Windows comes with built-in apps, services, and features that are designed to help you do more. Windows also provides experiences that connect to the internet to provide additional capabilities. These “connected experiences” can help you in various ways. For example, by allowing your device to keep track of your last known location, you have the ability to find your device if it’s lost or stolen.

When a connected experience is used, data is sent to and processed by Microsoft to provide that connected experience. This data is crucial because this information enables us to deliver these cloud-based connected experiences. We refer to this data as required service data. Required service data can include information related to the operation of the connected experience that is needed to keep the underlying service secure, up to date, and performing as expected. Required service data can also include information needed by a connected experience to perform its task, such as configuration information about Windows.

The connected experiences you choose to use in Windows will impact what required service data is sent to us.

Required service data is also collected and sent to Microsoft for essential services. Essential services are used to keep the product secure, up to date, and performing as expected, or they are integral to how the product works. For example, Windows Update is an essential service that ensures you have the latest updates to keep your device secure, up to date, and working as expected. Because these services are essential, you will not be able to turn them off.

The following list describes the essential services and connected experiences that are available to you in Windows and provides links to further information about each one.

Note: The information in this article describes the most common essential services and connected experiences. To reflect ongoing improvements to these experiences, the following list may be updated occasionally.

Essential services for Windows

Essential service

Description

Authentication

The authentication service is required for you to sign in to your Microsoft account. It validates your Microsoft identity and provides access to multiple apps and features like OneDrive and Find my device. By allowing you to sign in to Windows with your Microsoft account, the authentication service enables Microsoft to provide a consistent experience across your devices.

Certificates

Certificates are digital files that are stored on your device and used to both encrypt data and verify the identity of an individual or organization.

  • Trusted root certificates are certificates that are issued by a certification authority (CA) and stored in a certificate trust list (CTL). The Automatic Root Certificates Update service contacts Windows Update to update the CTL. If a new version of the CTL is identified, the list of trusted root certificates stored on your device will be updated.

  • Untrusted certificates are certificates that are publicly known to be fraudulent. Untrusted certificates are also stored in a list on your device and updated by the Automatic Root Certificates Update service.

If automatic updates are turned off, apps and websites may stop working because they did not receive an updated root certificate that the application uses. Additionally, the list of untrusted certificates will no longer be updated, which increases the attack vector on the device.

Configuration Service

Configuration Service is used as a way for OS components and apps to dynamically update their configuration. Apps such as System Initiated User Feedback and the Xbox app use it.

Licensing

The licensing service is used for online activation of Windows and licensing of apps purchased from the Microsoft Store.

Networking

The networking service in Windows allows you to connect your device to the local intranet and internet.

Device setup

The first time you set up a new device, Windows guides you through the steps to accept the license agreement, connect to the internet, sign in to (or sign up for) a Microsoft account, and take care of other important setup tasks. Most settings can also be changed after setup is completed.

Diagnostic data

Microsoft collects diagnostic data and error data about your device with the help of the telemetry service. Diagnostic data gives every user a voice in the operating system’s development and ongoing improvement. This data helps us understand how Windows behaves in the real world, focus on user priorities, find and fix problems, and improve services. Sharing this data allows us to make informed decisions that benefit all our customers.

Learn more about diagnostics, feedback, and privacy in Windows

Update

Windows Update ensures devices are kept up to date and secure by downloading the latest updates and security patches for Windows. This essential service also allows you to download apps from the Microsoft Store and keep them up to date.

Other services like Device metadata retrieval and Font streaming also ensure that the content on your devices is kept up to date.

Learn more about how to update Windows

Microsoft Store

Microsoft Store is the place to go when you want to purchase and download apps, games, and digital content. The Store also helps keep apps up to date, unless otherwise noted by the app’s product page.

Learn how to open Microsoft Store

Connected experiences for Windows

Connected experience

Description

Cloud Clipboard

Cloud Clipboard lets you copy images and text across all Windows devices you have signed in to with your work or school account. You can paste from your clipboard history and also pin items.

Learn more about using your clipboard in Windows

Date and time

The Windows Time service is used to synchronize and maintain the most accurate date and time on your devices. It is installed by default and starts automatically on devices that are part of a domain. It can be started manually on other devices. If this service is stopped, date and time synchronization will be unavailable and any services that explicitly depend on it will fail to start.

Learn more about date and time

Delivery Optimization

Delivery Optimization is used to download Windows updates, Microsoft Store apps, Office, and other content from Microsoft. Delivery Optimization can also download from sources outside of Microsoft, which helps when you have a limited or unreliable internet connection and can also help you reduce the amount of bandwidth needed to keep your device up to date.

If you have the Delivery Optimization Peer-to-Peer option turned on, devices on your local network can share updates and apps with other devices on your local network, if you choose, or with devices on the internet.

By default, devices running Windows will only use Delivery Optimization to send and receive updates for devices and apps on your local network.

Learn more about Delivery Optimization in Windows

Emojis and more

The Emojis and more menu allows users to insert a variety of content like emoji, kaomoji, GIFs, symbols, and clipboard history. This connected experience is new in Windows 11.

Find my device

Find my device is a feature that can help you locate your Windows device if it's lost or stolen. Find my device only works if you sign in to your device as an administrator using your Microsoft account and if the device’s location setting is turned on.

Learn more about Find my device in Windows

Location services

When the Location setting for your device is turned on, the Microsoft location service will use a combination of information from the global positioning service (GPS), nearby wireless access points, cell towers, and your IP address to determine the device’s location. Depending on the capabilities of the device, its location can be determined with varying degrees of accuracy and may in some cases be determined precisely. Turning on the Location setting for your device allows certain Windows features to function properly, such as the ability to set the time zone automatically or to find a lost or stolen device.

