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How Windows 11 scrapes your data before you’re even connected to the internet

You toggled the privacy sliders off in Windows 11, you don’t want to share your data with Microsoft, and that’s the end of it, right? It turns out Windows 11 is collecting a lot of your data regardless, even on a brand-new PC.

Neowin recently reported on a YouTube video by The PC Security Channel where they showed how a brand new Windows 11 laptop versus a fresh Window XP install behaved in terms of what data, if any, was being sent online.

Has Windows become Spyware?

Using the Wireshark network protocol analyzer, the YouTubers were able to uncover some interesting, yet unsurprising, information about what kind of telemetry was being sent by Windows 11. At boot-up, even before an internet connection was made, they found that Windows 11 was already busy sending information to Microsoft and third-party servers. For example, the information went to software servers (possibly for updates, antivirus refresh, to check for trial versions, etc.) and to marketing/advertising networks.

In stark contrast, the 20-year-old Windows XP 64-bit version barely made a pip, if at all. The only telemetry that was sent was to Microsoft servers to check for OS updates.

From the video, it’s crazy to see how much background traffic has changed over time, from practically zero outgoing data to a deluge related to adverts, MSN, Bing, and so on. Granted, this amount of information is relative to the increased capabilities and features of modern OSes. Nowadays, we rely on instant weather reports, news, and the latest security patches — it’s really par for the course.

It’s important to keep in mind this is a brand-new laptop, though. The YouTuber pointed out, “Think about it for a second. This is a computer where the user has not opened a web browser, they haven’t typed in anything, they’re not trying to use the internet even. This is what the machine is doing, on its own, without asking the user.”

Once you start using the machine, the collection goes further. Software like ShutUp10 exposes how many different metrics Microsoft gathers while using a Windows PC, including typing information, handwriting data, and advertising information.

That said, there are thankfully ways to control and limit what your computer sends out. Services and applications such as Privatezilla and W10Privacy are specifically designed to harden your PC by allowing you to decide which unwanted functions should be deactivated.

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Aaron Leong
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Aaron enjoys all manner of tech - from mobile (phones/smartwear), audio (headphones/earbuds), computing (gaming/Chromebooks)…
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