O&O Shutup10++, AppBuster - Windows detox software

Updated: June 25, 2024

In recent years, the amount of stupidity going into Windows has risen exponentially. If you're not in the mood to be treated as a chimp, you need to invest time removing pointless features and options from the operating system. This can be done in two ways: (mostly) manually, as I've shown you in my Windows 11 taming guide, or using third-party apps that can do some of the hard work for you. Both approaches have their advantages. The manual work is slower, more frustrating, but you have better control and understanding of what you're doing. But speed is also good, especially if it comes with accurate results.

After I posted my abovementioned usability tutorial, the floodgates of email came wide open. Dozens of people contacted me, telling me of this or that tweaking program or utility, all designed to make Windows less pointless. Well, today, I'd like to talk about one of the recommendations. Or rather, two. A set of programs by O&O, which can turn off most of the annoyances in Windows rather quickly. But there's also the question of efficiency and safety. So let's see how this experiment went.

Teaser

Setup, word of caution

Remember, there are no shortcuts in life. If you use a tool "blindly", and you don't understand what it does, if something goes wrong, you will not have any chance of meaningful recovery. You won't be able to correlate between tool use now and a seemingly random bug three months later.

Thus, if you intend to try these two programs - ShutUp10++, which can neuter anti-privacy features in Windows, and AppBuster, which can remove the (pointless) default set of "modern" apps for you - then you need to be aware that you could potentially cause problems for yourself down the road. As long as you're aware of the implications, then you're golden.

Both programs come as standalone executables. Download and run. No installation. But let's review them separately, shall we. After me, boldly.

ShutUp10++

The purpose of this program is to disable various tracking and telemetry options, disable cloud features, and such. When you open the program, you will see a single window with two tabs. The first one lists the different options for your user, the other for the system. There is some overlap, but there are also settings that will only apply to your own account, and those that can be governed only on the system level.

The State column tells if you if the option is active or not. This also applies to any tweak you configured outside of ShutUp10++. Therefore, if you disabled say camera or telemetry, those will be reflected here. The middle column explains the setting - click to expand. The explanation should give you an understanding of what happens, but again, please remember you do need to have a good sense of the operating system to fully apreciate the implications of the changes.

The last column is a safety semaphore - it's a green/amber/red signal setup that tells you how "safe" it is to toggle the specific policy. Green means you should be fine, you won't lose major functionality, and the setting probably has reasonable privacy benefits for you. Amber means you may lose some actual usability without any great privacy gains. Red means you should proceed at your own risk, as you could break certain things.

You can run the program as either your own user or Administrator - your ability to make changes will depend on this choice. Furthermore, ShutUp10++ will try to take a system restore point whenever you apply a change. If you don't use system restore, you will get a warning.

Main view, current user

Before making any changes, this is what O&O ShutUp10++ detected on its first run.

System restore warning

If you're not in the mood to read and check every single setting, you can use the bulk change option through the main menu. However, I strongly recommend you do not do that, and that you actually carefully read every single setting, carefully test, and only then apply the changes. You should perhaps even keep your own separate log, so you know what happens when and why.

ShutUp10++ in action

Anyway, I went through all the different options and settings, and made a bunch of changes. This took a while, but it wasn't an odious exercise.

Explanation

Explanation for an amber (limited efficacy) setting ...

System changes

After you're done, and about to exit, you will get a couple more warnings. First, the program will tell you that Windows may change settings (they could revert to their original state) after an update; indeed, on every launch, ShutUp10++ will tell what tweaks have changed since the program's last run. This is highly useful, but more on that shortly. Second, that you need a reboot for some of the settings to take effect. Understandable.

Update warning

Reboot notice

Did anything break?

Not right away. I don't recall anything not working per se. I only changed the green, some amber, and a few red ones. But I was quite selective and careful, and I didn't touch anything I didn't fully understand. So far so good. The system actually worked ... correctly. I was also able to do Windows updates. Speaking of.

After Windows updates

Yes, Windows will change things. What exactly will differ from one update to another. By and large, the stuff you set through Settings or Group Policy ought to stay as it was. But random registry changes could be reverted. This is why using third-party tweaking tools can potentially be "annoying" as you will need to re-run them after every update. Hi hi. My experience shows, for the most part, Windows will not meddle much with your configuration, but it may, ever so slightly. Just to keep you on your toes. Overall, it's all one giant exercise in futility. Like life.

What changed? Mostly synchronization, but it's actually useless if you don't use a Microsoft account, therefore, not really an issue. On the system side, telemetry, Cortana (useless again for the local user), and peer-to-peer Windows updates, which I find weird, but hey. Not much really given this was a full 23H2 upgrade.

