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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.

Such a move would be unprecedented, not just for Microsoft and its increasingly-aggressive distribution strategy for Windows 10, but for the software industry historically: Upgrades have always been optional, even if passing came with caveats intended to motivate acceptance, such as dropped support.

The logic of a you-must-upgrade step was inescapable, as it was the inevitable end game of the year-and-more Windows 10 distribution strategy. And there were reasons why Microsoft might take that step, whether to simply add to the Windows 10 tally toward its goal of 1 billion by mid-2018, boost the number of systems eligible for apps or to better secure users' PCs.

Near-nuclear

Sometime in March, perhaps around the 12th, as Da Costa said, but no later than March 23, Microsoft changed how the GWX app and the scheduled upgrade worked.

Rather than interpret a click on the red "X" in the upper right as "cancel" or "ignore" the notification of the impending upgrade -- as decades of user experience (UX), as well as Microsoft's own design rules mandated -- the company defined the action as approval of the scheduled upgrade. Not surprisingly, the change riled users, who saw it as a trick to get them to approve the upgrade to Windows 10 when they intended to reject it.

Even with this behavior, Microsoft left users an out: Eagle-eyed customers could click on a link embedded in the word "here" in the notification to either reschedule or cancel the upgrade. But the machinations of the X-as-approval came very close to the line, using questionable means to get to the same ends as the nuclear option.

Call it "near-nuclear."

But users maintain that they were upgraded without their permission

Whether it's because they were duped by the red-X deception or paranoia-gone-amuck, some users have sworn that they didn't approve the upgrade to Windows 10.

"Computers at our medical practice are automatically upgrading to Windows 10 without permission and this is severely affecting our operation," contended Chris Leathart of New Zealand in one of many comments appended to a petition asking the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to investigate the practice.

"Microsoft installed Windows 10 on my system without my having any voice in the matter," asserted Louis Rourke of Massachusetts in another comment appended to the petition. "I could not even stop or interrupt the download. There was zero notice of how to refuse or undo this installation."

What's going on? Does the upgrade automatically kick off and complete if the PC is left unattended during the time when Microsoft pre-scheduled the upgrade?

No, said one expert, who argued that users were probably mistaken. Although they may have been misled, at the very least they had to have accepted the EULA (end-user license agreement), which serves as the defense of last resort for those who don't want to migrate. As part of the upgrade process, users are required to accept the Windows 10 EULA by clicking a button.

 

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