Microsoft Windows is by far the most widely-used operating system for desktop and laptop computers, which makes it a prime target of cybercriminals. Over the years, Microsoft has gotten better at securing its software, and Windows 10 and Windows 11 are much safer than their predecessors.
But there are ways to enhance Windows security and boost your privacy at the same time. Here’s a list of the best, free Windows tools that will help you do just that.
Blackbird is a simple and lightweight, yet powerful security and privacy tool that will also boost the performance of your Windows computer.
You don’t need to be a tech expert or even an intermediate user to get the most out of Blackbird. The program comes in a zipped file, requires no installation, and does pretty much everything on its own.
As soon as you launch Blackbird, it will start scanning your system for potential issues, and then offer to repair, block, disable, and otherwise modify thousands of little Windows settings that could potentially compromise your security and privacy.
So what does Blackbird do exactly, and how does it boost Windows security and privacy? Blackbird can block Windows telemetry completely, remove all ads as well as any built-in programs you want removed, disable annoying pop-ups, Windows services, notifications and such.
Using Blackbird, you can also protect your contacts and passwords, disable dozens of data collection tasks, stop your computer from downloading Windows-affiliated software in the background, and in general block Microsoft from collecting and harvesting your data.
Blackbird itself does not run in the background. You can just run it once and then forget about it, or perhaps run it every few months, and whenever a new Windows update is released (Blackbird is updated regularly).
2. O&O ShutUp
If you’re not a fan of Blackbird’s rudimentary, old-school look, or just don’t like it for some reason, O&O ShutUp is a great alternative.
Sleek, simple, and very easy to use, O&O ShutUp works for both Windows 10 and 11. This tool does exactly what it says on the tin: it disables all sorts of stubborn, annoying Windows features.
O&O ShutUp does not even require installation; you just download the EXE file, run it, and you’re good to go. Once you run it, you’ll immediately be shown a very long list of Windows features the tool can block.
For example, O&O ShutUp can, disable the camera on the log on screen, advertisements, timeline suggestions, error reporting, feedback reminders, automatic installations, Cortana, and more.
O&O ShutUp comes with a huge range of categories for you to explore. Each of these groups has dozens of features you can disable or enable. Sure, you could do most of this manually through Windows itself, but that would take ages, and you’d risk messing up your system’s configuration, so O&O ShutUp is very convenient in this regard.
Download: O&O ShutUp
3. Kaspersky Security Cloud
Windows Defender, Microsoft’s own anti-malware software, has gotten a lot better over the years. As such, installing additional anti-malware software isn’t as important as it once was. After all, Windows Defender is free and comes with the operating system itself.
With that said, you’d significantly boost your security by installing Kaspersky Security Cloud, which is arguably the best free anti-malware software today.
Unlike some antivirus software, Kaspersky Security Cloud is lightweight and won’t impact your computer’s performance or annoy you with notifications.
Kaspersky Security Cloud uses the same malware detection engine as the paid versions of Kaspersky, plus you get a bunch of other cool features for free, including data protection, private browsing, cloud protection, weak settings control, and application control.
Kaspersky Security Cloud also comes with a built-in password manager and a VPN service. Both are limited in the free version of the program, but can certainly prove useful, depending on your needs.
Please note that you may not be able to use Kaspersky Security Cloud if you’re based in the European Union, the United Kingdom, or California. If that is the case, consider installing other free anti-malware software on your Windows computer.
Download: Kaspersky Security Cloud
4. Tor Browser
There’s nothing wrong with using a regular browser for your daily internet activities, though you should probably switch to a secure Windows browser, instead of using Chrome.
However, if you want to stay as safe and anonymous as possible in certain circumstances, no browser comes close to Tor. The Tor browser is the official browser for the Tor (The Onion Router) Project, and it is an indispensable privacy tool.
When you launch the Tor Browser, it effortlessly connects to the Tor network, thus anonymizing your browsing by sending your traffic through a series of encrypted relays.
Though powerful, Tor is very easy to install, set up, and use. The browser comes with a slew of integrated privacy tools, and blocks invasive scripts and plug-ins on its own.
The default privacy and security settings should be enough for most users, but they can be enhanced by changing the Security Level from Standard to Safer or Safest.
The only downside is performance. Precisely because it routes traffic through volunteer relays, Tor is much slower than most mainstream browsers.
In short, every Windows user that cares about security and privacy should have Tor installed on their computer, even if they only use it occasionally.
Download: Tor Browser
Boosting Your Windows Security With Free Apps
The tools we’ve covered above don’t require much know-how, are very easy to use, and do exactly what they’re supposed to without hassle. Still, your security is ultimately your responsibility, so make sure to adjust your Windows PC accordingly, especially if you’ve already made the switch to Windows 11.