Next month’s deadline for updating to Windows 10 for free may come as a relief to some users
A Californian woman has won a $10,000 (£7,600) court case after suing Microsoft for damage caused to her PC by an unwanted Windows 10 download.
The case illustrates the problems users and industry observers say Microsoft has caused with what they call an overly aggressive and at times “deceitful” campaign to get Windows 10 out to users ahead of an upgrade deadline next month.
She said that the update, which proceeded without her authorisation, failed to complete, and instead rendered the computer, which she uses to run a travel business, practically unusable. The system slowed to a crawl, and would crash and go out of service for days at a time, she said, according to a report in The Seattle Times.
“I had never heard of Windows 10,” Goldstein told the paper. “Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to update.”
Goldstein first tried to fix the problem through Microsoft’s customer support and then successfully took the company to court. Microsoft dropped its appeal in May and Goldstein collected $10,000 as compensation for lost wages and the cost of a new computer.
Microsoft denies wrongdoing and said it ended its case in order to avoid further legal costs, according to the report.
Windows 10 is offered as a free upgrade to most existing Windows users, with the free update period ending on 29 July, but some have complained of the frequent and often intrusive update notifications, which industry observers have said are next to impossible to turn off.
Others have found that the operating system has installed itself in spite of their having dismissed the notifications.
In some cases that results from the fact that Windows 10 is offered as a “recommended” update, on a par with security patches, which many systems are configured to accept and install automatically.
Industry observers have argued that Microsoft risks doing long-term damage by abusing the trust of its users, who may in some cases become less willing to accept automatic updates, reducing the security of their systems.
And that doesn’t only affect the users themselves, but any Internet-connected device, since insecure computers are frequently taken over and made part of “botnets” used to launch malware and the junk emails used to spread it, computer security experts have pointed out.
Last month users began reporting that clicking on the “X” in the upper-right hand of the pop-up update notification no longer dismissed it, and instead resulted in accepting the update, which some users labelled a “deceitful trick”.
Microsoft provides instructions on how to decline the updates and turn the notifications off in a support site article, while a program called Never10 is available from a third-party developer that blocks Windows 10 update prompts.
“We’re continuing to listen to customer feedback and evolve the upgrade experience based on their feedback,” Microsoft said in a statement.
The company has said its methods are intended to get Windows 10 out to as many people as possible before the free upgrade period ends, and denied users are being forced to accept the software.
“With the free Windows 10 upgrade offer ending on 29 July, we want to help people upgrade to the best version of Windows,” Microsoft stated. “Customers can choose to accept or decline the Windows 10 upgrade.”
Windows 10 now powers more than 300 million devices across the world, as Microsoft gets closer to its goal of having one billion devices running the operating system.
The company is struggling to retain its central place in an computing landscape that has shifted toward mobile devices, where Microsoft has only a small market share.
Windows 10 is part of an effort to more tightly integrate Microsoft’s desktop and mobile platforms, with Windows 10 Mobile, the successor to Windows Phone 8.1, being marketed as an edition of the desktop software.
The software includes enterprise security and management features that have been well-received by businesses.
The free Windows 10 upgrade period ends on July 29, about a year after the platform was launched, in July of last year.
After the deadline expires users must pay $119 for an upgrade to Windows 10 Home.
Are you a security pro? Try our quiz!