Tech Talk: Windows 10 Upgrades: I Hear Stories…

Thursday, July 21, 2016

I hear stories...
By Brian Boston

Windows 10 Upgrades: I Hear Stories…
In helping people with Windows 10 upgrades, I hear a lot of stories. So do you:
  • “I heard Windows 10 has a lot of problems.”
  • “I heard Microsoft is upgrading people without their permission.”
  • “I hear that there are privacy concerns with Windows 10.”

There are other rumors going around but these seem to be the top three I hear. Usually these concerns come without specifics, because most of us remember the headlines long after the details have faded. It’s difficult to respond without the actual context of the concern. The best I can do is give me my “take” on what the concern is and whether it should be your concern. So here goes:

Windows 10 has a lot of problems – Not Accurate
As someone who installs Windows 10 once to twice a week and has been using it on many systems for more than a year (if you count pre-release versions), I am always surprised to hear people tell me this. As a support guy, I expect to directly encounter all sorts of problems. Windows 10 has been one of the least problematic upgrades I have ever experienced. It doesn’t mean that Windows 10 is problem-free, but I find it more forgiving than other Windows versions. We can’t escape problems with old hardware or out-of-date software, but it handled nearly everything else well.

This lack of serious issues made it hard for tech journalists to come up with the usual articles around the public release of Windows 10 detailing problems. So the stuff they found was more obscure and unusual, leaving more room for speculation and concerns. Unfortunately, the headlines were still the same size. Bill Gates was speaking about Gates Foundation work when he said, “Headlines in a way are what mislead you because bad news is a headline and gradual improvement is not.” Good software launches seem to also fit that pattern.

Upgrading to Windows 10 without permission – Not Technically Accurate, But Very Annoying
While Windows 10 has a very smooth upgrade experience overall, their aggressive practices to get people to upgrade have been less laudable. Besides the endless update reminders, the practice of “pre-downloading” the upgrade on people’s systems and changes in how the upgrade is handled through Windows Update. That last set of items has tripped many people up and caused unintended upgrades.

The first occurred when, Microsoft started moving the Windows 10 upgrade on Windows 8.1 and 7 systems from an “Optional” status to “Recommended.” This shouldn’t be a problem, except that most people who are using automatic updates are installing, by default, any Recommended updates. In effect, Windows 10 starts a download-and-install process on these systems. While it’s possible to stop the process at a couple of points (like not agreeing to the user license when prompted), the options to say no aren’t terribly obvious. This has led people to thinking they haven’t agreed to the upgrade when, technically, they have.

If you prefer not to upgrade to Windows 10 or wish to upgrade of your own accord, you need to turn off the feature that automatically installs Recommended updates. I have detailed steps to do this in this document. The first two pages lay out the problem with page 3 going step-by-step through the solution.  Essentially, you are going to the Windows Update tool and unchecking an item in the Change Settings area designed to give you recommend updates the same way you receive important updates. While I have mentioned this before, it’s clear from discussions that the message benefits from repeating it here.

You can also put an end to the most aggressive upgrade “incentives” by using Steve Gibson’s tool Never 10 tool. This simple utility uses methods provided in Windows to suppress these messages and can be reversed at any time to allow you to install on your terms.

Windows 10 privacy concerns – Not as Bad as You Think …and Largely Controllable
With little evidence of technical problems at Windows 10’s release, at lot of tech press focused attention on the information that Window 10 collects about you, your preferences, and your system.  Within all the claims and clamor, concerns break into four areas of possible collection:
    1. System Improvement
      Though Microsoft has been collecting information on computer crashes for years to improve stability on their systems, the depth and detail of information collected has increased dramatically in the last few years. Most of this kind of detail known as “system telemetry” details your computer’s behavior and how you interact with it to improve future product releases. By default, Windows 10 ‘s Diagnostic and usage data (under the Feedback and diagnostic areas in Settings/Privacy) is set to Full. You can limit the capability by changing the setting to Basic or Enhanced. See Microsoft’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on feedback, diagnostic, and privacy .
    2. Network WIFI Settings
      Windows 10 adds a capability previously called WI-FI sense on Windows phones that lets you share trusted WI-FI settings with people in your Contact Lists. This is one group of privacy settings I prefer to disable. You will find them in Settings/Network/Wi-Fi/Manage Wi-FI Settings. “Connect to suggested open hotspots” and “Connect to networks shared by my contacts” can both be switched off. Microsoft appears to be removing this feature in its next major release of Windows 10, due shortly after the July 29 free upgrade period ends.
    3. Ad preferences
      Microsoft, like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, collects information on searches, purchases and other Internet activity to help guide what advertising is presented to you in its products, web sites and services. The data profile it collects shows preferences buts doesn’t contain any personal data. The only association with you and your Microsoft account is an “advertising id.” While it’s possible to turn off this advertising id, this only has the consequence of making the ads you see more generic and less based on your interests. You can do this in Windows 10 using Settings/ Privacy/ General/ Let apps use my advertising ID….  Also, this can be controlled through Microsoft’s “Opt-Out” web page.
    4. Cortana
      Perhaps the newest data collector and the most “personal,” Cortana will collect information about your interests and activities IF you tell it to do so. If you are concerned about what Cortana will track, go to the Notebook on Cortana’s menu and disable the features you wish not to track. You can also go to the Bing Personalization page  and clear information on Interests it has already collected.

There are, of course, many more stories I hear about Windows 10, especially as we inch closer to the end of July and end of its free upgrade period. More on that in an upcoming post. Perhaps the most important point of confusion for many people is "end of the free upgrade period" means.

Defining the "End of Free"
It does mean that upgrades from 7 or 8.1 will no longer be free after midnight, July 29th. It doesn't mean that people who have already upgraded to Windows 10 will need to pay for future upgrades. If you have already upgraded to Windows 10, you will be automatically upgraded for free to the next Windows 10 release, due to be released on August 2nd. Microsoft has stated that people who have already upgraded will continue to get free upgrades for the life of their computer.

Boston LegacyWorks, LLC offers talks and individual help on technology topics, troubleshooting and tutoring on PC usage, and services so you can manage and maintain your computer, your network of computers, or how they connect with the world. Contact us for information on how we can help you.


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