Windows 10 forces home users to update
The world is no more that 10 day away from the official launch of Windows 10 and based on the most recent Preview Build 10240, released on July 15, as well as the recently published Windows 10 end user license agreement (EULA), it’s clear that the home version of Windows 10, at least, will not allow users to disable automatic updates.
The Windows 10 EULA is unequivocal:
“By accepting this agreement, you agree to receive these types of automatic updates without any additional notice”.
This represents a real break with both past and present Windows operating systems.
Going back at least to XP, Microsoft has allowed users to be quite choosy about installing Windows updates — to defer and even skip installing them.
That was then, this is now
The “Windows Update” Control Panel is gone from Windows 10, replaced by an “Update & Security” pane accessed under “Settings” via the Windows menu (aka Start menu).
Clicking on “Advanced Options” takes you to the familiar “Choose how updates are installed” pull-down menu.
In Windows 10, however, there are only two options:
- Automatic (recommended)
- Notify to schedule restart
In Windows 8 the “Choose how updates are installed” pull-down still has all the options that Windows users have been given going back at least to Windows XP:
- Install updates automatically (recommended)
- Download updates but let me choose whether to install them
- Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them
- Never check for updates (not recommended)
Windows 10 simply does not give home users the ability to say no to an update or to cherry-pick what they want to install.
It should come as no surprise if Windows 10 updates will be forced on home users. Microsoft can justify it both on the grounds of quality control and security, pointing to the potential security risks cause by people not rushing to manually update their Flash Player plug-ins after three major exploitable Flash bugs were revealed (and patched) in as many weeks.
However, it really will surprise me if Microsoft dumbs-down the update options in the professional/enterprise versions of Windows 10.
Microsoft may now try to argue that forcing auto update on users will improve security and stability but for nearly 20 years the most experienced Windows users have believed the exact opposite.
Network administrators, especially, have learned to take a wait-and-see attitude — to watch the reports from the hapless auto update crowd.
This is all because Microsoft has a long tradition of releasing some very buggy Windows updates — about five real klangers a year, that really knock Windows for a loop.
“auto update at your peril”
Microsoft has probably pumped out hundreds of seriously feature-breaking Windows updates going back 20 years but let’s just skim 18 updates from the last three years.
Let’s begin, shall we?
Network World began 2013 by reminding readers about the perils of auto updating Windows by recapping the five worst automatic updates from 2012 that each made life a living hell for Windows users.
And in 2013 Microsoft sent out ay least five more seriously broken updates, according to HowToGeeks; the last being a broken firmware update for the Surface Pro 2 hardware which went unfixed for over a month.
An August 13, 2014, update (KB2918614) broke the Windows installer service, meaning users of Windows 7-8.1 couldn’t install or uninstall other applications until they uninstalled the update (you can see how that might have been difficult).
In October, 2014, ZDNet described “another buggy update” (Microsoft Security Advisory 2949927) that had to be pulled only three days after it was issued on October 14, 2014. And how Microsoft had been forced to pull two updates in September and another four in August.
A December 10, 2014, Windows update (KB3004394) caused so many problems, such as preventing the operating system from installing new graphics drivers that Microsoft advised Windows 7 users to uninstall it and then went so far as to provide an update to do the uninstalling.
In the first seven months of 2015 I can only find three well-documented broken updates and only two of them could be called serious.
A February 10 Windows update (KB3013455) caused the font ‘Courier New’ to become corrupted. Removing the update fixed the problem, explained Microsoft.
On March 10 a Windows update (KB3033929) was a huge headache, causing, among other things, a reboot loop. This patch was actually a re-release of the ill-fated Microsoft Security Advisory 2949927 that had been such a disaster in October of 2014. Both times the solution was to uninstall the update.
And on April 14, 2015, Windows update (KB 3013769) broke a whole bunch of things, including Skype for Business.
Will broken Windows updates take their place beside bug reports?
It really is an open question whether applying Windows updates hasn’t actually caused more Windows system failures and downtime than not applying the updates in a timely fashion.
What isn’t in question is the amount of tech media, much of it quite familiar with Microsoft’s track record on updates, that is just waiting for Microsoft to wrong-foot its new software-as-service delivery model for Windows 10.
Whereas the tech press has long reported broken Windows updates like uncontrollable bad weather, Microsoft’s new policy of forcing automatic updates on users will give everyone a good excuse to rake the Redmond software giant over the coals every time it releases a buggy update to Windows 10.
And unless Microsoft has truly broken itself of the habit of regularly breaking its own operating system with bad updates, then it’s likely that the tech press will take to reporting the results of each broken update with the kind of gleeful hyperbole previously reserved for the golden age (2003-2005) of Windows viruses!
And hold the press! There may be a small ray of hope for update control freaks. the editor of 4Sysop, who is an actual Microsoft MVP, says that he knows how to turn off automatic update in Windows 10 — basically, it involves killing it with fire!
It’s the devil you know, only better
The official launch date for Microsoft’s next-gen Windows operating system is Wednesday, July 29. All the pre-release Windows 10 Insider Preview product keys have been deactivated as of that date and Microsoft has launched its countdown promotion with slogans like: “It’s familiar” and “It’s the Windows you know, only better” and, my personal favourite — “It’s how the doing gets done”. Click the images to enlarge them.