The saga continues.
Following news that Windows 10 automatically downloads onto Windows 7 and Windows 8 for users who choose to upgrade, Microsoft MSFT -3.95% has now confirmed it has taken things one serious step further: Windows 10 will now download on computers even when users chose NOT to upgrade.
This somewhat shocking development was discovered by The Inquirer when a reader reported Windows 10 had been downloaded onto their computer despite the fact they expressly declined the opportunity to upgrade:
“The symptoms are repeated failed ‘Upgrade to Windows 10′ in the WU update history and a huge 3.5GB to 6GB hidden folder labelled ‘$Windows.~BT’,” the reader explained. “I thought Microsoft [said] this ‘upgrade’ was optional. If so, why is it being pushed out to so many computers where it wasn’t reserved, and why does it try to install over and over again?
He continued: “I know of two instances where people on metered connections went over their data cap for August because of this unwanted download. My own internet (slow DSL) was crawling for a week or so until I discovered this problem. In fact, that’s what led me to it. Not only does it download, it tries to install every time the computer is booted.”
Microsoft Confirms New Policy
Astonishingly this is not a one-off error. Speaking to The Inquirer, Microsoft confirmed this is now something they are doing to all computers running Windows 7 and Windows 8:
“For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade. When the upgrade is ready, the customer will be prompted to install Windows 10 on the device,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.
Now let’s be clear here: with regards to Windows 7 and Windows 8 “individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update” is essentially everyone.
So unless you expressly chose to switch off all Windows updates (not recommended), you will be receiving (and have already received) a 3-6GB silent download. As The Inquirer reader points out, this can be found at: C:\$windows.~BT
Note this is a hidden folder so to view it you need to open File Explorer and go to: Organize > Folder Options > View > Show hidden files, folders, and drives.
The Fall Out
So what to make of this? Quite frankly, while opinions remain divided over Windows 10’s forced updates, for Microsoft to presumptuously take a substantial chunk of every Windows 7 and Windows 8 user’s storage (and data allowance) downloading Windows 10 even if they specifically state they do not want to upgrade is a big step too far.
Personally I cannot see what Microsoft is trying to achieve here. When a user wants Windows 10 they will expect a large download to begin and there to be some waiting time. But Microsoft downloading Windows 10 anyway just to skip this wait for users who don’t want Windows 10 is complete madness.
So what are your options...
What To Do
For those determined not to have their hard drive storage space and/or Internet data allowance wasted by Windows 10, the options are limited.
The most drastic step is to disable Windows Update completely, but I would not recommend it as you are then trapped in a manual cycle of vetting every update to keep your computer update and secure.
Meanwhile the alternative for those who have already had Windows 10 downloaded on their systems is simply to delete the C:\$windows folder. Then again Microsoft has not disclosed whether it will simply start downloading it again!
I have reached out to Microsoft for further clarification here and will update the post when/if the company responds.
In the meantime we are fast seeing Microsoft approach a dangerous crossing. It has already released updates on Windows 7 and Windows 8 which add detailed user tracking akin to Windows 10 and now it is downloading Windows 10 on Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers computers whether users want it or not.
Microsoft needs to be very careful. It took decades to build up user trust, but now it risks tearing everything down in just a few months…