Word to the Win10 wise: Don’t click 'Check for updates'

Microsoft has unilaterally given itself permission to upgrade your Win10 PC to the brand-new version 1809, if you have the temerity to click “Check for updates.” Moral of the story? Never give a seeker an even break.

virtual update button hovers over a keyboard

Back in May, when Microsoft rolled out Win10 version 1803, we saw a behavior never seen before: Some people, when clicking on “Check for updates” in Win10 1703 or 1709, were pushed into the Win10 1803 upgrade sequence.

I’m sure there’s a parallel universe somewhere in which “check for updates” is the same as “upgrade my machine.” Sure glad I don’t live there. (To block this update, see this article.)

With the announced release of Win10 version 1809 yesterday, it’s happening again. This time, though, Microsoft has the intestinal fortitude to admit it. Per the official Win10 1809 rollout blurb:

While we encourage you to wait until the update is offered to your device, if you’re an advanced user on an actively serviced version of Windows 10 and would like to install the Windows 10 October 2018 Update now, you can do so by manually checking for updates. In the Search box in the taskbar, type “Check for updates.” Once there, simply click “Check for updates” to begin the download and installation process. We are also streamlining the ability for users who seek to manually check for updates by limiting this to devices with no known key blocking issues, based on our ML model.  If we detect that your device has a compatibility issue, we will not install the update until that issue is resolved, even if you “Check for updates.”

There are any number of problems with that approach. First, Microsoft’s “ML model” isn’t perfect — in the version 1803 rollout, we saw numerous times that machines were brought to their knees by bugs in the forced upgrade. Second, upgrading still ties your machine up for ages, in spite of Microsoft’s attempts to limit the time and timing of the upgrade. Third, the upgrade may have consequences that are great for Microsoft, not so great for you. (How’s your copy of Candy Crush Soda holding up?)

Fourth, sorry, but whose machine is it anyway? What gives Microsoft the right to force a new operating system down your throat when you merely “check” for updates?

Poster @b on the AskWoody Lounge says that Win10 customers gave up their rights when they clicked to accept the 6,000-word-long Licensing Terms. I scoured the Licensing Terms document for Win10 Pro, revised June 2018 (Start > Settings > System > About > Read the Microsoft Software Licensing Terms), and only came up with this:

Updates. The software periodically checks for system and app updates, and downloads and installs them for you. You may obtain updates only from Microsoft or authorized sources, and Microsoft may need to update your system to provide you with those updates. By accepting this agreement, you agree to receive these types of automatic updates without any additional notice.

Which doesn’t say anything at all about becoming a seeker — Microsoft slang for those who click “Check for updates” — or having a new, buggy, version of Win10 pushed on your system just because some historically faulty machine-learning algorithm decides that it’s time.

So it seems that you can no longer reliably check for updates on your Win10 machine, without the imminent threat of being upgraded to unpaid beta-tester status.

Caveat emptor.

Can somebody explain to me how Microsoft gets away with this stuff? Join us on the AskWoody Lounge.


Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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