Upgrading to Windows 10 and questioning The New York Times

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A few months later, I tried again, only to suffer another "unknown error" while upgrading. Some research turned up the fact that you can also download a utility from Microsoft to run the upgrade, something very few articles mention. For whatever reason, this worked for me.

In fact, there are two different upgrade-to-Windows10 programs offered by Microsoft.

getwindows10.site1

One downloadable program to upgrade to Windows 10

At the Get Windows 10 page (above) clicking the blue "Upgrade now" button downloads Windows10Upgrade9252.exe.

getwindows10.site2

Another program you can download to upgrade to Windows 10

At the How to Upgrade to Windows 10 page, clicking on the white Download now button downloads GetWindows10-Web_Default_Attr.exe.

I don't know how these two programs differ, but an online search turned up one person for whom the first program worked after the second one did not. 

If upgrading from Windows Update and both of the above programs fails, you may still be able to get to Windows 10 by doing a clean installation. Software that Microsoft calls the Media Creation Tool can be downloaded from the Get Windows 10 page to create either a bootable DVD or USB flash drive. It can also create a Windows 10 ISO file. 

IF THE UPGRADE FAILS

The way to deal with failed upgrades, according to the expert the New York Times consulted, is to "consider upgrading the parts".

I've seen this before; software people blaming hardware. It's easier that way, and it can cover up their own failings.

My own experience shows that an upgrade that fails one way, may work another way, assuming you know that there is another approach. So too, did my experience with an Apple laptop.

A couple years ago I took a Macbook to an Apple store to have them do a clean install of the latest edition of OS X (the laptop was two generations back). The first step of their procedure is some type of system check that the laptop failed. The geniuses at Apple are programmed that, if this system check fails, it must be a hardware problem, so they offered me a detailed hardware analysis for a few hundred dollars.

But I wasn't born yesterday and was fairly confident the hardware was fine. I took the laptop to Tekserve where they ran the same initial check and found the same error or warning. But, since I was paying for the service, they went ahead and clean installed a new copy of OS X anyway. The laptop has been problem free since.

Woody Leonhard also questions this advice (emphasis mine) writing 

I've been wrangling with Win10 upgrades gone awry for more than a year. Most of the time, upgrading from Win 7 or Win 8.1 goes easily - the only problem is getting used to the new operating system, its forced updating, and its apparent propensity to snoop. But many people I deal with report a wide array of problems with the upgrade. The killer upgrades are certainly not confined to old, cheap hardware, and the solutions don't involve buying new components.

If an upgrade fails, the first thing to do is not buy new hardware, but check these two pages from Microsoft: Troubleshoot common Windows 10 upgrade errors and Get help with Windows 10 upgrade and installation errors

According to the New York Times expert, the best hardware for Windows 10 is a ThinkPad with an SSD (Solid State Hard Drive). My laptop, that twice suffered an "unknown error" while upgrading, was a ThinkPad T410s with a factory installed SSD.

BACKOUT

The Times article offers one method for restoring the previous version of Windows and assumes it will work. This is a bad assumption that ignores other fallback options.

Leo Notenboom, discussing the standard backout procedure wrote "There’s a possibility that Windows 10 may be able to accommodate your desire to go back to Windows 7." That's the voice of experience.

Woody has said "If you performed an upgrade using Microsoft’s tools and anointed techniques, rolling back should be easy. Operative term: "should." Unfortunately, many people find that Win10 is a one-way trip -- sometimes for very good reason."

The standard Microsoft procedure for restoring a prior version of Windows may not be available, may not work, may delete some of your files, or it may restore a problematic version of the prior system.

Unlike New York Times readers, anyone interested in Defensive Computing will make some backups before falling back.

Woody Leonhard suggests a full image backup using the utility built into Windows 10. Image backups take longer and require more storage space, but they insure that you have backed up every file you might care about later. At the least, you should backup every file that was created/updated while Windows 10 was active.

For more about rolling back, see Four ways to go back to Windows 7 or 8 from Windows 10 by Leo Notenboom and How to roll back your Windows 10 upgrade by Woody Leonhard.

UPGRADE PROMPT

There is no better way to lose credibility than to make excuses for something everyone knows is wrong. When it comes to the Windows 10 upgrade prompt presented to users of Windows 7 and 8.1, even the most ardent fans of Windows and Microsoft are mad as hell and not going to take it any more. Every public defender of the company has come down hard on Microsoft for this.

Except the New York Times.

The article quotes a Microsoft spokesperson, takes what they say at face value and moves on. Specifically, it says 

Mr. Dennis said the company had heard feedback about it being too aggressive with encouraging people to upgrade. So Microsoft recently clarified the wording of the upgrade reminder...

Everyone following this knows that Microsoft has not been encouraging upgrades to Windows 10, they have been tricking people. Notenboom went so far as to write that Windows 10 Behaves Like Malware.

