Next year's Windows 10 auto-upgrade is MSFT's worst idea since Vista
Do you want virus outbreaks? Because that's how you get 'em
Comment Microsoft's decision to push out Windows 10 upgrades as automatic Windows Update downloads is one of those ideas that sounded great in a Redmond meeting room, but will cause more problems than it solves.
Right from the get-go Microsoft has made it clear that it is looking for a very fast rollout of Windows 10. The new operating system was offered as a free upgrade for some users – a first for Microsoft – and ever since the launch, Microsoft has been hustling people to upgrade, by fair means or foul.
Earlier this month El Reg's tips inbox hit overload with readers complaining that Windows 10 was downloading itself automatically whether or not the end user had opted in or wanted to install it. For people with suddenly crammed hard drives, this was a huge pain in the backside and it caused a lot of anger.
Nowadays, if you boot up a Windows 7 or 8 system you'll see a variety of popups encouraging you to upgrade – roughly every few days, based on Vulture West's experience. These are annoying but perfectly legitimate advertising.
But deciding to make the upgrade part of the patching cycle is a grave mistake. True, it's only going to be an optional upgrade at the moment, but by early next year the pressure is going to be raised, and anyone who automatically installs recommended security patches will find themselves with a new operating system waiting to start.
And just about everyone installs recommended updates automatically because Microsoft insists on it.
This isn't going to be an issue for companies – IT managers know the score and they will install Windows 10 when they are good and ready (if at all) – and tech-savvy consumers will also be prepared.
But users who don't know much about technology are going to get caught up in Microsoft's upgrade plans, and they aren't going to like it. As Apple found out with U2's freebie album, pushing things on computer users whether they like it or not is a bad idea.
Getting a download from a bunch of fading rockers is one thing, but getting a new operating system is quite another. I've already had a call from an elderly relative asking about this and she's not keen, as she's only just learned how to use Windows 8 in the last few years and doesn't fancy redoing all that.
When I explained the situation to her the response was as you'd expect – she's turning automatic updates off to block the download. She says she'll do the job manually, but as someone who has been providing technical support for the last decade or so, I'll bet good money that won't happen.
It's likely to be the same story for a lot of other Windows users. Update settings are going to be changed and, as a result, we're going to see a lot more operating system and application software flaws going unpatched.
Malware writers and phishers are going to have a field day with this. It typically takes less than a week after Microsoft announces its Patch Tuesday fixes for the scummier side of the internet to reverse-engineer them and distribute to take advantage of the unpatched.
You can understand why Microsoft is so keen for everyone to make the switch to Windows 10. It is, in some ways, a much better operating system than its predecessors. It's also key to Microsoft's ambitions for multi-device and platform users who can now have the OS on phones, tablets, and computers, with universal apps running across all of them.
But if you only use your computer for email, browsing online, some light word processing, and viewing movies or photographs, there's little reason for it, and good reasons not to upgrade. Windows 10 is bandwidth-heavy compared to older OSes, grabs a lot of data from its users unless precautions are taken, and has a slight – but annoyingly noticeable – learning curve.
Microsoft should be trying to sell the operating system on its merits, not trying to force it down people's throats. Its tactics in doing so will lose it a lot of goodwill, a fair few customers, and will probably increase the returns for computer criminals. ®
Sponsored: 2016 Cyberthreat defense report