What the Hell Is Microsoft Doing with My Computer?

 
 
By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2007-09-13 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Opinion: Microsoft is sneaking "updates" into my PCs. What the heck!

Listen carefully. Theyre my computers. Theyre not your computers. I choose to put Windows on some of them. I choose what applications go on them. I choose when, and how, to upgrade them. Is that clear? Well, none of that is clear to Microsoft. We now know— we dont suspect— we know that Microsoft automatically updates Windows XP SP 2 systems without your knowledge or permission. Thanks to Windows Secrets, we also know that Microsoft is playing the same trick on Vista systems. Weve also found that even if you have Windows Update turned off, Microsoft will sneak these stealth "updates" onto your PC. Mind you this is not updating your system with a Patch Tuesday patch that Microsoft believes to be so vitally necessary; this is Microsoft putting God knows what on your systems.
Since Microsoft isnt telling us that theyre sneaking software onto our machines, I guess they also felt they didnt need to tell what these updates are doing.
This really, really ticks me off. Bad enough that Microsoft has a permanent off switch for my PC via its half-assed Windows Genuine Advantage, but now I cant even control what they do with my PC! Read more here about Windows Updates sneaky updates. When Microsoft comes up with an excuse for this behavior, Im sure it will be something about making XP and Vista systems more stable, secure or some other crap. If thats the case, then why not tell us about it with all the other Patch Tuesday announcements? Is that too hard for you?
Or, could it be that Microsoft doesnt want to admit to just how many bugs it really needs to fix on both versions of Windows. Or, perhaps Microsoft is sneaking in changes to monitor what users are doing with their computers? Or, maybe to make sure that Firefox blows up one time in 20 so that Internet Explorer looks better. Come to think of it, Firefox has been acting a little flakey on my Windows machines lately... Am I being paranoid? Maybe. On the other hand, sometimes they really are out to get you, and I cant think of a single good reason for Microsoft to be installing software on my computer without my knowledge or permission. Theres a word for programs that do that: malware. Even presuming that these updates are completely innocent, theyre still going to foul things up for me. Lets say Im in charge of desktops at a company, and that, like most companies, I have everyone running the exact same operating system version and application suite. After all, it makes trouble shooting much easier. But, now, I cant assume that all those systems really are on the same exact page. Some of them may have been secretly "updated" by Microsoft, some of them may not have been. Even if all my PCs have been updated, I dont know what changes Microsoft has made. Is a hidden change from Microsoft the reason why an application is now running like a fat man in a mud puddle? Or, is it something else? Thanks Microsoft. I dont care what changes youre making. Your hidden updates really are malware because they make troubleshooting PCs a lot harder. Doesnt sound likely? Then youre no systems administrator. Even publicly announced "patches" can blow up applications. Ask the users of Skype, the popular VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) program how they felt about the August 2007 Patch Tuesday update. Heres the bottom line. I dont know, and I really dont even care why youre making these stealth changes. Get out of my machine and stay out. And people wonder why I recommend desktop Linux over Windows! Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
 
 
 
 
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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