Ever since Microsoft launched Windows 10, the company has come under fire for its aggressive update policies. In the weeks following launch, Windows 7 users were greeted with a giant “Reserve your upgrade today!” banner, every time they launched IE11 (if set to the default home page). At least one of our own writers had a system surprise-install the operating system, despite not being told to do so. And now, in an apparent repeat of what we thought was an odd corner case, Microsoft made an error in Windows Update that’s forcing people to upgrade to Windows 10, whether they wish to do so or not.
The problem, according to Microsoft, is that the Windows 10 Update was switched from “Optional” to “Mandatory” and automatically distributed to users who had “Download and install updates automatically” enabled. PCWorld reports that in at least some cases, users are now locked into an update cycle that they can’t cancel, as shown below. Images courtesy of GWX Control Panel developer Josh Mayfield.
If you see either of the two screens above, it means Microsoft has already downloaded the update and decided to apply it. It’s not yet clear if this can be reversed, or simply delayed. Ars Technica reports that the installer requires manual intervention to proceed, but in at least some cases that evidently defaults to a timer and a reboot counter, as shown above. In a statement, Microsoft said, “In the recent Windows update, this option was checked as default; this was a mistake and we are removing the check.”
This is just the latest ridiculous outcome from Microsoft’s upgrade push. Last month, we found out the company was stealth-downloading the Windows 10 installer, and before that, there were the aforementioned banner ads and obnoxious system tray advertisements.
As a Windows 7 user who has never allowed Microsoft to perform automatic updates, this kind of problem is precisely why I don’t trust the company to do non-security patches by default. It’s not a question of malicious intent but simple human error. Someone hit the wrong button somewhere, and now people who trust Microsoft have a new headache to deal with. Microsoft’s attempts to create a universal update system for Windows 10, in which all updates are shoved out automatically, is a profound mistake. How long before another switch gets hit by accident and a patch or driver pushes out to systems that shouldn’t actually be running it?