MICROSOFT HAS faced its critics headlong, albeit two weeks later and not very well, with a statement to the INQUIRER clarifying its position on automatic updates to Windows 10 Professional.
We're asked to point to Microsoft article KB3080351, entitled 'How to manage Windows 10 notification and upgrade options'.
In it, Microsoft answers almost all the burning questions which we've had following the mass of complaints regarding the process, apart from, um, round about none of 'em.
The company includes details of what the upgrade arrangements are for Windows 10 Professional and how they can be overridden. However, this is all information that (to use Microsoft's own language) needed 'transparency' before the run of complaints from users who don't read every blog and Knowledge Base article like it's a holy scripture because they're, you know, doing their jobs and that.
It has the feeling of Arthur Dent's experience with the local council in the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.
"It was on display at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying beware of the leopard."
It quoth, "Qualified computers and devices that are deployed in your organization and that are running Windows 7 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro are eligible for the free Windows 10 upgrade offer and will be able to upgrade through Windows Update."
In other words "Professional doesn't mean Enterprise, so you'll get an upgrade".
The company previously issued a statement denying claims from users that Windows 10 has begun to install automatically onto their machines.
It emphasised that users still have control over when their update takes place. The statement reads
"We shared in late October on the Windows Blog, 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," a Microsoft spokesperson told the INQUIRER.
"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."
The blog in question says, "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.
"Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue. And of course, if you choose to upgrade (our recommendation!), then you will have 31 days to roll back to your previous Windows version if you don't love it."
Customers are, however, still feeling that for whatever reason, they are not in control over the process, claiming that it has started updating automatically. Whether that is because the process has gone wrong, or because the wording of the update has been phrased to make it sound inevitable is debatable and that part we've had no clear explanation of.
This is already happening with the "Upgrade Now" and "Upgrade Tonight" options which don't have a clear explanation of how to opt out. So not "transparent" at all then. Microsoft may choose to argue that they are giving you the option, however obtusely it is phrased.
More worrying, however, is the fact that all this still fails to engage with the hundreds of users who claim that their update has started automatically and is a problem.
A discussion on Reddit first claimed that users of Windows 7 Professional, which already had a payload of nagware for Internet Explorer dumped on it last Patch Tuesday, have seen their machines updating without any user intervention at all.
"This came up on all of our work computers. I told IT. They basically said oh fuck," said one Redditor.
The action led to comments where life was actually being put at risk by the unilateral action: "I needed to set up my department's bronchoscopy cart quickly for someone with some sick lungs. I shit you not, when I turned on the computer it had to do a Windows update."
Microsoft had promised to ramp up its efforts to enforce updates last year within Windows Update as it pushes to meet its target of over two billion devices running Windows 10 by 2017.
However, the company has come under increasing scrutiny for the heavy-handed approach to the process, which is having disastrous consequences for some.
"It broke my dad's Bootcamp configuration for OS X. Windows 10 loves to switch to using UEFI and can break other boot loaders."
The problem seems to be affecting all manner of organisations.
"We've been getting calls trickling in all week from doctor's offices, dental practices, B&Bs, and roofing companies - among others - that have been hit by this and it's a fucking mess.
"In some cases the upgrade went OK and the user is just really confused. In others Windows 10 is asking for a login password the user set years ago and hasn't used since, that was fun. In still another it's screwed up access to their shared folders.
"I'm >this < close to telling the techs to disable automatic updates completely for all business customers."
Others have likened the experience to being violated.
"It happened to me last week. I'm still furious. It feels like someone broke into my house, installed spyware on my computer and rendered my favorite applications useless. Fuck you Microsoft. Fuck you to hell."
The problem reportedly affected even system administrators who had previously blocked the upgrade as Microsoft appears to have reclassified it, meaning that it has to be blocked again to avoid this happening.
In the interest of balance, an Australian reader wrote to us overnight with an angry retort exclaiming that they had no problem whatsoever with the upgrade process and that we ought to mention it. So now we have. It's not affecting everyone. But we knew that.
Even if this turns out to be an accident, this is the second one since Windows 10 was launched and the company has to make sure that there isn't a third. Next time it could be a life-support machine. An extreme example, and we realise that the chances of a life support machine being left this vulnerable are tiny. But the point remains.
This level of power without responsibility will eventually end up killing somebody. µ
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