Windows 10 uses the Internet a lot to support many of its features. The operating system also sports numerous knobs to twiddle that are supposed to disable most of these features, and the potentially privacy-compromising connections that go with them.
Unfortunately for privacy advocates, these controls don’t appear to be sufficient to completely prevent the operating system from going online and communicating with Microsoft’s servers.
For example, even with Cortana and searching the Web from the Start menu disabled, opening Start and typing will send a request to www.bing.com to request a file called threshold.appcache which appears to contain some Cortana information, even though Cortana is disabled. The request for this file appears to contain a random machine ID that persists across reboots.
Enlarge / Shown in the Fiddler debugging Web proxy, the request that the Start menu makes every time you start typing into it or boot your machine.
Some of the traffic is obviously harmless. On connecting to a new network, Windows machines try to request two URLs (www.msftncsi.com/ncsi.txt and ipv6.msftncsi.com/ncsi.txt, the former over IPv4, the latter over IPv6) to ascertain whether a given network is routed to the Internet and if there is a captive…