Microsoft to start pushing Automatic Updates to Win10 early next year

Microsoft promises that users who cancel the update will be able to turn off the upgrade nags… but how?

Those of you who aren't yet ready to install Windows 10 should take note. If you have friends, family, or co-workers who are in Windows 10 denial, they should take note, too. Microsoft is going to start pushing the Windows 10 installer down the Automatic Update chute early next year.

This is the same idiocy that Microsoft unleashed two weeks ago, only now it's official, imminent, and most assuredly not a "mistake."

Windows honcho Terry Myerson, posting on the Windows blog yesterday, gave a few details:

We will soon be publishing Windows 10 as an "Optional Update" in Windows Update for all Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers. Windows Update is the trusted, logical location for our most important updates, and adding Windows 10 here is another way we will make it easy for you to find your upgrade.

Early next year, we expect to be re-categorizing Windows 10 as a "Recommended Update". Depending upon your Windows Update settings, this may cause the upgrade process to automatically initiate on your device. Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue. And of course, if you choose to upgrade (our recommendation!), then you will have 31 days to roll back to your previous Windows version if you don't love it.

This means if you have Windows 7 or 8.1 set to automatically apply updates, the Windows 10 installer will kick in. You'll have a chance to cancel out of the update (Microsoft needs to get you to "sign" the EULA, if nothing else), but there are no further details about the mechanics.

Two weeks ago, people who were sandbagged by the sudden appearance of a Win10 installer may have had the wherewithal to deny the "recommended" update. But after refusing that update, their PCs were left in an odd intermediate state, with GWX (the Get Windows 10 routine) continuing to run, 6GB of data possibly stuck in a hidden folder, and no clear way to keep saying no to an unwanted installer that came back every time Windows Update encountered the checked Optional update.

In the same article, Myerson promises:

You can specify that you no longer want to receive notifications of the Windows 10 upgrade through the Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 settings pages.

Unfortunately, there are no details about those pages, where they might reside, or what they will say or do. At this point, getting rid of the Windows 10 nagware requires the use of third-party programs, such as GWX Control Panel. Whether Microsoft's promised nagware-killer will disable GWX, or put your machine in some other limbo state, remains to be seen. Will the nags come back a month later? Who knows?

The Get Windows 10 notification that Myerson shows in his post isn't comforting. There's a button to "Get your free upgrade" and a link to "Learn more on," but no clear way to turn off the nags, other than laboriously X-ing out of them every time they appear.

Myerson says that Microsoft's No. 1 support question has been "How do I get my upgrade?" No doubt true, but the No. 1 support question I get is "How do I avoid upgrading to Windows 10?" followed closely by "How do I roll back to my old system?" Your results may vary.

Myerson also says:

After any upgrade, you can easily go back to your prior version of Windows within 31 days if you choose. We do this by keeping a full copy of your previous operating system on your device -- including apps and settings -- for the first 31 days following your upgrade.  At any time during the first 31 days, you can go to "Settings->Update and Security->Recovery and Uninstall Windows 10" to return to your prior version of Windows.

Although the easy rollback is a noble goal, I've received piles of complaints from people who have rolled back but their system isn't working the way it used to -- and oh golly, the Windows 10 nags keep appearing. It's like rubbing a dog's nose in its mistakes.

On the bright side, this new Windows Update-based approach makes it easier to install Windows 10, even if you can't see the "Get Windows 10" icon and don't want to futz with the Media Creation Tool. Even better news: Once Microsoft finally releases the T2 "Windows 10 Fall Update" version, you'll be free to upgrade any way you like, without fear of losing your license.

One more interesting note from the same post. Myerson says:

Our free upgrade offer is available to all of our Genuine Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers. One of the more interesting learnings from the upgrade is the creative efforts which non-Genuine customers have gone to, to initiate the upgrade process on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 -- and then how many have purchased Genuine Windows 10 activation through the Windows 10 store.

I have to wonder how many people figured their Windows 7 or 8.1 licenses got hosed in the upgrade and reverted in shame to the Windows Store to buy a "genuine" copy of Windows 10.

Microsoft's proposal "to ease the upgrade of non-Genuine Windows 7 and Windows 8.1" in the United States sounds interesting -- and definitely a step in the right direction. (Not long ago, I lived in a country where pirate copies of Windows outnumbered "genuine" by at least 50 to one.) I have a great deal of hope that Microsoft will make it easy and cheap to get a "genuine" license to Windows 10 and put the pirates out of business.

All in all, it's refreshing to get advance notice about such controversial moves. But they're still controversial.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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