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Microsoft pushes Windows 10 upgrade using tactic it once called 'a mistake'

Gregg Keizer | Feb. 4, 2016
Maker of 'GWX Control Panel' tool reports that Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs receiving upgrade as pre-selected 'Optional' item in Windows Update

But according to users' reports at the time, Windows Update itself checked the "Upgrade to Windows 10" optional update as eligible for download and installation. Users with Windows Update set to automatically retrieve and install updates -- the norm, and the setting recommended by Microsoft -- or who did not examine the optional update list, were then served with the Windows 10 upgrade, whether they wanted it or not.

Microsoft quickly issued a statement saying that the checking of the upgrade's Optional item "was a mistake."

Mayfield contended that Microsoft has done the same this week by automatically checking the Windows 10 upgrade box. Under those conditions, it mattered not a whit whether the upgrade was listed under Recommended or Optional: The result would be the same. For the vast majority of users, the upgrade would download -- if it wasn't already on the PC, having been pre-loaded under a long-running campaign to place the bits on customers' devices -- and the installation process would begin.

Microsoft has said that users could decline the Windows 10 upgrade once installation began, but has declined to say whether the upgrade starts in all cases, detail how the user authorization process is to play out, and whether -- after a customer declines the upgrade -- it presents itself again later.

The company has been little help when asked to clarify exactly what began this week for the Windows 10 upgrade on Windows 7 and 8.1 devices.

"We are committed to making it easy for our Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers to upgrade to Windows 10," Microsoft said in a statement forwarded by the firm's spokeswoman. "We updated the upgrade experience today to help our customers, who previously reserved their upgrade, schedule[d] a time for their upgrade to take place."

In a follow-up email, the spokeswoman did not directly answer questions Computerworld posed, including whether the Windows 10 upgrade was being placed in Recommended, Optional or both. "This is rolling out in a phased approach which is why you are seeing different reports," she said.

Mayfield noted that as far as he can tell, Microsoft has honored the registry settings it had earlier said would block the appearance of the Windows 10 upgrade on PCs powered by Windows 7 and 8.1. Those registry tweaks -- made by crafting a Group Policy that could be distributed to large numbers of machines -- were spelled out in a support document revised last month.

That means Mayfield's GWX Control Panel will stymie attempts to place the Windows 10 upgrade in Windows Update, as the tool was designed to do. Previously, Mayfield had warned that might not be the case if Microsoft again changed the rules, an increasingly common practice for the company, which, for example, repeatedly issued a Windows 10 reservation app to users who had managed to uninstall it.


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