Learn more about the location service in Windows

Microsoft Defender SmartScreen

Microsoft Defender SmartScreen is a feature of Windows, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Edge. It is designed to help protect you from websites Microsoft believes are fraudulent and which might try to steal your personal information. In Internet Explorer 8 and later, SmartScreen also helps protect you from downloading malicious software.

Learn more about SmartScreen in the new Microsoft Edge

Learn more about SmartScreen in Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge Legacy

OneDrive

OneDrive is a cloud storage system that allows you to save your files and photos, and access them from any device, anywhere.

Learn how to turn off OneDrive

Troubleshooting service

Windows troubleshooting service will automatically fix critical issues like corrupt settings that keep critical services from running, make adjustments to work with your hardware, or make other specific changes required for Windows to operate with the hardware, apps, and settings you’ve selected. In addition, it will recommend troubleshooting for other problems that aren’t critical to normal Windows operation but might impact your experience.

Learn more about using the Troubleshooting service

Voice typing

Voice typing (also referred to as Windows dictation in earlier versions of Windows) allows you to write text by speaking using Microsoft online speech recognition technology.

Learn more about speech recognition in Windows

Windows backup

When settings sync is turned on, Windows syncs your settings across all Windows devices you have signed in to with your work or school account.

Learn more about sync settings in Windows

Windows Insider Program

The Windows Insider Program lets you help shape the future of Windows, be part of the community, and get early access to builds of Windows. Once you've registered for the Windows Insider Program, you can run preview builds on as many devices as you want.

Learn more about Windows Insider Program builds

Windows Security

Windows Security is an app that uses Microsoft Defender Antivirus to help protect your device from viruses and other malware and threats.

Learn more about Windows Security

Windows Search

Windows Search lets you search from the taskbar to find what you’re looking for, whether it’s on your device, in the cloud, or on the web. Windows Search can provide results for items from your device (including apps, settings, and files), your Microsoft account (including OneDrive and Outlook), your work or school account (including OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, and other Microsoft services), and the internet.

Learn more about Windows Search

Windows Spotlight

Windows Spotlight allows you to display different background images and dynamic text on your lock screen, including app info, Microsoft account notifications, and Windows tips.

Learn how to personalize your lock screen with Windows Spotlight

Widgets

Widgets are small windows that display dynamic info on your Windows desktop. They appear on the widgets board and show you personalized content like news, weather, a glimpse at your calendar or to-do list, and your recent photos. Widgets provides info at a glance that allows you to be productive without needing to go to multiple apps or websites. This connected experience is new in Windows 11.

Learn how to stay up to date with widgets

Microsoft Edge essential services and connected experiences

Microsoft Edge is the default web browser that is included in Windows and is recommended for the best browsing experience. To learn about Microsoft Edge connected experiences, see the Microsoft Edge privacy whitepaper.

Internet Explorer essential services and connected experiences

Internet Explorer is a built-in web browser that is included in Windows. Internet Explorer shares many of the Windows essential services listed on this page. The following table provides more details on the essential services and connected experiences specific to Internet Explorer.

Note: Apart from ActiveX Filtering, which is an essential service, all other features listed below are connected experiences.

Connected experience

Description

ActiveX Filtering

ActiveX controls are small apps that allow websites to provide content such as videos and games, and let you interact with controls like toolbars and stock tickers. However, these apps can sometimes malfunction, and in some cases, they might be used to collect information from your device, damage information on your device, install software on your device without your consent, or allow someone else to control your device remotely. ActiveX Filtering in Internet Explorer prevents sites from installing and using these apps. This can help keep you safe as you browse, but it can also cause websites to behave in unexpected ways. To further enhance security, Internet Explorer also allows you to block out-of-date ActiveX controls.

Suggested Sites

Suggested Sites is an online service that provides you with recommendations for websites, images, or videos which might be interesting to you. When Suggested Sites is turned on, your web browsing history is periodically sent to Microsoft.

Address bar and search suggestions

If you turn on search suggestions, you will be offered suggested search terms as you type in the address bar. Information that you type will be sent to your default search provider.

AutoComplete for web addresses

AutoComplete suggests possible matches when you are typing web addresses in the address bar.

Compatibility logging

This feature is designed for use by developers and IT professionals to determine the compatibility of their websites with Internet Explorer. It is turned off by default and needs to be turned on to start logging Internet Explorer events in the Windows Event Viewer. These events describe failures that might have happened on the site and can include information about specific controls and webpages that failed.

Compatibility View

Compatibility View helps make websites designed for older browsers look better when viewed in Internet Explorer.

Flip ahead

Flip ahead lets you flip through web content quickly by swiping across the page or by clicking forward. When flip ahead is turned on, your web browsing history is periodically sent to Microsoft.

Web Slices

Web Slices enable you to subscribe to and automatically receive updates to content directly within a webpage. If you turn off the RSS Feeds setting, Web Slices will be unavailable.

Accelerators

Accelerators help automate common browser-related tasks. In Internet Explorer, when you right-click selected text, Accelerators appear in the list of available options. For example, if you select a word, you can use the "Translate with Bing" Accelerator to obtain a translation of that word.

Pinning websites to Start

When you pin a website to the Start menu, it displays as a tile in the same way apps are displayed. Like Microsoft Store apps, website tiles might display updates if the website has been designed to do so. For example, an online email website might send updates to the tile indicating how many new messages you have.

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