Usage Control Tips for Windows
This page provides some tips for managing data and controlling the usage of your Windows computer or mobile device. It includes the use of parental controls and “screen time” systems.
What is Windows?
Microsoft Windows is the name of the computer operating system sold by Microsoft. If you have a PC or laptop that is not an Apple, you will likely have Windows.
It has many versions. Microsoft itself currently only supports Windows 8 and 10.
For general tech tips, visit the Tech tips for Windows page.
These are systems that allow you to control who can access what devices, services, or internet pages at any given time.
They are particularly useful for managing child/student access to devices, keeping younger people safe online.
They are also useful in managing or preventing addictive internet behaviours, or keeping you focussed on a particular task.
Such controls can form a key part of a cyber-safety program. More information about online safety and cyber-security is available on the Regional Tech Hub here.
Disclaimer: Regional Tech Hub are not specialists in this area. This page presents a small sample of the tools you can use to manage yours and your child’s device. We encourage you to read widely on this topic if you have primary or secondary age children, and remind you that many social media platforms require children to be at least 13 years of age to join.
Parental controls in Windows 10
Windows 10 provides the ability to create child accounts and family groups to limit content, screen time, and more.
All parental controls are set for the child account by the parent account, including:
● Generating activity reports on app or game use, browser history, web searches, and screen time
● Limiting screen time through weekly schedules
● Restricting app and game use for each device
● Blocking inappropriate websites and apps
● Managing the child’s wallet and purchasing permissions in the Microsoft Store
● Tracking the child’s location on an Android device running Microsoft Launcher (or a Windows 10 phone)
These are all managed through the Microsoft Family page on the Microsoft website. You need to be subscribed to Microsoft 365 to get access to Microsoft Family. This is an additional cost to Windows itself.
There is also a Microsoft Family safety app that works with Android, iPhone, or iPad.
How-to Geek: How to Use Parental Controls on Windows 10
How-To Geek: How to Set Up and Use the Microsoft Family Safety App
Guiding Tech: A Complete Guide to Setting Up and Using Microsoft Family Safety
Microsoft: Microsoft Family Safety
Other parental control systems
In addition to the systems built-in to Windows, there’s a range of other services you could look at.
● NetNanny software. Available for Mac, Windows, and mobile devices.
Browse these lists to find other options.
● TechRadar: Best free parental control software and apps in 2021: protect your kids online
● Best Parental Control Apps: No specific list for Windows, but provides general advice.
● PC Mag Australia: The Best Parental Control Software for 2021
Other time-tracker apps
If you just need to track your time, you might find the Parental Controls or Screen Time systems too limiting. You may need to track and record time for work purposes, for example.
Look instead for apps or software that track, record, and manage your time.
Control data usage
There’s a range of ways to prevent your Windows computers and devices from using more Wi-Fi data than you’re expecting.
We’ve listed the easiest and most common ways to turn off, or on, various features built-in to the devices, to keep data usage to a bare minimum.
Note that many of these options relate to automatic or background functions of the device or of apps. You may find you don’t get notifications, that apps are a little out-of-date, or news doesn’t refresh, when you use some of these functions.
Experiment with turning various features on and off until you’ve got the right balance of being kept informed and up-to-date, having to manually update content, and keeping data costs low.
You may need to re-apply these settings after completing an update to your device.
Disable or defer updates
If you are running Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, there is an option in the Windows Update settings that lets you delay the download of new features for several months.
How-To Geek: How to Stop Windows 10 From Using So Much Data
Notifications can use just a small amount of data each time, but Windows is constantly checking to see if there’s anything to be downloaded, so it can rapidly add up.
You can hide notifications for individual applications, or for all of Windows.
How-To Geek: How to Disable Notifications on Windows 10
Microsoft: Change notification settings in Windows 10
Set connection as metered
When you set a network connection as metered, it scales back some components of Windows to prevent them from using excessive amounts of data.
More specifically, it changes the following:
● Disables automatic downloads of Windows Updates
● Disables downloading of app updates
● Disables peer-to-peer uploading of updates
● Live tiles will not update
● Offline files may not sync automatically
● Other system behaviours might change to reduce data usage – whether it’s for Windows or apps.
These changes are only applied if you’re connected via Wi-Fi or a mobile connection. It doesn’t apply if you’re connected to your modem or router via a cable.
To set a Wi-Fi network connection as metered:
Microsoft: Metered connections in Windows 10
How-to Geek: How, When, and Why to Set a Connection as Metered on Windows 10
Turn off background apps
By default, Windows 10 keeps some apps running in the background, and they can eat up a lot of data.
Some of them also give out more information to Microsoft than you might be comfortable with.
How-to Geek: How to Stop Windows 10 Apps From Running in the Background
TechRepublic: How to turn off background apps in Microsoft Windows 10
FreshTechTips: 20 Unnecessary Background Services to Disable on Windows 10. Note: you need to be comfortable with using DOS command line operators. Many of these services are more about privacy than data.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s “cloud” (online) data storage service, like iCloud for the Mac, Dropbox, or Google Drive. It synchronises data between your computer and the remotely-hosted OneDrive computer, and this can use up a lot of data.
Unless you tell it otherwise, Windows will save documents you create into OneDrive, rather than your local hard drive.
This is very useful for ensuring you’ve always got access to your documents, but uses your internet connection every time you edit those documents. It can sometimes mean you can lose access to the content if your internet service isn’t working.
You can change the behaviour of OneDrive to reduce your data use.
Microsoft: Turn off, disable, or uninstall OneDrive
Guiding Tech: Top 4 Ways to Stop Windows 10 From Saving Files to OneDrive
You might also want to do this for other syncing clients such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Visit our Cloud services page for more information.
Disable PC Syncing
Microsoft saves a lot of settings to OneDrive. This is very helpful if you work on the move, but keeping the settings up-to-date can use data.
You don’t need to have it running around the clock. You can turn it off, and when you do need to keep things synced, you can easily turn it on.
The following includes some of the settings that get synced to your Microsoft account:
● Theme – Desktop background, user tile, taskbar position, etc.
● Passwords – Windows credential manager, including Wi-Fi profiles
● Language Preferences – Spelling dictionary, system language settings
● Ease of Access – Narrator, on-screen keyboard, magnifier
How-To Geek: How to Disable and Remove Windows 10 Account Sync Settings
Microsoft: About sync settings on Windows 10 devices
Turn off Live Tiles
Windows has these boxes called “Live Tiles”. Apps display their content in these boxes, and feed-based apps such as news will regularly update with information from the internet.
This uses up data.
You can turn that off by right-clicking on the specific Tile and selecting “Turn off live tile”.
Configure Windows Update to download updates over your local area network
Windows Update Delivery Optimization lets you get Windows updates and Windows Store apps from sources in addition to Microsoft. This can help you get updates and apps more quickly if you have a limited or unreliable Internet connection.
For more information, visit Microsfot’s
Microsoft: Windows Update Delivery Optimization and privacy
OnMSFT: How to stop Windows 10 using your internet bandwidth to upload updates to others