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Microsoft antagonizes users with intrusive new Windows 10 upgrade tactics

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 19, 2015
Says one approach was 'a mistake' even as users struggle to stop the OS from installing.

Yet serving the Windows 10 upgrade by pre-checking the optional download was not the only issue troubling users.

Some have reported that they have faced a more pernicious problem on their Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 machines. Those people have been presented with screens that state the Windows 10 upgrade will begin, and offered two alternatives: Start the upgrade process or delay it. Choosing the latter postpones the upgrade for two days, at which point the same screen returns.

Others have provided screenshots that showed Windows Update notifying them that the Windows 10 upgrade is ready to install. On those PCs, however, there was no link that, when clicked, let them view all available updates; the link was provided to users who had been given the upgrade bits through the checked-by-default optional "Upgrade to Windows 10" item.

The difference was crucial, in that sans a way to view all updates, users could only proceed with the Windows 10 upgrade. Refusing to do so meant that no other updates, including recent security patches, could be installed. That left those users on the horns of a dilemma: Either start the Windows 10 upgrade process -- perhaps without the knowledge that it could be canceled -- or leave the machine vulnerable to attack.

An unpleasant surprise

Josh Mayfield, the software engineer who created GWX Control Panel -- a tool originally designed to make the "Get Windows 10" (hence GWX) applet go away after Microsoft forced it on all Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs -- has been tracking the Redmond, Wash. company's efforts to put the OS on machines, including the September introduction of the upgrade on Windows Update, this week's change to pre-select that item for download, and the no-way-out screens some have seen recently.

And he's not happy.

"Microsoft keeps surprising its users every step of the way," Mayfield said in a Thursday interview, referring to the various methods the company has been applying to convince users to upgrade. "They all defy user expectations."

By that, Mayfield meant the off-kilter behavior, whether seeding systems with the Get-Windows-10 applet -- a move Mayfield said shared traits with malware -- or offering users no choice but to upgrade or run a vulnerable OS, runs counter to what users have come to expect from Windows. As an example, he pointed out that the Get Windows 10 applet's system tray icon can't be right-clicked to disable notifications or prevent the tool from loading when the PC boots, both of which Microsoft recommends to third-party developers in its application guidelines.

The explanation for users seeing the more draconian Windows Update messages -- that they have a choice only between upgrading or not being able to access the rest of the fixes posted to the service -- may be along the same lines, said Mayfield.

 

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