May 232016

Last week I received a panicky call from a client. The Windows 10 Upgrade was being installed without her permission! She’d not done anything different for the last months — in response to all the nagging to Upgrade, she just clicked on the “X” button in the pop-up. She didn’t want Windows 10 on her current Windows 7 PC.

Well, PC World’s May 22, 2016, article “How Microsoft’s tricky new Windows 10 pop-up deceives you into upgrading” explains what happened.

Last week, Microsoft altered the GWX prompt, as ZDNet covered. On the surface, it’s an improvement; the box clearly states when your PC will be upgraded, and even adds a (still small and easily skippable) line that allows you to reschedule or change the upgrade timing. So far so good! But here’s the icky part: The redesigned GWX pop-up now treats exiting the window as consent for the Windows 10 upgrade.

So after more than half a year of teaching people that the only way to say “no thanks” to Windows 10 is to exit the GWX [Get Windows Ten] application—and refusing to allow users to disable the pop-up in any obvious manner, so they had to press that X over and over again during those six months to the point that most people probably just click it without reading now—Microsoft just made it so that very behavior accepts the Windows 10 upgrade instead, rather than canceling it.

As I’ve been advising clients, misdirection (something used by magicians and aggressive marketers) is common these days on computers. More than just tiny pre-checked checkboxes, choices are confused by artful presentation. What the presenter wants you to do is shown in large text or with a dominant highlighted button, while other choices use small or obscure placement.

For example, this tactic is used immediately when setting up Windows 10. On the “Get going fast” screen, the “Use Express settings” button is dominant (and on the right side), while the “Customize settings” action is subdued (and on the left side).

So, my client is far from alone in being unexpectedly Upgraded. I assured her that, while some things would look different, the Start button will still be there, as well as previous items on the Desktop and in the Taskbar; and that she’d likely be able to do what she usually did on her PC. She had time to let the Upgrade proceed and complete successfully. We talked on the phone the next day about one setting and will schedule a session to customize further (and change those default Express settings mentioned above).

Windows 10 is fine (although not perfect and a work-in-progress). I recommend Windows 10. But some people have legitimate reasons for not wanting the Upgrade on their current PC. The typical PC user, however, really doesn’t know how to deal with recurring pop-ups for updates and other notifications. Scammers exploit this situation. What happens to trust when legitimate companies use such aggressive deceptive tactics as well?

UPDATE MAY 24: PC World’s article “How to escape that forced Windows 10 upgrade you mistakenly agreed to” provides more detail on the Upgrade process — how it should work, where it may be canceled.

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