How to Optimize Microsoft Edge for Maximum Privacy

Like other modern browsers, Microsoft Edge includes some features that send your data over the Internet. A few of them even send your browser history to Microsoft. We don’t advise you disable all these features, as they do useful things. But we’ll explain what the various options do so you can make informed decisions.

To just browse without leaving tracks on your local PC, open a private browsing window by clicking menu > New InPrivate Window.

Hide the Feed on Your New Tab Page

When you open a new tab, Edge shows you a list of “top sites” you might want to visit as well as an MSN-powered feed of news, weather, and sports content. If you don’t want Edge contacting Microsoft’s servers to download this content, you can disable it and use a more minimal new tab page.

Click Edge’s menu > Settings to access this and other settings. Under “Open new tabs with”, select “A blank page” if you want a blank page with a search box or “Top sites” to see only top sites and hide the news feed.

Edge’s “Start page” will always show the news feed when you open a new Edge window. To hide the feed when you launch Edge, click the “Open Microsoft Edge with” box and select “New tab page”. You could also select “Previous pages” to reopen whatever pages you had open before you closed Edge, or “A specific page or pages” to have Edge open one or more specific web pages.

Choose Whether Edge Syncs Favorites, Reading List, and Passwords

By default, Microsoft Edge automatically synchronizes your favorite websites and reading list via the Microsoft account you sign into Windows 10 with. Your favorites and reading list will be the same on all your PCs, and you’ll be able to restore your favorites just by signing into a new Windows 10 PC with the same Microsoft account.

If you don’t want Edge syncing your data, click menu > Settings and disable the “Sync your favorites and reading list” option. Edge will keep it on your local PC.

If you choose to save passwords in Edge, Edge will store them in the Windows Credential Manager. Windows 10 will sync your saved passwords between your devices by default, too.

To choose whether or not Edge syncs saved passwords, click “Device sync settings” here or head to Settings > Accounts > Sync Your Settings. Toggle the “Passwords” option on or off.

You can also control the other types of data Windows 10 syncs here.

Configure Edge’s Privacy and Service Settings

Edge has other privacy settings. To find them, scroll down to the bottom of the Settings pane and click the “View Advanced Settings” button.

Scroll down to the “Privacy and services” section to find these options.

  • Offer to save passwords: Edge will offer to save passwords and sync them by default, but you can disable this option and Edge won’t save passwords. Either way, they’ll only be synced between your devices if you have the “Passwords” sync setting enabled. If you disable that option, Edge will only store the saved passwords on your own PC.

  • Save form entries: Edge will save what you type into forms on web pages, allowing you to quickly fill forms with your name, address, and other details in the future. This data isn’t synced with your Microsoft account, so it’s just saved on your PC.
  • Send Do Not Track requests: If you enable this option, Microsoft Edge will send a “Do Not Track” request with your web browsing traffic. Most websites ignore this request, so it isn’t a silver bullet.
  • Have Cortana assist me in Microsoft Edge: Cortana is enabled in Edge by default and pipes up with information related to what you’re visiting. For example, when you watch a music video, Cortana will ask if you want the lyrics. Microsoft’s documentation says your web browsing history is sent to Microsoft if you use Cortana in Edge. You can disable the Cortana integration to prevent this from happening.

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  • Show search suggestions as I type: Edge will send everything you type in your address bar to your search engine—Bing by default, although you can change it to Google or another search engine from here—and show you suggestions as you’re typing. If you disable this option, Edge will only send searches to your search engine when you press Enter.

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  • Cookies: By default, Edge will accept all cookies from websites. Websites use these to save your login status and other preferences. You can choose to “Block all cookies”, but then you won’t be able to sign into websites and the web will be more annoying. You could also select “Block only third-party cookies” to block cookies unless they’re from the precise website you’re visiting. Third-party cookies are often used by advertising tracking networks, for example, although they can be used for other purposes.
  • Let sites save protected media licenses on my device: Music and video-streaming websites that use DRM may store license information on your PC. If you disable this option, Netflix and other media-streaming websites may not function properly.

  • Use page prediction to speed up browsing, improve reading, and make my overall experience better: Edge guesses which links you might click on web pages and preloads web pages it thinks you might visit to speed up your browsing. Microsoft’s documentation says your web browsing history is sent to Microsoft if you enable this feature. You can disable this option to prevent this, but web pages may be a bit slower to load.

  • Help protect me from malicious sites and downloads with SmartScreen filter: When you visit a web page, Edge checks it against a list of known-dangerous websites. Edge downloads a list of safe web pages to speed things up. When you visit a website, Edge checks it against the list on your PC to see if it’s safe. If it doesn’t appear on the list, Edge sends the address of the page to Microsoft’s servers to see if it’s dangerous. Edge uses this same process to protect you from dangerous file downloads, too. We don’t recommend you disable this feature, as it helps protect you from phishing and malware websites. However, you can disable it to prevent Edge from checking web pages you visit with Microsoft.

Like the rest of Windows 10, Microsoft will automatically update the Edge browser via Windows Update, ensuring you always have the latest security updates. There’s no way to disable this, and you shouldn’t try. Automatic web browser security updates are important.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.