Microsoft is happy with its Windows 10 adoption figures and new changes to the automatic Windows Update feature on earlier versions of the operating system may push those numbers higher in the coming months.
At last count, Microsoft reported that there were 110 million devices running Windows 10, due in large part to the free upgrade program the company kicked off on July 29. Eligible Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs would display a Windows 10 logo in the task bar, prompting users to reserve their copy. Using a staggered approach to avoid overwhelming their download servers, Microsoft would then alert users that their new OS was ready to install.
Now, months after the initial surge in demand, Microsoft is enlisting the automatic Windows Update patching system to upgrade laggard PCs.
"We will soon be publishing Windows 10 as an 'Optional Update' in Windows Update for all Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers," Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, wrote in an Oct. 30 blog post. Come 2016, Microsoft is taking things up a notch.
"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," Myerson cautioned.
Users needn't fear a stealth upgrade to Windows 10, assured Myerson. "Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue." Those still having second thoughts have a month to roll back to their previous Windows 7 or 8.1 setup.
"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," stated Myerson.
Microsoft's Media Creation Tool is updated, too. IT professionals and PC enthusiasts who would rather use a DVD or USB key for an upgrade or fresh Windows 10 install will be able to use a single image for Home or Pro (32- or 64-bit) versions.
Finally, Myerson added yet another wrinkle to the back-and-forth saga of upgrades on pirated copies of Windows.
Initially, Microsoft indicated that pirated or "non-genuine" copies of Windows were eligible for an upgrade. The company later reversed course, requiring a legitimate copy of Windows 7 or 8.1. After observing the "creative efforts" of users of pirated copies to upgrade and how many of them bought the upgrade, the software maker is trying a different tack.
Myerson said Microsoft is "going to start an experiment soon in the United States, which we will then evaluate before extending to other countries, to ease the upgrade of non-Genuine Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. We'll offer a one-click opportunity to get Genuine via the Windows Store or by entering an activation code purchased elsewhere." If successful, Microsoft will expand the program, he added.