The free offer

When Microsoft released Windows 10, they said that “qualifying systems” would be eligible for a free upgrade to the new operating system during the first year.  That period of grace comes to an end on July 29th 2016.

Microsoft have stated that their goal is to get Windows 10 onto 1 billion devices (PCs, Tablets, Phones, XBox consoles) by the summer of 2018.

As the deadline for the free upgrade approaches,  Microsoft has been making changes to the way it offers the update to users.  Some commentators have branded the latest change as a “nasty trick” and “verging on malware”.

It has resulted in thousands of users being upgraded automatically, without realising that they had given consent.

Am I at risk?

What counts as a “qualifying system”?

A Windows 7 PC bought from a store definitely qualifies, although it will need Service Pack 1 installed first.  However if your PC has the Enterprise Edition (purchased through a volume licensing agreement) the free upgrade doesn’t apply to you.

The same is true of a shop bought Windows 8 machine, but you must run the (free) upgrade to Windows 8.1 before you can move on to Windows 10.

Older machines running Windows Vista don’t qualify (and neither does that Windows XP box you’ve got hidden in the cupboard)

Actually, you will already know if you have a “qualifying system”, because Windows will have been nagging you for months to Get Windows 10.  It’s the way that the computer interprets your response that is causing the controversy.

Get Windows 10

It all started last year when a routine update installed the Get Windows 10 app (GWX) onto qualifying system.  To begin with its effect was quite benign.  A simple pop-up offered users the chance to “Learn more” about the upgrade.

 

This gave those that wanted to, a chance to pre-order the new Operating System and get to the front of the queue in its staggered roll-out.  No-one could complain about that.

You WILL Update!

Some months later, Microsoft’s tactics changed – and so did the pop-up box:

 

Firstly, the box was much larger.  In this illustration, there is only one button – Upgrade Now.  Some users also saw a Start download, upgrade later button.  However, neither versions gave a No Thanks choice.

The only way to avoid the update was to click the Close button (the red “x”) in the top right corner of the dialog box.  Of course, Microsoft didn’t tell you this, you were just expected to know.

Worse still, the pop-up kept coming back, day after day after day.  People got used to clicking Close to dismiss the dialog box.

A Recommended Update

In the spring of 2016, Microsoft made the upgrade to Windows 10 a Recommended Update.  Now, any IT consultant worth their salt would advise their customers to have Recommended Updates installed automatically. That way, all security patches are applied as soon as they become available.  It is a crucial way of staying secure when connected to the Internet.

Having a few security patches downloaded every month is not an issue.  For those who’s monthly data plan is capped, several gigabytes of operating system files can use up/exceed their allowance in a single day.

So now Microsoft had organised the downloaded of the installation files onto millions of PCs automatically.  At least the Close button trick discussed above still meant you weren’t forced to run the update.

The Nasty Trick

In late May 2016, Microsoft changed the pop-up again.  Here is the latest incarnation:

 

Some definite improvements:

  • A schedule time for the upgrade – click OK to accept that
  • An Upgrade now link
  • Importantly – Click here to change upgrade schedule or cancel scheduled upgrade

So now a clearly visual method to get out of the upgrade.  Just what people wanted.  What is causing outrage is the way the PC reacts if you click the Close button.  This is now taken as consent to carry out the upgrade !!!

So after half a year of conditioning people to click Close to prevent the upgrade, the same action now allows it to happen.  This goes against everything we have ever learnt about Windows based systems.  Close means “don’t do it”.  Indeed Microsoft’s own advice about malware says:

“Never click ‘Agree’ or ‘OK’ to close a window that you suspect might be spyware, Instead, click the red ‘x’ in the corner of the window or press Alt + F4 on your keyboard to close a window.”

Literally thousands of people have been caught out by this. They either didn’t find that small link to reschedule or cancel the upgrade, or were away from their computer when the pop-up appeared.  Their systems then automatically began the process at the scheduled time.

The consequences

People rely on their computers both for work and leisure.  Installing a new operating system can take hours. Writing in the Huffington Post, Steve Peterson said:

On Saturday, my daughter turned on the laptop to do some schoolwork, and then called to me in the kitchen, “Hey Dad, the laptop just shutdown and says it’s installing Windows 10. I swear I didn’t do anything. It just happened.”   … we watched helplessly for about the next 2 hours as our laptop was taken over and Windows 10 was slowly installed.

China’s official news agency Xinhua reports:

One  man, Yang Shuo, who works at a Beijing-based PR firm, said the Windows 10 update interrupted him while he was working on a business plan. This meant he had to abandon the document which led to a meeting about a deal worth 3m yuan (£312,000) being cancelled.

But this goes beyond just lost time.  For some, keeping older hardware and software programs running is vital.  Upgrading to Windows 10 can render these unusable, again causing an impact on their businesses. I’ve also read of people turning off Windows Update.  They would rather risk being infected by a computer virus than experience an unwanted upgrade.

What can be done

If this hasn’t happened to you yet, there are some free third-party tools you can install, including GWX Control Panel or Never 10.  These can help you remove and disable the upgrade prompts.

 

If the automatic update starts on your PC, all is not lost.  During the installation (which may take 2 hours) the End User License Agreement screen will appear.  Click Decline here and you system will be rolled back – again, this may take a while.

Even if the update has already been done, Microsoft gives you a 30 day “cooling off” period where you can revert to the previous operating system.   Choose Start / Settings / Update & Security / Recovery

 

What is your opinion?

Microsoft say “we want to help people upgrade to the best version of Windows“.  Others believe “some people just don’t want the latest version of Windows for reasons of their own“.

I know what I think, but I’d love to hear your opinion.  You can contact me via info@base2.co.uk