Since its release last July, the newest version of Windows has generally been considered a success, especially compared with its predecessor Windows 8/8.1. However, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Here are seven controversies that have been stirred up by Microsoft’s latest OS.
1. Upgrade angst
Microsoft really, really wants those of you holding onto Windows 7 to upgrade to Windows 10. The company has been giving away the latest Windows as a free download installation for any computer that’s running a legit copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.
Since the release of Windows 10 last summer, users of Windows 7 or Windows 8 whose computers have Windows Update set to automatically update the OS have gotten pop-up notices telling them to upgrade to Windows 10, and the large installation files for it (which can be about 6GB) have downloaded in the background onto their system’s main drive, usually without the user directly consenting to this. Initially, Microsoft did provide the option to delay the upgrade, and hacks were figured out by users to put off the upgrading and stop the installation files from being downloaded. But Microsoft has become more aggressive in thwarting efforts to block the download by pushing through strongly worded notices that give just two options: “Upgrade now” or “Upgrade tonight.”
Microsoft announced on May 5 that the nagging would stop -- but not in response to public outcry: On July 29, Windows 10 will no longer be offered as a free upgrade to legitimate Windows 7 and Windows 8 licenses.
2. Windows 7 won’t be supported on new hardware
Microsoft announced that only the latest versions of Windows (which includes Windows 10) will be designed to work fully with future CPU architectures. Although Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 will probably still run on upcoming processors, Microsoft doesn’t plan to provide technical support for this. (The company did specify that it would support Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 running on systems with Intel Skylake processors until July 17, 2018.)
Basically, this was another “hint” by the company to those still holding off upgrading to Windows 10: Soon, you might not be able to install Windows 7 on a new computer you buy or build. Or, the older Windows may not run correctly or fully take advantage of the new processor’s capabilities.
3. Documentation lacking
Whenever an update to an older Windows version was pushed out, Microsoft would provide documentation listing all the changes that were made to the OS. When the updates for Windows 10 were rolled out throughout the months following its release, very few technical details were provided. This upset many users, and is an obvious concern, for example, for enterprise IT managers who must vet updates before they are installed.
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Fortunately, Microsoft began to rectify this by launching a “Windows 10 update history” website, starting with the Feb. 9 update.
A brouhaha erupted over an article published by Forbes in which it was inferred that the Enterprise editions of Windows 10 were sending an alarmingly large amount of user telemetry data to Microsoft’s servers. Others in the tech news field shot down this claim and explained what actually happened: Very briefly, Windows 10 was doing what any OS does when trying to connect, and reconnect, to networks across the Internet.
Back in November, the first major update to Windows 10 added the option to let enterprise users turn off the gathering of telemetry and other tracking data: “Also in today’s update, we’re delivering on our promise to enable our enterprise customers to turn off all telemetry data if they choose. We strongly recommend against this, as this data helps us deliver a secure, reliable, and more delightful personalized experience.”
5. Security update snafus
A required security update to Windows 10 was reported to have set the default program settings on many users’ computers to Microsoft’s own programs. So if you had set Chrome as your favored default, after installing this update, Edge might have returned as the default browser for Windows 10. And music files would have launched in the Groove Music app, images in the Photos app, and video files in the Movies & TV app. (Users who had this issue reported that changing the choices for default applications back to their favorites would still be reset to Microsoft’s apps upon rebooting Windows 10.)
Removing this update in question, KB 3135173, fixed this problem, but Windows 10 would remind afflicted users to reinstall this update, which could not be ignored indefinitely. It should be noted that this issue didn’t affect all Windows 10 users, and Microsoft acknowledged it as a bug, which may have been fixed in additional updates that the company has since issued.
6. Ads on lock screen
In a feature called Windows Spotlight, the lock screen displays a random picture pulled from Microsoft’s servers. It’s usually a cool photo of something architectural, a landscape, or from nature. It was reported by site How-To Geek that an ad for the video game Rise of the Tomb Raider began showing up on the Windows 10 lock screen for some users. If you don’t like seeing such ads, you can send Microsoft your disapproval by clicking the “Like what you see?” link in the upper-right corner of the lock screen (which you can also do to any non-ad image you don’t like).
Another option is to turn off Windows Spotlight: Type “lock screen settings” into the Cortana search box (or in the search box of the Settings app) to launch these settings. Under “Background,” select either “Picture” or “Slideshow.” Then, slide the switch below “Get fun facts, tips, tricks, and more on your lock screen” to “Off.” Suggestion to Microsoft: Put in a “no ads” switch. Otherwise, many users might decide not to keep Windows Spotlight on at all.
7. Third-party programs disappear after installing a new build of Windows 10
If after you install a new build of Windows 10, and you notice that one or more of your favorite programs are missing, you’re not imagining things. Apparently this is an intentional feature at the moment: Installing a new build of Windows 10 will sometimes uninstall programs that the OS considers “incompatible” or “outdated,” without notifying the user. Ostensibly, this could also be a security feature meant to take out programs that could be malware.
However, legitimate programs that have been reported by users to have disappeared after installing the latest build of Windows 10 include popular utilities like CCleaner, CPU-Z, HWMonitor and Speccy. And most of these programs still work normally on Windows 10 when they’re re-installed. (To clarify, this automatic removal of certain programs may happen whenever a new “build” of Windows 10 is installed, not when an “update” is installed.
The difference between the two is that an update consists of bug fixes and security patches applied to the version of Windows 10 already installed on a computer. A build is a new version of Windows 10 that has more in-depth changes to the OS’ codebase and may add new features: Installing a newer build entirely replaces the older version of Windows 10 running on the computer.)
Suggestion to Microsoft: Alert and ask the user if they want to let a new build of Windows 10 remove certain programs already installed on their current Windows 10 setup, and maintain a better list of which programs are “bad” or “good” (legit programs).
This story, "Windows 10’s biggest controversies" was originally published by Network World.