> Disables all application metric-data collection agents
> Prevents system read access to already collected diagnostic data
> Prevents any location/contacts/messages/handwritting/password sharing
> Prevents cross-device synchronization (ie; Windows Phone auto-syncing with PC account data)
> Removes GWX and Windows 10 upgrade pop-ups
> Removes Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA)
> Removes your unique ad-tracking ID token
> Removes a bunch of Windows Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 telemetry updates
> Removes all pre-install Windows 10 Upgrade files/folders on Windows 7, 8, 8.1
> Blocks 150+ different tracking/telemetry/ad servers
> Supports custom host lists, IPv4/IPv6, Wifi/Eth
> Patches various data leaks (IE/Edge, Explorer, Defender, MRT)
> Applies various network tweaks (enables RSS,ctcp,tcp-offload,ECN)
So, if you run it directly, a lot will happen in the background including the removal of certain Windows Updates, the blocking of servers, and the removal of apps or programs.
If you read on, you will notice that Blackbird ships with a truckload of command line switches that give you the control that you may require.
Instead of running the program and having it apply all modifications to the Windows machine, you can run commands such as blackbird -dukcf to disable Windows Defender, automatic installation of updates, kill Cortana completely, and disable the most used apps listing of the start menu.
The command line options provide other useful options. You can run a full system scan for privacy issues using blackbird -scan, use the verbose mode blackbird -v to display additional information on all changes, or use blackbird -r to restore all values changed to the default Microsoft values.
It is recommended to back up important data -- or create a full system backup -- before you run the program. I suggest you make good use of the verbose flag to better understand what the program changes on the system.
The developers note that it may take up to an hour to run depending on the machine and what you select to remove.
Blackbird is a program that does not run in the background all the time. You run it once, it makes the changes to the system, and is done afterwards.
Blackbird may not be as easy to configure as other Windows privacy tools, but it is without doubt a program that is very powerful. It may also be useful to run if your primary privacy tool does not support some features. You could run Blackbird with parameters then to adjust the missing privacy settings or tweaks.
Now You: Which of the many privacy programs do you prefer, and why?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.