Debate Magazine

Beware! Windows 10 Downloaded to Your Computer Without Your Permission

By Eowyn @DrEowyn

Windows 10

If you use Windows as an operating system for your computer, you have been receiving incessant notifications of free upgrades to Windows 10, the newest version.

If you resisted or ignored the offer, no doubt it’s because you know about the many warnings about Windows 10’s violation of your privacy. From Wikipedia:

Under the default “Express” settings, Windows 10 is configured to send various information to Microsoft and other parties, including the collection of user contacts, calendar data, and “associated input data” to personalize “speech, typing, and inking input”, typing and inking data to improve recognition, allowing apps to use a unique “advertising ID” for analytics and advertising personalization (functionality introduced by Windows 8.1) and allow apps to request the user’s location data and send this data to Microsoft and “trusted partners” to improve location detection (Windows 8 had similar settings, except that location data collection did not include “trusted partners”). Users can opt out from most of this data collection, but telemetry data for error reporting and usage is also sent to Microsoft, and this cannot be disabled on non-Enterprise versions of Windows 10. The use of Cortana also requires the collection of data “such as your device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device” to personalize its functionality.

Another criticism of Windows 10 Home is that it permanently set to download all updates automatically, and users cannot individually select updates to install or not.

I’ve been saying “No” to Windows’ incessant reminders to upgrade to Windows 10.” Last night, however, I discovered that just saying no isn’t enough. Windows is downloading to your computer, without your permission, files to prepare your computer to upgrade to Windows 10! 

Cassandra Khaw (UK) reports for arstechnica, Sept. 11, 2015:

You might be in the process of acquiring Windows 10—whether you want the free upgrade or not. Microsoft has confirmed that it is “helping upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they need” in the event that owners decide to migrate to the new OS, even if they have heretofore passed up on “reserving” their free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.

The issue seems to revolve around the Microsoft update KB3035583, and as such it appears to only afflict individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates. As far as we can tell, if you have automatic updates turned off, Windows 10 won’t be pre-loaded onto your PC.

According to The Inquirer, the situation was first reported by an anonymous reader who claimed to have discovered a hidden directory called $Windows.~BT on his computer, despite not opting in for a free upgrade to Windows 10. The directory weighed in at “3.5GB to 6GB,” according to the reader.

“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 told the outlet.

His concerns are mirrored by numerous people across the Internet, who have been reporting similar revelations since as early as July. Getting rid of the unwanted files isn’t as quite as simple as clicking the delete button, unfortunately. But it doesn’t require any significant computer knowledge, either. Addictive Tips has a concise solution for the dilemma, which involves uninstalling the KB3035583 update prior to removing the actual folder.

While potentially disconcerting at first blush, the news isn’t exactly a shocker. Microsoft has been aggressive about promoting Windows 10, bombarding Windows 7 & 8 users with pop-ups suggesting the change. More crucially, by opting for automatic upgrades, a user is essentially agreeing to allow software developers to do as they will—in this case, proactively downloading Windows 10 in preparation for any changes of heart.

Here’s Microsoft’s statement to The Inquirer, in full:

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.

To see if Windows had installed the KB3035583 update to your computer without your permission or awareness:

  • Go to your computer’s Control Panel
  • Click “Programs”
  • Click “Uninstall an update”
  • Look for KB3035583

~Éowyn


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