Opinion by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Windows 10, the stealth OS

Windows 10 Start menu fig01

Whether we want it or not, Microsoft has been downloading Windows 10 to our Windows 7 and 8.x PCs. Friendly gesture, or intrusive power play?

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To think that a couple of months ago we were worried that the Internet might not be able to hold up against the pent-up demand for Windows 10. The Internet did just fine, as it turns out — even better than we knew. Because we have recently discovered that all along, Microsoft has been sending Windows 10 bits to those of us who have Windows 7 or 8.x on our PCs, whether we asked for them or not. Did I say “sending”? That’s a bit mild. What Microsoft has been doing is force-feeding us Windows 10, sneaking it past our perimeter, planting it on our hard drives with no notice, shoving it through our Internet connections, no matter how narrow our broadband.

Yes, I’m a bit incensed.

It all started when an Inquirer reader found, hiding in the hidden directory $Windows.~BT on his PC, all of the Windows 10 installation files, even though he had not “reserved” a copy. Up to 6GB worth of them.

Some people were a mite upset about this. Especially people with small solid-state drives and slow Internet speeds.

I have seen Microsoft do a lot of sketchy things over the years, but when I first heard this story, I thought, “Microsoft wouldn’t do this.” Pitch Windows 10 right on my Windows desktop? Sure, I could believe that. But to actually sneak the bytes onto my computer? Surely not! Some things just aren’t done. It’s as if a colleague started living in your basement without ever telling you. You feel as if your space has been violated, but in a way you never even imagined might happen.

The thing is, big tech companies should have a clue that this kind of thing is not welcome. I mean, just look at what happened to Apple when it gave the U2 album Songs of Innocence away to everyone with an iCloud account. It was a PR disaster unmitigated by whatever good will lay behind the gesture.

After the news about the stealth Windows 10 downloads broke, I checked my Windows machines, and sure enough, Microsoft had sent me unwanted freebies. My first thought: Well, that’s not so bad. I have a 120Mbps Internet connection, and the smallest Windows hard drive in the house comes in at 500GB. I can handle it OK.

Also, unlike people who have been having serious stability problems with Windows 10, Windows 10 has worked well for me.

Well, it runs remarkably well for what’s really a beta. Talk to me after the October/November update before asking me if I’d recommend it for real use.

And, of course, I don’t use Windows 10’s built-in apps. The Mail app, in particular, tends to blow up with messy results for Outlook.com or Office 365 users. And let’s not even talk about Windows Store, which seems to spend more time frozen than working.

Oh, and come to think of it, Windows 10 still seems remarkably snoopy to me.

You know what? On second thought, I really, really don’t want Microsoft shoving Windows 10 down to my computers until I’m good and ready.

I also really don’t like Microsoft telling me that automatically downloading a new, radically different operating system “is an industry practice that reduces time for installation and ensures device readiness.” Because it’s not.

I’ve been working in IT for closing in on 30 years now, and writing about it for almost as long, and never once has any company pushed a new operating system on me in the normal course of business. Yes, programs do that sometimes. Chrome and Firefox spring to mind, but operating systems are a lot bigger deal than Web browsers.

Microsoft has since retracted that “industry practice” line, but it still rankles, and I’m still annoyed at having Windows 10 forced into my machines.

Say I was a system administrator. Would I want my users having Windows 10 appearing on their PCs? No, I wouldn’t. I’d have enough trouble keeping porn and games off their boxes without contending with a brand-new Windows OS.

Even at home, though, when I enable Windows Update automatic updates, I just want the top security patches for the operating system I already have, not a whole freaking operating system.

Let me make this simple for you, Microsoft. The next time you want to promote your next-generation operating system, in 2020 or so, do not shove it down my throat.

Ahem.

Thank you.

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