Most useful tools for Windows 10

Despite the initial push back from diehard Windows 7 supporters, Windows 10 is becoming more widespread as all new machines come with the operating system preinstalled. Windows 10 includes compelling and useful tools preinstalled.

Task View

The Task view is a nifty tool integrated into the Windows 10 operating system that gives users the capability to view file history. Task view displays a preview of the files opened dating back a month. The files previewed are presented in large clickable icons. Task view is handy if you misplace a file or need to review what records you accessed over the past month. The task view displays file history for each user and not the machine.

To access:
On the right of the search button, located on the taskbar, is where the default button for the task view is located. You can also access the task view by pressing Win + Tab button.

Virtual Desktop

Windows 10 Virtual Desktop is a productivity and organization feature that allows users to group applications based on workflows. With Windows 10 Virtual Desktop, users are allowed to, for example, have “Desktop One,” which contains all the user applications for video editing, and “Desktop Two” is where all your accounting customer management tools are running. Virtual Desktop is an excellent way to avoid your taskbar and Desktop from becoming too cluttered.

To access:
Press Win + Tab button, located in the same location as “Task View”, at the top of the screen.

God Mode

God Mode is the name of a utility available in Windows 10, which is a central location giving users access to all the configuration options in the operating system in one centralized location. God Mode consists of over 200 settings listed in alphabetical order, including administrative configurations, browser configurations, user accounts, and security.

To access:
Right-click on the Desktop.
Left-click New > Folder and name it
GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
Hit Enter

Reliability Monitor

Introduced in Windows 7, Reliability Monitor is a tool that allows users to see all critical errors of the operating system. It can be thought of like a scaled-down or more focused version of the Event Log. The Reliability Monitor displays a stability index of the operating system on a scale from one to ten, showing “critical events,” “warnings,” and “information events” as headers. Each of the headers contains columns labeled “source,” “summary,” “date,” “action.” The information displayed can be organized by days or weeks. Under the “action” column, there is the clickable text “view technical details,” which displays specific details on the error selected. With the neat and easy to interpret information shown, it is easy to identify a pattern in critical errors to help with troubleshooting.

To access:
Option One – Type “Reliability” in the search bar located on the taskbar and select “view reliability monitor.”
Option Two – Navigate to the “Control Panel” > System and Security > Security and Maintenance > Reliability

Is your Antivirus Selling Your Personal Data?

Antivirus programs are an essential part of staying safe while browsing. But these programs may be responsible for harvesting every click and purchase you make for profit. An Avast subsidiary recently revealed how it brokered and sold user data to clients like Microsoft, Pepsi, and more.

Is your antivirus software spying on you?

Users of Avast antivirus were spied on for years, with their data harvested and sold to the highest bidder. Leaked documents reveal a subsidiary of Avast – called Jumpshot – is responsible for the leak of user browser histories.

Once Avast was installed on a computer, it collected data to be repackaged and sold. Bidders on that data include some of the biggest tech corporations across the globe. Microsoft, Yelp, Pepsi, and many other clients paid millions to access this data.

The data was assembled into an “All Clicks Feed,” which tracks user behavior, clicks, and movement across websites in accurate detail. That feed allowed clients to buy information on all clicks Jumpshot saw from a user on domains like Amazon.com.

Before it shut down, Jumpshot estimated it had data from 100 million devices. Those devices include PC and smartphones.

Avast collected the browsing data of customers who installed the company’s browser plugin. Avast told users the browser plugin’s purpose was to warn users of suspicious sites and phishing attacks. But soon after its browser extension drew criticism, Avast began an opt-in data collection scheme from its antivirus software.

What Information Are They Collecting?

The data collected by Avast is supposed to be anonymized. However, that isn’t enough to protect user privacy in most cases. Initial reports on the leak say Google searches, GPS coordinates on Google Maps, LinkedIn pages, and YouTube videos were all collected.

Researchers looking into the massive data collection scheme could determine what data and time anonymized users were visiting porn sites. In some cases, they could see the names of specific videos users watched.

The data doesn’t include personal information like names, but that doesn’t matter. Researchers say it could be possible to de-anonymize the data from specific users with additional information.

Any device that opted-in to Avast’s data collection scheme reported all browser-based internet activity to Jumpshot. URLs visited, in what order, and what date are all questions that can be answered with the data. That information can be used to de-anonymize data and spot patterns among internet users.

Why Data Privacy Is Important

Even if huge amounts of data like browsing history are anonymized and sold, it is easy to de-anonymize. One of the biggest threats to anonymized data on the internet is merging information with other data collected from leaks and hacks.

Jumpshot data could be combined with ISP information to identify customers directly. That information could be used to connect search terms, purchases, and more to a specific person. Experts say even de-anonymizing data isn’t enough – it shouldn’t be gathered and sold in the first place.

Antivirus Alternatives

Sick of having to worry about whether or not your data is safe? There’s good news if you’re a Windows user. Windows Defender is built-in Windows 10 and offers antivirus protection that doesn’t sell your data.

Malwarebytes Premium is a third-party antivirus solution for both Windows and Mac users. It can be used in conjunction with Windows Defender to catch additional threats. It does not attempt to install unwanted add-ons like browser extensions, either.