How To Set Up Windows For Less Tech-savvy Family Members

In this list, I'll give some suggestions on how to set up Windows for your less technically experienced family members. The goals are that it should be functional (i.e. not require debugging due to going overboard with modifications, like when installing browser extensions), safe, and privacy friendly.


  • The Basics

    If you have a lot of bloatware on your Windows installation courtesy of the computer manufacturer, do a clean reinstall of Windows. You can find the license key that your computer uses using a tool like Small ProduKey iconProduKey .
    Once you have a clean Windows installation, create a local admin account and a local normal user account. Using the non-admin account for everything and only using the admin account to authorize software that needs admin privileges to run on the normal user account will protect the computer from 94% of critical Windows vulnerabilities. It does however not protect against crypto-miners like Small Coinhive iconCoinhive in my experience. We'll counter that later on. One problem with this account setup is that Microsoft has started demanding admin accounts to run Windows Update and even to just get notified of new updates, so Windows Updates has to be run when logged into the admin account.
    Tweak the privacy settings so that you're sharing the bare minimum of data with Microsoft while still keeping the OS functional. Install Windows Updates and when that is done, create a system restore point so that you can go back to this clean state if needed.

  • DisableWinTracking

    Free Windows Website

    Now that we have the basics set up, it's time to get rid of most of Microsoft's spyware, because we're not giving them Grandma's secret cookie recipies! DisableWinTracking will disable Windows tracking services. Just disable them; don't delete them in case they end up blocking more than the user would have liked. Personally, I have not noticed any problems caused by this software, and because it can easily restore back to the default state, it's pretty harmless.

     

    DisableWinTracking icon
  • Unchecky

    Free Windows Website

    Unchecky will automatically deselect adware from software installations. Installing this will make sure that the user won't get a bonus "system optimizer" or other junk when installing software.

     

    Unchecky icon
  • SysHardener

    Free Windows Website

    SysHardener will, well, harden your Windows installation to protect it from threats like malware. Similar software like Small Hardentools iconHardentools and Small Hard_Configurator iconHard_Configurator offer very similar functionality, so if you feel like one of their feature sets fits you better, then go for that one instead. Just make sure that it's easy to restore system settings back to the defaults using the software you choose and that you have some understanding of what changes the selected settings in the software has on your system. Hard_Configurator's interface is a bit complicated, so I'd probably go with SysHardener or hardentools, which are more user-friendly. There's also Small SBGuard Anti-Ransomware iconSBGuard Anti-Ransomware, but that software doesn't have all the features that the previously mentioned software have.

     

    SysHardener icon
  • OSArmor

    Free Windows Website

    OSArmor will monitor the processes on the computer and block suspicious processes. There is other software - which you can find via OSArmor's AlternativeTo page - which is more in-depth and offers more protection, but they are harder to administrate and not as much of a discrete and "set and forget" software as OSArmor.

     

    OSArmor icon
  • Avira Antivirus

    Free Personal Mac Windows Website

    Avira Free Antivirus offers good protection for free; however, it has a daily pop-up to get you to upgrade. There used to be a workaround using a software called BgPKiller which blocked the pop-ups, but it seems like some pop-ups are slipping through now. It's really not that bad though: you can close it with one click.
    There's also paid options like Avira Antivirus Pro and Small Avira Internet Security iconAvira Internet Security which include a built-in firewall (the main difference between Avira Antivirus Pro and Avira Internet Security is that Avira Internet Security includes a software and driver updater and a vulnerability patcher).
    When you have Avira installed you should uninstall the pretty useless Avira Browser Safety extension.

    You can check stats from lab tests between different antivirus software on Small FatSecurity.com iconFatSecurity.com.
    If you're wondering why I didn't mention Kaspersky, it's because there are some pretty serious security and privacy concerns. As for why I didn't mention Bitdefender, in my own and many others' experience it's a mess performance-wise and too buggy for me to recommend to anyone.

     

    Avira Antivirus icon
  • Comodo Free Firewall

    Free Windows Website

    In addition of being a firewall, Comodo Free Firewall also offers HIPS (Host Intrusion Prevention System) and sandboxing, making it the most secure option of the free firewalls that I know of.
    Comodo Free Firewall will change your default home page and search engine, so make sure to disable that setting on the first screen of the installer.

    If you have Avira Antivirus Pro or Avira Internet Security you don't need Comodo Free Firewall since the paid versions of Avira already have a firewall included in them.

     

    Comodo Free Firewall icon
  • Mozilla Firefox

    Free Mac Windows Linux Android iPhone ... Android Tablet BSD iPad PortableApps.com Haiku Website

    I recommend Firefox above Chrome because it's open source and easier to customize thanks to its about:config. Speaking of about:config, start by setting network.IDN_show_punycode from false to true. This will make phishing attempts using unicode domain names that look identical to the original detectable to the human eye. If you decide to go with Chrome, there is currently no known way of fixing this. Like I said, Firefox is a lot easier to customize. Firefox is also more or less equal to Chrome when it comes to performance and speed since Firefox entered the WebExtensions era.

