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Windows 10 license confirms no-warning automatic updates and upgrades

Gregg Keizer | July 20, 2015
Defines rights for pre-installed Office for Windows 10 apps, tells pirates there is no free ride.

The license agreement for Windows 10 is, like the OS itself, a different kind of beast, with new clauses that spell out automatic updates, the bundling of Office and what happens when a user tries to upgrade from a pirated copy.

Ed Bott of ZDNet first reported on the apparent final form Windows 10 EULA (end user licensing agreement) Thursday.

As Bott concluded, there are no real surprises in the Windows 10 EULA -- all the information there had been disclosed by Microsoft prior -- but nor does the agreement answer outstanding questions, including how long the firm will support the new OS.

The EULA, which appears during the Windows 10 setup, can also be read after the fact by clicking "Settings" in the Start menu, selecting "System" and then choosing the "About" option on the left. Clicking the link "Read the Microsoft Software License Terms" brings up the EULA.

Computerworld examined the EULA included with Windows 10 build 10240, the version pushed to beta test participants Wednesday. Although Microsoft has not officially declared 10240 as the "release to manufacturing" (RTM) milestone, most pundits and analysts have agreed that it is what Microsoft will deliver to customers starting July 29.

One of the most interesting clauses in the EULA relates to the new update and upgrade practice that debuts with Windows 10. In previous editions of Windows users were able to pick and choose which individual updates to download and install, but in Windows 10 they are all-or-nothing, minus the nothing: Each update is a whole, and cannot be split apart, taking some and refusing others. And updates must eventually be accepted, or Microsoft will shut off the security patch faucet.

Two of Microsoft's new mainstream update/upgrade tracks, called "branches" -- the consumer-grade "Current Branch" (CB) and the business-oriented "Currant Branch for Business (CBB) -- both operate that way. The exceptions: Corporations running Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Enterprise can manage updates using the veteran Windows Server Update Service (WSUS) software, or a third-party patch management product; and shops running Windows 10 Enterprise may adopt a hands-off branch called the "Long-term Servicing Branch" (LTSB).

To account for the update philosophy shift, Microsoft has added new language to the Windows 10 EULA.

"The software periodically checks for system and app updates, and downloads and installs them for you," reads the EULA's section 6. "You may obtain updates only from Microsoft or authorized sources, and Microsoft may need to update your system to provide you with those updates. By accepting this agreement, you agree to receive these types of automatic updates without any additional notice" [emphasis added].

In plain English, Windows 10's updates will omit the options in earlier editions that let users delay or indefinitely ignore an individual fix or change, leaving only one that lets users schedule necessary restarts to better fit their own schedules. (Windows 10 Pro, and probably Windows 10 Enterprise as well -- Computerworld was unable to confirm the latter -- also let customers adopt a slower "ring," or update cadence, within the CBB by selecting "Defer upgrades" from the "Advanced options" pane of the Windows Update window. A "Learn more" link displays text that reads in part, "When you defer upgrades, new Windows features won't be downloaded or installed for several months.")


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