How to block Windows 10 telemetry using “hosts” file

Since Windows 8, Microsoft has moved to a new commercial strategy: in addition with traditional selling of OS licenses, started got revenues from searches, apps and games.
But to do this, MS has started the collection of “telemetry” data, considered by many users as privacy-relevant.


What is Windows 10 telemetry?

According with a ZDNet article [4]:

Microsoft defines telemetry as “system data that is uploaded by the Connected User Experience and Telemetry component,” also known as the Universal Telemetry Client, or UTC service. (More on that shortly.)
Microsoft uses telemetry data from Windows 10 to identify security and reliability issues, to analyze and fix software problems, to help improve the quality of Windows and related services, and to make design decisions for future releases.
Telemetry features aren’t unique to Microsoft and there’s nothing particularly secret about them. They’re part of a larger trend in the software industry to collect and analyze event data as part of a shift to data-driven decision making.

To the delight of privacy conscious users, there are a lot of tutorials [5] and suggestions focused on avoid (or rather, reduce) the gathering of informations collected from Windows 10, using tools like PeerBlock [1], personal firewalls, network devices (like a Pi-Hole [2]).

In my opinion, a good trade-off may be a simple change on the “hosts” file.


What is “hosts” file?

The hosts file is used to map hostnames to IP addresses, and its data overrides the results of DNS queries.
It’s a plain text file, located in the Windows folder, at the following path:

C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc

A customized hosts file

Usually i use a custom hosts file created by encrypt-the-planet.com [3]: the file was realized analyzing with wireshark a dump of outgoing traffic of a brand-new Windows 10 installation.

Obviously, this is not a final solution.
According with ETP’s notes:

You should also be aware: this hosts file will block certain functions and services like Bing search, Cortana and One Cloud. Windows updates will still be able to download.
Windows 10 does communicate directly to IP addresses which bypass the hosts file. You would also have to block Microsoft’s IP addresses Windows 10 communicates with.


How to install the custom file?

Just four simple steps:

  1. Open this link, and copy the whole text
  2. Start (with administrative rights) a Notepad (but Notepad++ is better) and open the hosts file in C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts.
  3. Replace the original hosts content with the text copied at step 1
  4. Save the file and restart your system.

References

  1. PeerBlock Forums
  2. Pi-hole®: A black hole for Internet advertisements – A black hole for Internet advertisements
  3. Windows 10 Anti Spy Hosts File – ETP
  4. Windows 10 telemetry secrets: Where, when, and why Microsoft collects your data | ZDNet
  5. Disable Telemetry in Windows 10 – WebSetNet

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