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Microsoft antagonizes users with intrusive new Windows 10 upgrade tactics

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 19, 2015
Says one approach was 'a mistake' even as users struggle to stop the OS from installing.

Microsoft backs away from latest move

The checked-by-default "Upgrade to Windows 10" item was what Microsoft said was in error. Microsoft then removed not only the check from the box, but the upgrade item itself, from Windows Update. Computerworld confirmed with multiple users that the once-visible listing had disappeared from their Windows Update catalog by late Thursday.

Microsoft's maneuver with the Windows 10 upgrade and Windows Update was reminiscent of a similar gimmick it used last month, when it began surreptitiously downloading up to 6GB of data comprising the Windows 10 upgrade to Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs. That data had been pushed to users, including those who had never authorized the move by "reserving" a copy of the free upgrade using the applet that Microsoft seeded to all Windows 7 and 8.1 devices starting in March.

But by pre-selecting "Upgrade to Windows 10," Microsoft went a step further, not only downloading the upgrade bits to machines, but also triggering its installation, and thus the Windows 10 upgrade process. Users could cancel the upgrade once it began, the last line of defense for those who wanted to continue running an older edition, but many might have simply continued, trained to trust Microsoft's update practices and assuming this was what they were supposed to do.

Even more alarming were reports from several IT managers that PCs that were joined to a domain -- but set to receive bug fixes via Windows Update rather than through an enterprise patch management platform like Microsoft's own WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) -- were seeing this behavior, contradicting Microsoft's previous statement that those devices would not be served the Windows 10 upgrade.

While the "Upgrade to Windows 10" listing appears to have been pre-checked only this week -- the first reports reached Computerworld on Wednesday, Oct. 14, the day after this month's Patch Tuesday, making it a prime suspect for Microsoft's goof -- the item had been showing up on at least some PCs as far back as mid-September.

Suddenly, Windows 10 gains ground

It may be a coincidence, but that timeline roughly corresponded to a significant uptick in Windows 10's usage share. Prior to Sept. 21, the OS's usage share growth had been in decline, with week-over-week increases falling slowly but steadily, probably because the pool of early adopters eager to get their hands on Windows 10 had been exhausted.

But beginning Sept. 21, Windows 10's week-over-week usage share growth experienced a noticeable jump, with the gains peaking on Sept. 26, then falling off over the next seven days. When the OS's usage share increases were graphed, they created a visible "wave" that first rose, then fell.


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