    The add-ons listed below are those security and privacy add-ons that you can just "set and forget" without having them cause too many website breakages. That is not a 100% guarantee, as there will always be trade-offs between convenience and security/privacy, but they're stable enough to not have to worry about it. Just make sure that there's a backup browser on the system in case uBlock Origin blocks too much of a website or any of the other add-ons causes website breakages.

     

    Mozilla Firefox icon
  • uBlock Origin

    Free Mac Windows Linux Microsoft Edge Vivaldi Browser ... Chrome Safari Pale Moon Opera Chromium Firefox Website

    Using uBlock Origin in combination with the Small FilterLists iconFilterLists website, you will be able to block malware (including crypto-miners), ads, tracking, and even credit card skimming scripts. The surfing will be much safer since malware infested ads, also known as malvertising, is the source of 80% of malware infections. It will also be faster and use less data (up to 30% less on some sites) and also less battery power.

     

    uBlock Origin icon
  • Download Virus Checker

    Free Mac Windows Linux Chrome Opera ... Firefox Website

    Download Virus Checker will upload all downloaded binary files to Small VirusTotal iconVirusTotal where it will be analyzed by 68 different anti-virus engines. By default, the uploaded file has to get hits from three of the anti-virus engines in order for the user to be notified, so I recommend setting the threshold to one instead in order to protect from newer, less detected threats.

     

    Download Virus Checker icon
  • HTTPS Everywhere

    Free Windows Linux Android Android Tablet BSD ... Vivaldi Browser Chrome Yandex.Browser Opera Chromium Firefox Website

    HTTPS Everywhere is an add-on developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and The Tor Project that will enforce SSL encryption on larger (and some smaller) sites that entirely or partially support SSL. This will help the user's data stay encrypted while in transit, assuming that the website supports SSL and has had a HTTPS Everywhere ruleset written for it. Small Tor Browser iconTor Browser uses HTTPS Everywhere as an integral part.

     

    HTTPS Everywhere icon
  • Decentraleyes

    Free Mac Windows Linux Android Android Tablet ... Chrome Pale Moon Opera Chromium Firefox Website

    Decentraleyes prevents tracking from major content delivery networks by blocking requests to those CDNs and replacing the files with local files to keep sites from breaking.

     

    Decentraleyes icon
  • Cookie AutoDelete

    Free Mac Windows Linux Android iPhone ... Android Tablet iPad Chrome Tor Browser Bundle Chromium Firefox Website

    Cookie AutoDelete is an add-on that automatically clears a site's cookies after the site has been closed, which helps prevent user tracking via tracking cookies. Go to the settings and deselect "Show Notification After Cookie Cleanup" or the add-on will annoy pretty much anyone and everyone using it.

     

    Cookie AutoDelete icon
  • Privacy Settings

    Free Mac Windows Linux Android iPhone ... Android Tablet BSD iPad Haiku Firefox Website

    Privacy Settings has two different modes of browser settings that improves the user's privacy: "Full Privacy" and "Enhanced Privacy". Set it to the "Enhanced Privacy" mode in order to ensure full compatibility and functionality with websites. Privacy Settings also has a "Reset to Defaults" button, which makes it easy to undo any changes.

     

    Privacy Settings icon
  • Google search link fix

    Free Mac Windows Linux Android iPhone ... Chrome OS Android Tablet BSD iPad Chrome Haiku Opera Firefox Website

    Google search link fix will clean the URLs of Google and Yandex search results, giving the user tracking free direct links instead of annoying and privacy invasive redirect links.

     

    Google search link fix icon
  • Link Cleaner

    Free Web Firefox Website

    Link Cleaner will remove tracking parameters from links. It also skips redirect pages on Facebook, Reddit, and Steam.

     

    Link Cleaner icon
  • CanvasBlocker

    Free Mac Windows Linux Firefox Website

    CanvasBlocker blocks a fingerprinting technique known as canvas fingerprinting. The default "fake readout API" setting is the best option as it prevents tracking while ensuring compatibility and functionality.

     

    CanvasBlocker icon
  • Backups

    Suggest to the user of the computer that they keep backups of their important data. USBs can be enough if they don't have much data to back up, otherwise an external hard drive should do the job. 1.5TB hard drives, 3TB hard drives, and any hard drive with Helium in it (i.e. hard drives that are larger than 6TB) are more likely to fail than other hard drives. This applies to HDDs and not SSDs, which are much more reliable regardless of size. Personally I'd stay away from Seagate, since they have a bit of a rocky history with hard drive reliability. When it comes to SSDs especially Samsung and also Intel are the kings of SSD reliability. There are external hard drives that have rugged rubber bumpers around the case and some are even waterproof, so those are extra secure, but obviously cost more than regular external hard drives. There are also waterproof USBs. A good idea is to keep at least one backup in another location than where the computer is in case of house fire, floods, or other disasters.



Comments on How To Set Up Windows For Less Tech-savvy Family Members

alterkerbb
· Dec 2018 · Helpful Not helpful 2 Helpful Report as spam

Thank you for the suggestion, but there is some outdated information.
"If you decide to go with Chrome, there is currently no known way of fixing this." The post of this situation was published at April, 2017. So you know what I'm saying.

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