Changes after WU 1

Changes after WU 2

In the second screenshot, ignore the very last line ... we will talk about it in a sec.

Anti-malware tools

Now, here's something rather interesting. A lot of anti-malware tools do not like tweaking utilities of most kinds. They are sometimes labeled as generic malware and/or potentially unwanted programs (PUP). This may be of interest to you if you run such a tool on your system, as quite a large number of Windows user do. Now, I think there are better solutions to security than anti-malware scanners, but hey, lemons and all that. Anyway, for the sake of completeness, I decided to run MalwareBytes Anti-Malware (MBAM) FREE locally, to see if it likes/dislikes system changes implemented by ShutUp++.

As it happens, MBAM did detect "something" and complain - two registry keys changed by ShutUp10++.

MBAM results

The affected key(s) under:

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\MRT

And it comes down to DontReportInfectionInformation. If you manually toggle this value from 0 to 1, MBAM report will come clean. Similarly, you can undo the same setting in ShutUp10++ yourself, with the same effect.

MRT, registry change

No biggie, but imagine a normie running this tool, forgetting what they've done, and a week later or a month later, they get a detection, and start tripping. Technically speaking, the change is truly unnecessary. First, if you don't get MRT through Windows Update (as was already marked), nothing runs, so there's nothing to report. You can also manually remove MRT from offered updates using the Windows show/hide update utility, which I've covered in my Windows best admin tools article. And then, if you actually let the tool run, why not let it report the results so the tool can become more effective for the entire pool of Windows users.

Now, the setting is amber - limited value, and can break things. In this regard, if you follow the tool's recommendations, you'd never hit this problem, but it is a fantastic example of how things can go wrong with tweaking tools, especially if you just overzealously toggle everything on, without thinking. Going back to the system changes after the updates, I re-enabled everything, but not the MRT reporting.

MRT setting

AppBuster

Next on my plate was AppBuster. This program lets you remove applications. It can handle classic programs as well as "modern" apps. You can toggle different filters to see what gives. Much like ShutUp10++, it lets you expand each listed item to learn more, you can select multiple entries, and then some.

Select, remove apps

In comparison to ShutUp10++, the usage is far more straightforward. Select, remove. There weren't that many apps in the list, but then, I had already pruned and removed most of them using winget and Powershell.

Like the aforementioned programs, you can remove for your own account - or everyone, which is the preferred option, if you don't want the apps to come back. The entire process was pretty straightforward. Very similar to what I've manually done on the command line.

Remove type

Removing apps

After Windows update, potential issues

AppBuster did its job pretty well. However, it's no magic wizard. There were certain Windows apps that it could not remove, like the WebView runtime and the Edge updater stub. The errors you get are identical to the ones you get on the command line, and you will need to go into registry yourself if you want to enable the removal of some of these components. But in essence, once you get rid of the generic stuff, there's no extra privacy benefit in getting rid of the one or two leftovers. It's merely an OCD annoyance.

With the removal done on the computer level, Windows Update did not restore any of the apps. So my system was now clear and pristine. However, I must bemoan a visual inconsistency in AppBuster, where certain apps were listed with a slight right indent - it all depends on their type and, I guess, icon. Classic programs were listed with a tiny shift. Perhaps this helps distinguish them, but it also rubs my chakras wrongly.

List indent

Conclusion

O&O's ShutUp10++ and AppBuster seem like a nice pair of useful administration utilities. They did their job fairly well, the GUI is simple to use (in both cases), you get practical information, plenty of warnings, you can export settings, and such. In particular, ShutUp10++ gives you a lot of flexibility, and can save you time tweaking your Windows machine. But it's no silver bullet, especially not when it comes to the end user's own ignorance.

You should use this program only if you fully understand what it does. Otherwise, you may actually complicate things. It saves time, but you will regret your quick savings later. For experienced users, it's practical, the green settings are green, the amber and the red, you need to be careful. All in all, I think it's most effective as a complement to doing things the slow, steady way.

AppBuster is also neat, but its overall value isn't as high. Yes, it can help you remove apps, including a stubborn one or two, but it cannot remove apps that have been marked as uninstallable, and if you're already comfy with either winget or Powershell scripting, you essentially get the same thing. The privacy implications are also less. The modern apps, if not used, aren't a bother, they're more of an intellectual sore.

And so, here we are. You now have more stuff to consider for your Windows taming adventures. The best thing is, try to stay on Windows 10, if you can, avoid Windows 11, and perhaps consider a migration to Linux. Now, I'm aware this is a super difficult objective for most people, but hey. If not, there are tons of tools designed to help you neuter the pointless features in Windows. ShutUp10++ and AppBuster seem to fit the bill. And we're done, my nerdy fellas.

Cheers.