Image: Mark Kaelin/TechRepublic

Over the past 30 years or so, TechRepublic has written a great many articles describing tricks, tips and techniques that can improve and personalize your user experience with Microsoft Windows. There have been several such personalization articles for Windows 11 since its general release in 2021. But there are certain configuration settings deep inside the latest version of Windows that most users should avoid.

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The Personalization | Device Usage section found within the Windows 11 Personalization configuration screens seems to be beneficial at first glance. However, despite appearances, the settings are just a marketing ploy that exposes users to unnecessary, and likely unwanted, privacy leaks and unsolicited advertisements. These privacy risks provide practically no substantial benefits in return.

Never use the personalized devices settings in Windows 11

To be clear about which Windows 11 configuration settings we are discussing, open the System Control Panel. Generally, it is a pinned item (gear icon) on the standard Windows 11 Start Menu. Click or tap the Personalization item in the left-hand navigation windowpane and then scroll down the list in the right-hand windowpane and click the item listed as “Device Usage,” as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Initially, it would seem turning one of these settings on because it matches how you use your Windows 11 PC would be a good idea, but if you read the explanation found by clicking the “More about device usage” link, you will likely be disappointed. Turning one of these settings on will merely give Microsoft permission to sell your name and pertinent usage information to third parties.

For example, toggling Gaming on will open you up to advertisements concerning Xbox and other video gaming companies. Similarly, turning on Business will draw advertisements about Microsoft 365 and other productivity software. If you say you use your PC for Creativity, you will likely see advertisements for Adobe products, etc. This is all these settings do.

At no point does toggling these settings to the on position help improve PC performance or enhance your user experience beyond the opportunity to spend more money on applications. The best advice is to leave all the items on this page in the off position. (Unless you are looking to buy some applications, then this may be just what you want.)

Useful personalization settings in contrast

To show the contrast between useless marketing ploys and useful personalization settings in Windows 11, consider the features found in the Gaming settings. Instead of clicking Personalization in the left-hand navigation windowpane of the System control panel, click the Gaming item. You should see the screen shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Click Game Mode on the screen shown in Figure B and you will be taken to the screen shown in Figure C. If you toggle Game Mode to the on position, you will increase the general gaming performance of your Windows 11 PC.

Figure C

If you also click the “More about Game Mode” link on this page, you will see that the setting actually changes the performance profile and behavior of your computer in meaningful ways. It does this without granting Microsoft permission to sell your contact information and usage behavior to third parties.

Game Mode and other settings found all throughout the Windows 11 configuration menu give you the power to tweak the performance of your PC and personalize your user experience. These are the settings TechRepublic will continue to highlight as Windows and other operating systems evolve. However, we will also let you know when certain settings are not designed to do what you may think they are designed to do.