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Windows 10 makes diagnostic data collection compulsory

Gregg Keizer | Aug. 11, 2015
Microsoft has expanded its diagnostic data collection with Windows 10, making mandatory what had been a voluntary telemetry program.

Windows Insiders, those who have opted in to Microsoft's preview program, have their devices automatically pegged to the "Full" setting, which they cannot change.

Feedback & diagnostics can be disabled by editing the Windows Registry, the finicky database where the OS stores configuration settings. Because a single mistake can corrupt the Registry enough to make the device unbootable, editing is usually done only by advanced and power users. There are several sources online for instructions on how to switch off the service; use a search string such as disable 'Windows 10' diagnostics to locate them.

In June, Microsoft also updated Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and the April 2014 Windows 8.1 Update -- the supported versions of those editions -- with the same diagnostics and telemetry service used in Windows 10. In the accompanying support document, Microsoft said that the new technology collected data only on systems owned by CEIP participants.

But CEIP usage is widespread in Windows 7 and 8.1: The program is enabled by default if the device owner had relied on the express settings configuration at first boot, a habit for most. Only by using the custom configuration settings were people able to deselect the data aggregation. However, users could switch off CEIP at any later time.

Microsoft took a similar, but not identical approach with Windows 10. After an upgrade to the new OS, or the first time a new device with the OS is run, the express setting pane says Windows 10 will "send error and diagnostic information to Microsoft." Going with the defaults sets telemetry to "Full."

But unlike with Windows 7 or 8.1, in Windows 10 a user who chooses custom settings to turn telemetry to "Off" isn't stymying diagnostics data collection. Instead, the choice reduces the amount of information Microsoft harvests from "Full" to the "Enhanced" level.

IT administrators of Windows 10 Enterprise, the SKU available only to large customers with volume licensing deals and the annuity-like Software Assurance (SA) program, can completely switch off diagnostic data gathering using group policies.

 

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