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Fearing forced Windows 10 upgrades, users are disabling critical updates instead

Brad Chacos | May 30, 2016
Some Windows 7 and 8 users would rather chance a malware infection than an involuntary Windows 10 upgrade.

Microsoft stepped on the gas in its quest to drive Windows 7 and 8 users to Windows 10 over the past couple of weeks, rolling the upgrade out as a Recommended update. Watch out! The only behavior that could deny the Windows 10 upgrade before—closing the pop-up by pressing the X in the upper-right corner—now counts as consent for the upgrade, and worse, the upgrade installation can automatically begin even if you take no action whatsoever.

It’s nasty business, and it’s tricking legions of happy Windows 7 and 8 users into Windows 10. Over the past week, I’ve received more contact from readers about this issue than I have about everything else I’ve written over the rest of my career combined. But beyond merely burning bridges with consumers, these forced, non-consensual upgrades could have more insidious consequences.

“I fear some segment of consumers will turn off Windows Update as a result,” Wes Miller, research vice president at Directions on Microsoft, told me. “Which is a very bad side effect.”

Indeed it is. Windows Update delivers critical updates to your PC, plugging holes in the operating system and slamming the door on potential hack attacks. Keeping your operating system patched is a crucial part of staying secure on the modern web. That’s why PCWorld and many other technology experts advise users that the best course of action is usually to leave the Windows default intact, letting the OS download and install Recommended updates automatically. Doing otherwise is dangerous, unless you’re an expert yourself.

Using that critical avenue to push Windows 10 on people—pardon, “make it easier for consumers to upgrade to Windows 10”—violates the trust people hold in the sanctity of Windows Update. And, yes, as a direct result of Microsoft’s actions, at least some people are disabling Windows Update on their Windows 7 and 8 PCs.

Here are just a couple of the readers who reached out to me directly to say they’ve disabled Windows Updates to avoid being forced into Windows 10.

 

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