What’s the Difference Between Windows 10’s Express or Custom Setup?

When you first set up Windows 10, Microsoft is going to want to rush you through the process with “Express Settings”. We recommend taking a little time and stepping through the customized setup instead.

This setup process has been in place since Windows 8, and it’s been our experience that most of the time users are going to just choose the easy way. There are, however, some really important privacy items you want to pay attention to.

When you see the setup screen that says “Get going fast,” you should click “Customize settings” instead of “Use Express settings”.

Microsoft doesn’t make it obvious, but there in the lower-left corner you will see the “Customize settings” option.

The first screen deals with Personalization and Location, the latter which we’ve discussed in greater detail.

Fair warning, disabling many of these settings is probably going to lessen the Windows 10 experience, or at least the experience Microsoft intends. That said, let’s look more closely at the kinds of information you’re submitting if you willfully accept the defaults.

Personalization and Location Settings

First, with the personalization settings, you agree to send Microsoft contacts and calendar details and other “associated input data” through speech, typing, and inking input. This data is stored in the cloud so it can presumably be replicated to other Windows 10 installations when you use your Microsoft account.

You also agree to send off typing and inking data to improve recognition and suggestions, and finally, you also consent to allow apps to use your advertising ID for “experiences across apps.”

For all of these we select “Off”.

Off! Off! Off! All of it off!

As far as location data is concerned, if your computer is chained to your desk, or you’ve never had a need to submit your location to Microsoft, then you can most definitely turn this item “Off” as well. You can always go back later and turn it back on if it becomes a usability issue.

Browser and Protection, and Connectivity and Error Reporting Settings

The next screen deals with browser and protection settings, as well as connectivity and error reporting. It’s probably a good idea to leave SmartScreen on since it is designed to protect users against “malicious content and downloads,” though SmartScreen will only work with the new Edge browser.

You can leave page prediction enabled if you choose as well, but again, this is only going to work with the new Edge browser so if you use Chrome or Firefox, this setting doesn’t matter. We use another browser so we turned it off.

Of the last three options, two deal with connecting to networks, we definitely believe that you should turn “Off” automatic connectivity to open hotspots, and networks shared by contacts.

The last option “send error and diagnostic information to Microsoft” is up to you. If you don’t want to share this sort of information with them, then turning it “Off” isn’t going to affect your system one bit.

Turning This Stuff Off Later

If you have chosen express settings and you want to opt out of some or all of these, all is not lost. You can still go into the settings and change things.

To turn off the first item found in the Personalization settings, you will need to open the Privacy group in Settings and then “Speech, inking, & typing”.

Click or tap “Stop getting to know me”.

To turn off the “advertising ID” and “send typing and inking data” options, you will need to do that in the General privacy section. You will also find the option to turn off (or on) the SmartScreen filter here.

The Location settings can be turned off under the “Location” section.

Those connectivity settings can be adjusted later by opening the “Network & Internet” settings.

Tap or click “Wi-Fi” and then (if necessary) scroll down to “Manage Wi-Fi settings”.

Tap or click “Off” the two options shown in the screenshot.

Finally, there’s one more spot in the privacy settings called “Feedback & diagnostics” where you can adjust the final option in the customized setup.

With that, you will have undone anything turned on in the express setup. We urge you to pay careful attention to other things in the privacy settings, and we’ll pay a closer look at those in an upcoming article.

If you’re just now setting up Windows 10 on your computer, do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to go through the customized install. Chances are fairly good you’re going to want to turn off at least a couple of the items found in it.

Got a comment or question you’d like to share? Please sound off in our discussion forum.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.