Windows 10 was not Microsoft's first operating system that collected Telemetry data but Microsoft changed what is collected and the control users have over the functionality significantly in Windows 10.
The move to Windows as a Service played a major role in the decision as Microsoft's decision to switch from a "one major new version of Windows every three years" to "two not so big but still significant updates per year" release scheme.
Telemetry, or how Microsoft likes to call it these days, diagnostic data, is important to Microsoft because the company uses diagnostic data in the decision making process.
All editions of Windows 10, with the exception of selected Enterprise editions, collect Telemetry by default. In fact, most versions of Windows 10 come without options to disable the collecting of diagnostic data.
While it is possible to limit the collecting of data to what Microsoft calls a basic level, it is not possible to block the collecting using the preferences of the operating system.
Windows 10 supports four different Telemetry settings. Only two of those, Full and Basic, are visible in the Settings application. The two remaining diagnostic levels are Security and Enhanced, and they can only be set using the Group Policy or Registry.
Here is the order based on how much data is collected: Full > Enhanced > Basic > Security
Note: I'm not 100% sure that Enhanced is used for anything as it is not displayed during setup or in the Settings app as an option. It is likely that Microsoft will remove Enhanced eventually.
The Settings application gives you the same control over privacy that you get during initial setup of the operating system.
The default Telemetry level is Full. Windows 10 collects a lot of data at this level and transfers the data to Microsoft regularly.
You can switch the diagnostic data level to basic using the Settings app to limit data collecting. Basic is the lowest level available for all consumer versions of Windows 10.
The only exception to the rule is if the device is linked to the Windows Insider Program. Insider Program devices are set to Full data collecting and this is one of the requirements of participating in the program.
Tip: Microsoft revealed what data Windows 10 collects at what level in mid-2017. The first feature update of Windows 10 in 2018 introduces options to view the collected Windows 10 data on the device, and to delete collected data.
The Group Policy Editor lists all four available Telemetry levels but only three of them are available on consumer devices.
Do the following to open the Group Policy Editor. (Note: not available on Windows 10 Home devices).
Navigate to the following key using the folder structure on the left: Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Data Collection and Preview Builds.
Double-click on the Allow Telemetry policy to display it.
The policy is not configured by default which means that the value set during setup or in the Settings app is used. Disabled has the same effect, it does not disable Telemetry collecting completely on the device.
Consumers and small businesses may set Telemetry to Basic, Enhanced or Full only. While it is possible to select Security, that is not advised because the setting is switched internally to Basic automatically, and because it may interfere with update delivery on the system.
The following values are available:
A value of 0 (Security) will send minimal data to Microsoft to keep Windows secure. Windows security components such as Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) and Windows Defender may send data to Microsoft at this level if they are enabled.
A value of 1 (Basic) sends the same data as a value of 0, plus a very limited amount of diagnostic data such as basic device info, quality-related data, and app compatibility info. Note that setting values of 0 or 1 will degrade certain experiences on the device.
A value of 2 (Enhanced) sends the same data as a value of 1, plus additional data such as how Windows, Windows Server, System Center, and apps are used, how they perform, and advanced reliability data.
A value of 3 (Full) sends the same data as a value of 2, plus advanced diagnostics data used to diagnose and fix problems with devices, which can include the files and content that may have caused a problem with the device.
You may set the diagnostic data level in the Windows Registry. The method has the same effect as setting the Telemetry level using the Group Policy.
To configure Telemetry, go to Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\DataCollection and change the value of the Dword AllowTelemetry to one of the supported values:
If DataCollection does not exist, right-click on Windows and select New > Key to create it.
If the Dword value AllowTelemetry does not exist, right-click on DataCollection and select New > Dword (32-bit Value) to create it.
Here is a quick list of common questions and answers:
What is Telemetry in Windows 10?
Telemetry, or diagnostic data, is data that Windows 10 collects automatically to send it to Microsoft servers. Microsoft states that the data is anonymized and helps the company develop Windows 10.
How do I turn off Windows 10 data collecting?
The short answer: you can't using built-in functionality. What you can do is change the level of Telemetry from Full to Basic to limit what data is collected and transferred to Microsoft.
Is there really no way?
There is a way, but it may limit other functionality if you are not careful. You need to block Microsoft servers so that connections to these servers is blocked. Check out a script like Debloat Windows 10 which does that but create a backup of the system first.
What's the difference between Telemetry and other Windows 10 privacy settings?
Telemetry refers to the automatic collection of diagnostic data. The remaining Privacy settings control what apps may do for the most part. These settings are not considered Telemetry but they are still privacy related.
Check out the following Resources if you want to know more about Telemetry and diagnostic data in Windows 10:
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.