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Microsoft sets stage for massive Windows 10 upgrade strategy

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 8, 2015
Uses updates to enable -- and re-enable -- Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs for next move: auto-downloads of Windows 10 upgrade bits.

windows 10 upgrade notification
Credit: MIcrosoft

Microsoft has been preparing Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs for a more aggressive Windows 10 upgrade strategy that the company will kick off shortly, according to the developer of a tool that blocks such upgrades.

"Over Thanksgiving weekend I started getting reports that the Windows Update 'AllowOSUpgrade' setting was getting flipped back on on a number of peoples' PCs, and it keeps re-setting itself at least once a day if they switch it back off," said Josh Mayfield, the software engineer who created GWX Control Panel. The tool was originally designed to make the "Get Windows 10" (hence GWX) applet go away after Microsoft installed it on consumer and small business Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs starting in March, then activated in June.

"This is new behavior, and it does leave your PC vulnerable to unwanted Windows 10 upgrade behavior," he said.

Mayfield has been tracking Microsoft's various moves since last summer to keep his GWX Control Panel up to date with new features required to block the upgrade from appearing on PCs, and from automatically beginning the install process.

The latest update to GWX Control Panel, which shifted the version number to 1.6, added background monitoring so that users did not have to repeatedly relaunch the app to detect changes in Microsoft's upgrade strategy. Mayfield released GWX Control Panel 1.6 -- which is a free download -- on Nov. 24.

Concurrent with the release of GWX Control Panel 1.6, Mayfield began hearing from users that their PCs were being switched from a "do-not-upgrade-to-Windows-10" status to a "do-upgrade" state, often multiple times daily.

In an interview Friday, Mayfield said that the Windows 10 upgrade setting switcheroo on Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs was apparently due to continued updates that Microsoft has shoved onto the older devices. The Redmond, Wash. company has repeatedly re-served its original GWX app to PCs, often with undocumented changes, even if the machine already had the app, or even if the user had managed to uninstall it previously.

"Microsoft has released this update several times," said Mayfield. "It doesn't change the name of the update, but every version is new, with new binary files."

Also in play, said Mayfield, were updates to the Windows Update client on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs that Microsoft has also pushed to customers: Windows Update was refreshed last week for both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

Documentation for the Dec. 1 updates to Windows Update did not spell out all the changes, but did state, "This update enables support for additional upgrade scenarios from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and provides a smoother experience when you have to retry an operating system upgrade because of certain failure conditions. This update also improves the ability of Microsoft to monitor the quality of the upgrade experience."

 

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