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Microsoft takes Windows 10 upgrade near nuclear line

Gregg Keizer | June 13, 2016
Pushy, aggressive, deceptive: Yes. But stops short of installing upgrade without any user action.

Microsoft has not gone for the nuclear option with Windows 10 -- forcing the new operating system on consumers and small businesses now running older editions -- but it has tiptoed close to that line.

Five months ago, Computerworld laid out the steps Microsoft had taken to distribute Windows 10, but noted that it had not yet moved to the next logical phase: not only downloading and initiating the upgrade, but completing it without any explicit user approval.

To recap, Microsoft kicked off the radical distribution strategy in January 2015 when executives announced that Windows 10 would be a free upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 for one year after 10's official release.

The Redmond, Wash. company then moved on with a succession of schemes, including letting customers "reserve" a copy of the upgrade; downloading the upgrade bits in the background to those users' machines; and finally, in October 2015, saying it would automatically push the Windows 10 upgrade to all eligible PCs, then initiate the upgrade process.

That last step was to take place in two phases. First, the Windows 10 upgrade would be added to the Windows Update list on Windows 7 and 8.1 systems as an "optional" item. Next, Microsoft was to shift the Windows 10 upgrade to the "recommended" list. Updates on the latter are automatically downloaded and installed on most PCs.

Even then, Microsoft promised that customers would have the opportunity to cancel the upgrade once it began, and if they were unsatisfied, roll back the OS to the prior edition if they did so within 30 days of the upgrade.

Since January....

Microsoft did, in fact, follow through with the two-step plan: It planted Windows 10 in Windows Update as an optional item no later than early February, and around March 12, began moving it to the recommended list.

But in March it also pre-scheduled the upgrade as it delivered the upgrade through Windows Update as a recommended download. According to a post by Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Andre Da Costa -- who is not an employee of the firm but a moderator on several of the company's support forums -- Microsoft automatically scheduled the upgrade process to launch four days after the bits were downloaded.

And that's when Microsoft neared the nuclear option.

What is the nuclear option?

Even before Windows 10 launched -- since the appearance of GWX, the auto-installed app that initially let customers reserve the upgrade -- some cynical users wondered if the firm might dare to take the profound step of not only downloading and initiating the upgrade, but completing it without any approval.


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