The aggressive Windows 10 upgrade campaign continues to raise the ire of users towards Microsoft. However, according to NetMarketShare, the new operating system’s (OS) market share rose to 17.43 percent in May, prompting the tech giant to continue turning up the pressure on users still running Windows 7 and 8.
The Register reported that a user sent them a screenshot showing a popup to schedule the Windows 10 install that had no visible close button. The window dialog offers two options: schedule a time for the upgrade, or upgrade now. With seemingly no way to exit the window, users are being tricked into accepting the upgrade just to get the popup off the screen. Tech-savvy users know that one only needs to press Alt-F4 to close the window, but many average users are unaware of this.
According to BetaNews, a Microsoft spokesperson stated, “The Register report is inaccurate. The Windows 10 upgrade is a choice — designed to help people take advantage of the most secure, and most productive Windows. People receive multiple notifications to accept the upgrade, and can reschedule or cancel the upgrade if they wish.”
When asked about the screenshot showing the window with no close button or cancel option, the spokesperson said Microsoft would be “looking into it.”
This latest move is just the most recent in a long line of bold steps that Microsoft has taken to increase user turnover to Windows 10. The leader in desktop operating systems began this campaign in September, 2015. Since that time, Windows 10 market share has steadily grown by 10.8 percent. This growth rate is nearly double what it was before the push began. This rise seems to have fueled further aggression by Microsoft. Users have seen the campaign grow increasingly more intrusive to the point of continually nagging, deceptive on-screen prompts, and adware included in updates.
Microsoft’s marketing blitz started by making Windows 10 an optional update in the Windows Update utility last September. This move was not too much of a problem, since the Windows 10 Upgrade box remained unchecked when performing routine updates. However, some users who had the update utility set to “accept all updates” found themselves having to cancel out of a Windows 10 installation when starting their computers.
Then in October, users were greeted by a “Welcome to Windows 10” upgrade installer screen when they went to update the latest security patches. According to Forbes, Microsoft claimed this was an “accident.” The company had, without notice, changed the optional Windows 10 upgrade box to default to the checked condition. Microsoft acknowledged the mistake in late October and removed the check mark, claiming it was an error in the most recent Windows update that had caused the problem. However, InfoWorld called the company out, claiming to have found a screenshot from October 9 showing the box as checked by default.
“That means Microsoft checked the box on Oct. 9 or earlier — long before ‘the recent Windows update,’ ” InfoWorld stated.
At the beginning of 2016, Microsoft turned up the forcefulness of its Windows 10 upgrade drive by changing it from “optional” to “recommended” in Windows Update, reported Forbes. On the surface, this does not seem significant, but since IT professionals suggest keeping the update utility set to download and install recommended updates for security reasons, this status change affected most users. As a result, many users discovered Windows 10 upgrade screens when performing an update or when starting up their computers.
Throughout all of this, a popup urging users to upgrade to Windows 10 began appearing starting in December. The dialog window, caused by a program called GWX.exe included in the KB3035583 Windows update, operates similarly to malware, adware, or nagware. The program resides in the system tray and displays a popup asking users to upgrade to Windows 10 whenever they start their computer. So as if all the Windows Update nonsense was not enough, Microsoft added yet another persistent tactic with which users had to contend.
The GWX program was annoying but easily dealt with by closing the window. However, PCWorld reported that Microsoft changed the behavior of the close button on the window. Closing the dialog unknowingly gave consent to the process and Windows 10 upgrade files began downloading in the background. This action got social media all fired up again as people grew angry at the deceptive ploy.
According to How-To Geek, it also prompted security researcher Steve Gibson to write a freeware program called Never10. Users can run Never10, and it will disable the GWX program. The software also informs users whether Windows 10 files have been downloaded and offers the option to delete them.
Many were upset that they had been forced or tricked into a Windows 10 upgrade that they did not want. Some were angry that the upgrade caused software or hardware that was critical to their businesses to stop functioning properly. Still others complained that the six-gigabyte download caused overages on their internet data plans.
The Chinko Project, which organizes rangers in Africa to protect wildlife from poachers, complained that not only did the unwanted upgrade cost them a lot of money to download from their satellite link, the bandwidth shortage also crashed the system that they use to communicate with field operators.
One of the project’s team members told the Register, “If a forced upgrade happened and crashed our PCs while in the middle of coordinating rangers under fire from armed militarized poachers, blood could literally be on Microsoft’s hands.”
Microsoft once again fell back on the excuse that they are trying to make it easier for users who will “eventually” upgrade by having the files already pre-downloaded, and that users are still not being forced to switch.
It is not Microsoft’s fault that the Chinko Project did not have precautions set up to prevent the download from happening.
The project operates using donated laptops, which are all installed with Windows 7 or 8. One ranger who is a pilot for the project is the only person with advanced IT skills. He is currently scrambling to fix the rest of the laptops to prevent the download from happening again.
The problem is not that Microsoft is trying to push a bad OS onto users. On the contrary, Windows 10 has received good reviews. There have been a few issues reported regarding drivers and stability problems, but most critics seem to agree that it is a good upgrade from Windows 7 and 8. However, just because it is good, or even better than what a user has, does not mean that it is okay to force users to adopt it. While Microsoft continues to maintain that it is not forcing the upgrade, the overwhelming consensus among users on social media is that they feel forced.
The 10.8 percent market share increase that Windows 10 has had since September is obviously due to the company’s aggressive campaign. So since the strategy seems to be working, it is unlikely that Microsoft will back off from the overbearing marketing scheme even though a portion of the increase comes from “accidental” upgrades.
While the heavy-handed promotional ploy seems to be working to get users to upgrade to Windows 10 for now, time will tell if it actually pushes users to Microsoft’s competitors. Could Apple see a nudge in market share from disgruntled Windows users? Time will tell.
[Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images]