Microsoft has heard the complaints about the tactics it’s using to push Windows 10 on users, and it’s finally backing off.
Later this week, the company plans to roll out an update for Windows 7 and 8 that will change the alerts it has been using to promote Windows 10. Unlike before, the alerts will now offer users a clear choice to decline Windows 10. And if users click on the red “x” button to dismiss the alert, Windows will no longer consider that a confirmation that users want to upgrade to the new version.
After hearing from customers that the alert boxes were “confusing,” Microsoft decided to change them, said Lisa Gurry, Microsoft’s senior director for Windows.
“We’re working really hard to address it,” she said. “We’re working hard to deliver a Windows that everyone will really love.”
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In addition to changing how the Windows upgrade prompts work, Microsoft is offering free tech support to all customers who are having trouble with Windows 10, Gurry said. If users whose PCs were upgraded to Windows 10 want to return them to their previous operating system, Microsoft’s customer support staff will walk them through the process free of charge, she said.
The company’s new tack is a welcome change from the increasingly aggressive efforts it had taken to push customers into upgrading their PCs to Windows 10.
Those efforts started last year, when it quietly pushed out an update to Windows 7 and 8 computers that prompted users to upgrade. Microsoft then made it difficult for users to figure out how to cancel the upgrade, hiding any reference to a “cancel” or “decline” option.
In May, it changed the behavior of the “x” button, which is normally used to close windows or dismiss alerts, so that clicking it opted users into the upgrade. It also reclassified the upgrade as a “recommended” update to Windows 7 and 8. That led some computers to upgrade to Windows all on their own because many PCs are set to automatically install recommended updates.
Microsoft has tried to portray such moves as beneficial to customers. It’s offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users only until July 29. After that, customers will have to pay at least $120 to upgrade their PCs to Windows 10.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has been touting Windows 10 as the most secure version of the operating system to date. The company changed the way the “x” button worked to “make it easy to upgrade and take advantage of the security benefits” of Windows 10, Gurry said.
But the company is also looking after its own interests. If it can move users off older versions of its operating systems, it can save money and resources by no longer having to maintain them. And the more people on the new version, the more attractive it will be to software developers, who in turn can potentially lure in new Windows customers with their apps.
Whatever the company’s reasons for pushing Windows 10, its tactics have left many customers frustrated and infuriated. After I wrote a column last week about the Windows 10 upgrade prompts, I was inundated with emails and calls from upset Windows users.
Many complained they had been unwittingly upgraded to Windows 10 or have had to repeatedly dismiss notifications pushing them to upgrade. Some of those who were upgraded found that their PCs could not run some of their older software or wouldn’t interact with peripherals such as printers. Some said they had paid computer technicians hundreds of dollars to restore their systems to their previous versions of Windows.
After declining the Windows 10 upgrade numerous times, San Jose residents Brad and Alice Bryant found that one of their computers had been upgraded overnight without their consent. Their word processing program didn’t work well with the new software.
“To me, this seems like an invasion,” said Alice Bryant, 75. “I feel like they’ve taken away our rights.”
Some users have threatened to file a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft over its aggressive tactics. A Sausalito woman went a step further and actually sued the software giant. Last month, she reportedly won a $10,000 judgment because her computer became almost inoperable after automatically trying and failing to install the Windows 10 update, which she said she hadn’t authorized.
Microsoft does give users whose computers have been upgraded to Windows 10 the option to restore them to their earlier version with a click of a button. But that’s not always a seamless solution. Some users have found that their files have been corrupted or drivers used to interact with printers and other accessories have been deleted.
Until users receive the new update for Windows 7 and 8 that changes the upgrade prompts, they will continue to see the old ones that are difficult to dismiss and will schedule the upgrade if they click the “x” box. As I wrote in an earlier column, users who don’t want to wait for the new update have several other options for blocking the Windows 10 upgrade notifications and permanently preventing their computers from upgrading. Among them are a program called Never10 and one called GWX Control Panel.