Woody added - 

I'm not anti-Windows 10. I use Win10 all day, every day, on all of my production machines, I've written a 1,000-page book about it, and I'm about to start on another. But I've come to terms with Microsoft's new forced upgrade policy, and I can live with the snooping. My big beefs are that people who upgrade to Windows 10 should understand what they're getting into, and that Microsoft has no business pushing upgrade nagware on perfectly usable Windows 7 and 8.1 machines.

Back in March, Mary Jo Foley wrote How existing Windows users can refuse Microsoft's Windows 10 update, because resistance appeared futile. More recently, she said "I feel users shouldn't be tricked or pushed to move to a new PC OS release if they don't want or need it." 

Paul Thurrott's article, Upgradegate: Microsoft’s Upgrade Deceptions Are Undermining Windows 10, includes this

For months now, I’ve complained about the software giant’s heavy-handed tactics in trying to trick customers into upgrading to Windows 10. But a recent change to the Get Windows 10 advertisement that is forced on Windows 7 and 8.1 users takes things entirely too far. This is indefensible. Frankly, this entire episode has been indefensible, with Microsoft introducing a non-stoppable, non-hideable advertisement on several hundred million PCs from around the world. And then upgrading that advertisement to thwart those who do seek to remove or hide it. It has changed the language of the ad, made no clear cancel choice available, and jammed it into the “recommended” updates that auto-install via Windows Update.

Susan Bradley, another huge Windows fan, recently wrote

... Microsoft is being a bully on the Internet. A big bully. The manner in which Windows 10 has been pushed out the patching channel has me seriously questioning if I want to be associated with this Company going forward ... I really don’t appreciate the heavy handedness of the Windows 10 push that has gotten to the point now that Microsoft is scheduling the 10 update for you. No update should install without your explicit permission to do so.

DEFINE X

The elephant in the room is the X. Microsoft's latest change involved closing the upgrade notice window by clicking the X in the top right corner. Previously, this meant the user did not want to upgrade, now it means they do want to upgrade. The reason Microsoft talks about clarifying the wording in the upgrade notice is to shift attention from their new treatment of the X, something they do not clarify.

Gordon Kelly wrote about this in Forbes, with the great title Windows 10 Dirty Trick Hits Windows 7 And Windows 8 Users:

For the last six months Microsoft has presented Windows 7 and Windows 8 users with a Windows 10 upgrade pop-up that seemingly gave you little choice: ‘Upgrade Now’ or ‘Upgrade Later’. The only way to skip the upgrade was to close the ‘X’ in the top right corner and, given the regularity of the pop-up, dismissing it via this method has become second nature to millions who are happy staying where they are. Well not anymore. Now the Windows 10 upgrade pop-up has been changed and if you dismiss it using the ‘X’ in the top right corner it sends the message to Microsoft that you WANT to install Windows 10 and the upgrade will begin ... Sneaky in the extreme ... in continually changing what users have to do and even how specific buttons behave, Microsoft is deliberately causing confusion and increasing the chance the wrong option will be picked. This is a tried and trusted tactic of malware.

This really hit home for Brad Chacos, Senior Editor at PCWorld: 

This morning, the unthinkable happened: My wife, an avowed PC user who long ago swore to never touch an Apple device, started shopping around for a Mac Mini ... [because of] ... the nasty new way that Microsoft’s tricking Windows 7 and 8 users into automatically updating to Windows 10 ... The annoying “Get Windows 10” pop-up began using deceiving malware-like tactics months ago, but it recently received an overhaul that seems purposefully designed to confuse users who have been wearily slogging through the nagging for half a year now. That nasty change trick resulted in my wife’s beloved Windows 7 PC being sneakily upgraded to Windows 10 this morning. Sure, she has 30 days to roll it back to Windows 7, but she feels so betrayed ... that she’s strongly considering embracing the Dark Side and buying a Mac, instead.

And, if you thought that my earlier "mad as hell and not going to take it any more" reference to the movie Network was too much, a week after the above article appeared, Chacos wrote that he has "'received more contact from readers about this issue than I have about everything else I’ve written over the rest of my career combined."

The nagging and trickery about upgrading to Windows 10 has gotten so bad that people are disabling Windows Update to avoid it.

WHY?

So, why did the Times not say anything critical about the Windows 10 upgrade notices?

With the groundswell of outrage, why was nothing said about blocking the upgrade using either GWX Control Panel or Never10? Why does the article blame cheap hardware for so many problems? Why no mention of Windows 10 telemetry/spying? Why does it even include the words "Microsoft said that the Windows 10 release had been smooth ..." Well, duh. 

And since most people get a new version of Windows when they buy a new computer, why even write about upgrading existing machines? I had no intention of doing so, but I felt the Times article needed to be rebuked. It got so much wrong and left out even more.

- - - - - - - - - 

Update: Recent articles on the subject:

As I was writing this, Microsoft removed the X from the Windows 10 upgrade prompt. See Windows 10 nagware: You can't click X. Make a date OR ELSE by Gavin Clarke. June 1, 2016.

And, Samsung is struggling to make drivers compatible with Windows 10 so they are advising their customers not to upgrade. See Samsung: Don't install Windows 10. REALLY by Gavin Clarke May 31, 2016. 

Related:

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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