Since its release, a major point of controversy with Windows 10 has been the many ways that it can track your personal activity and gather other data about you. Many people don\u2019t mind sharing personal information in exchange for enabling or enhancing a helpful app or service.But if you are hard core about wanting to protect your privacy, here are ways that you can avoid, remove, or turn off features that track you. Some of these tactics may seem extreme, but you can obviously pick and choose, depending on what level of privacy you\u2019re comfortable with.Cut the Cortana cordCortana, the Windows 10 personal digital assistant, indexes and stores your personal data, search queries and commands that you give it in order to provide results personalized for you. Since Microsoft released the Anniversary Update for Windows 10 in July, Cortana can no longer be deactivated. However, you can simply choose not to use it.And to avoid accidentally doing so, remove the search box from the taskbar: right-click on a blank area of the taskbar, point to \u201cCortana\u201d on the pop-up menu, and select \u201cHidden\u201d from the sub-menu. If you need to search files on your computer, do so from the File Explorer instead, which has its own search box in the upper-right corner.Switch from Edge to an alternative browserAnother tactic would be to not use Microsoft\u2019s built-in browser, Edge. Of course, other browsers like Chrome or Firefox are also tracking your online activity through their respective browsers. But you can try Firefox with \u201cdo not track\u201d mode. Ultimately, however, the choice basically comes down to whether you\u2019d rather not have Microsoft tracking both your use of their operating system and your web browsing.Don\u2019t sign in to OneDriveLike Cortana, Microsoft\u2019s cloud storage service comes baked-in with Windows 10; there is no direct way to uninstall it, but you don\u2019t need to use it. Just don\u2019t sign in to the service -- which requires a Microsoft online services user account (an example would be an email account with Hotmail or Outlook.com).If you are already signed in to OneDrive with a Microsoft user account and want to stop using it: Right-click the OneDrive icon on the notification tray, select \u201cSettings\u201d from the menu that pops open, then under the \u201cAccount\u201d tab, click the \u201cUnlink this PC\u201d button. Next, click the \u201cSettings\u201d tab, and uncheck \u201cStart OneDrive automatically when I sign in to Windows.\u201dAlso, make sure that your files aren\u2019t saved to a OneDrive folder by default: Launch the Settings app (which you can do by opening the Action Center and clicking the \u201cAll settings\u201d button). Under the \u201cSystems\u201d category and \u201cStorage\u201d section, set the five boxes that are listed toward the bottom of the page (i.e. \u201cNew apps will save to:\u201d, \u201cNew documents will save to:\u201d, etc.) to \u201cThis PC (C:)\u201d (or whichever storage medium you prefer).Use CCleaner to remove Microsoft appsMost of Microsoft\u2019s apps that come with Windows 10 share your personal data with one another, such as Calendar, Mail, Maps and People. Microsoft doesn\u2019t let you uninstall many of them. But you can use a third-party application, and the best one we recommend is CCleaner. Even the free version of CCleaner includes an uninstall tool that will let you remove Microsoft\u2019s apps that they\u2019ve made otherwise uninstallable.Actually, if you want to maintain strict privacy regarding your activity on Windows 10, then you probably shouldn\u2019t use any Windows app -- whether it\u2019s by Microsoft or a third-party developer -- since many of them require that you grant them access to your personal activity and data.Don\u2019t use a Microsoft online services account to sign inYou can sign in to your Windows 10 system using a Microsoft online services user account, such as a Hotmail or Outlook.com account. Doing so syncs your customizations and preferred settings for Windows 10 to Microsoft\u2019s servers, which in turn can be downloaded to another Windows 10 system you sign in to with the same account.To avoid all of this, don\u2019t use your Microsoft email account to sign in. If you\u2019ve already done this, create a local account and sign in with it instead: Launch the Settings app. Under the \u201cAccounts\u201d category and \u201cYour info\u201d section, click \u201cSign in with a local account instead.\u201d You\u2019ll be prompted to enter the password of the Microsoft email account you used to sign in to Windows 10, and then you can set a new username and password that you can then use to sign in just to the Windows 10 computer you\u2019re directly using.Go to settings, change privacy optionsUnder the \u201cPrivacy\u201d category, turn the switches off that appear under these sections: Location, Camera, Microphone, Notifications, Account Info, Contacts, Calendar, Call History, Email, Messaging, Radios, and Other Devices.Use the \u2018stop getting to know me\u2019 settingUnder the \u201cPrivacy\u201d category and \u201cSpeech, inking & typing\u201d section, click \u201cStop getting to know me.\u201d Otherwise, nearly everything you type as search queries, and your voice and handwriting style (using a digital pen), is captured and analyzed by Microsoft.Block diagnostics and feedbackUnder the \u201cPrivacy\u201d category and \u201cFeedback & diagnostics\u201d section, set the \u201cFeedback frequency\u201d option to \u201cNever\u201d and the \u201cDiagnostic and usage data\u201d option to \u201cBasic.\u201d There\u2019s no choice to absolutely deny Microsoft from fielding information about your system hardware and its performance under Windows 10.Turn off background appsUnder the \u201cPrivacy\u201d category and \u201cBackground apps\u201d section, turn off the switches for all the apps that are listed here. Besides using some of your Windows 10 system\u2019s memory and other resources, apps that continue to run in the background may be connected online.Say no to synchingUnder the \u201cAccounts\u201d category and \u201cSync your settings\u201d section, turn off the switch under \u201cSync settings.\u201d When this function is turned on, the way you\u2019ve customized and set up Windows 10 will be synced to Microsoft\u2019s servers.Say no to Windows SpotlightUnder the \u201cPersonalization\u201d category and \u201cLock screen\u201d section, under the \u201cBackground\u201d option, select either \u201cPicture\u201d or \u201cSlideshow.\u201d The Windows Spotlight feature lets Microsoft\u2019s servers send a random image to your Windows 10 system to display as the background of the lock screen.Don\u2019t share updatesUnder the \u201cUpdate & Security\u201d category and \u201cWindows Update\u201d section, select \u201cAdvanced Options\u201d and then \u201cChoose how updates are delivered.\u201d Turn the switch off that\u2019s below \u201cUpdates from more than one place.\u201d When turned on, this function lets your Windows 10 system share its update files with other Windows 10 computers on the internet through peer-to-peer distribution.Disable device location trackingUnder the \u201cUpdate & Security\u201d category and \u201cFind My Device\u201d section, click the \u201cChange\u201d button and turn the switch off in the small window that pops open. This tracking feature could be useful if you\u2019re using Windows 10 on a notebook, but if you\u2019re using a desktop computer that you don\u2019t anticipate moving around much, you may want to turn this off if you\u2019d rather not have Microsoft know its location.