While it’s no secret that Microsoft is trying to move its customers to Windows 10 as quickly as possible, I hadn’t realized that the move had become an imperative.
That realization came while I was attending a presentation by the Lynchburg (Va.) Amateur Radio Club on how to build a software-defined radio and heard a discussion about the control software, most of which runs on Windows.
The engineer leading the discussion was clearly annoyed because the laptop computer he used to operate his SDRs had suddenly been upgraded to Windows 10, and in the process his control software stopped working properly.
He found, as have many others, that the drivers necessary to make everything work didn’t run with Windows 10. Until he could find the time to switch his computer back to Windows 7, his control software wouldn’t work again.
Until then I’d thought that Microsoft would give Windows users a warning before running an automatic Windows 10 installation as Microsoft Vice President Terry Myerson said in his blog entry announcing the upgrade procedures late in 2015. Now it appeared that Microsoft wasn’t actually giving Windows users that opportunity to opt out, or at least delay the automatic upgrade.
For its part, Microsoft is saying that users do have control of the Windows 10 upgrade. “We shared in late October on the Windows Blog,” a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK in an email, that “we are committed to making it easy for our Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers to upgrade to Windows 10.
As stated in that post, we have updated the upgrade experience to make it easier for customers to schedule a time for their upgrade to take place. Customers continue to be fully in control of their devices, and can choose to not install the Windows 10 upgrade or remove the upgrade from Windows Update (WU) by changing the WU settings.”
This means you have to manually change the Windows Update settings so you don’t automatically get updates. Once you do that, you will need to check for and approve any updates to Windows before they’re installed. You do have the ability to pick which updates you want and which you don’t. But that means that you run the risk of missing what could be some critical updates if you forget to check.
PC Users Caught Unprepared for Automatic Windows 10 Upgrades
It also appears that you do, in fact, get the option of whether to accept the upgrade to Windows 10, but you have to be watching your computer when it happens and then know where to look. In this case there’s a “More Information” link on the screen that appears if you’re watching. If you click on that link you’ll get the option to decline the upgrade.
You also have the ability to uninstall the Windows 10 upgrade if you don’t want it. As the Windows 10 installation runs, it saves your earlier Windows version along with the settings you were using. This allows you to run an uninstaller to remove the new version and reinstall your old Windows version.
The downside to reverting is that it doesn’t happen very fast, so you can easily waste a couple of hours while your computer churns away. After you have done all that, you’ll still have to go change Windows Update or you’re going to have to go through it all again.
Microsoft’s motivation for doing this sort of forced upgrade is understandable. The company has had to deal with people hanging on to obsolete versions of Windows for years and continuing to demand support long after they could have moved to a version of Windows that was more stable and more secure. When you have an installed base the size of the one for Windows, it’s certainly a burden.
But the question is whether it’s enough of a burden to have previously loyal customers say things like, “I think it’s time to get a Mac,” or to express other comments, most of which can’t be repeated here.
In this case, wouldn’t it have been a better course to at least be more transparent to users, especially those in small- and medium-sized businesses who probably haven’t read Terry Myerson’s blog from last fall?
You have to remember that not everyone is enough of a geek to read Microsoft pronouncements on a daily basis. After all, that’s why you have me. But instead most Windows users are busy running their businesses or doing their jobs and to some extent depending on the reliability and stability of Microsoft.
Those are the same users who are likely to be using obscure drivers, perhaps for devices they bought a long time ago, but which worked fine with Windows 7.
Such a thing happened to me when I moved to Windows 10 – a very high-quality but old Minolta slide scanner would no longer work. More recently, a package of control drivers for a VHF radio I have generated error messages, and then simply wouldn’t run. That radio is now probably beyond help as well.
But this isn’t about me. After all, I have some fairly obscure uses for Windows. But Microsoft’s customer base is made up of millions of small- and medium- sized businesses, many of which have specialized needs. Those specialized needs are part of the reason for the slow move away from Windows XP. By trying to force an upgrade, Microsoft may be ultimately giving voice to those who find an alternative to Windows altogether.