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Microsoft's decision to pre-load Windows 10 upgrade sans consent is ill-advised

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 16, 2015
Dispenses with 'industry practice' claim about downloading upgrade to PCs whose owners didn't ask for bits

Microsoft did publicize the Get Windows 10 app on June 1, the same day it began triggering it on most devices, but that was several months after word circulated of the practice.

It did nothing of the sort before starting to pre-load the OS upgrade on Windows 7 and 8.1 machines whose owners had not reserved a copy. While the rationale may have made sense within Microsoft -- whether for the expressed purpose of speeding up the upgrade process, as it claimed last week, or with an implied agenda of boosting adoption, which smacked of duplicity to some -- it struck a nerve with the power users whom Microsoft has traditionally relied on as its ambassadors.

"Big mistake on Microsoft's part. If people didn't opt-in for the upgrade, they should not have to download it," opined Adam Forcount in a comment appended to Computerworld's story last week about the background upgrade downloading practice. "This kind of behavior from Microsoft is extremely disheartening. If I had wanted someone else to decide how I should use my computer, I would have bought an Apple product."

Forcount may have cited Apple as a reason. In mid-2014, Apple caught flak for automatically shoving U2's new album, Songs of Innocence, to customers' iPhones, Macs and other devices. The promotion was quickly raked over the coals by people with arguments similar to those Windows users have raised about the background download of Windows 10. Less than a week later, Apple issued a tool that deleted the album from iTunes accounts and so stopped the synchronization with devices that led to the downloads.

Apple had announced the free U2 album at a September 2014 event where it unveiled the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but had not asked for customers' approval before dropping it in their iTunes accounts.

That has been Windows 7 and 8.1 owners' biggest beef -- that they weren't told of the download beforehand or asked to approve or decline it before it landed on their disk drive.

The failure to ask led to other complaints from people served the Windows 10 upgrade. Not surprisingly, among the first to notice the I-did-not-ask-for-this were people who have data caps mandated by their Internet service providers (ISPs), particularly those who rely on a cellular connection to the Internet. When they exceeded their allotments -- and were charged for the extra or saw their bandwidth throttled for overuse -- they began to look for answers.

Windows 7 does not include a "metered" connection feature -- a way to tell the OS not to download extraneous data, including all but priority updates -- as does Windows 8.1. And even the latter's implementation is far from foolproof.


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