The furor continues, but a solution to the Windows 10 forced upgrades may be at hand.
Microsoft started by forcing its Windows 10 upgrade advertising on Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs, luring millions to "reserve" a product that doesn't need reserving. Then it started the Windows 10 upgrade process by downloading enormous files onto PCs without warning or permission. Next, it began the upgrade sequence itself on many systems by checking a box on a Windows Update item. Nearly a week later, prodded by Peter Bright at Ars Technica, Microsoft recanted, claiming the action was "accidental."
Millions of people who innocently clicked to reserve their copies -- or got tossed into the fray thanks to the "accidental" Automatic Update -- have found themselves sucked into an upgrade process with no obvious exit.
In short, Microsoft has turned itself into the world's largest distributor of potentially unwanted programs using the Windows Update mechanism.
On Sept. 2, I wrote about a program, then called GWX Stopper, which blocked Microsoft's "Get Windows 10" (GWX) program and effectively turned off the forced march to Windows 10 -- as long as you used it before you clicked to reserve a copy of Windows 10.
On Sept. 14, Josh Mayfield changed the name of his program to GWX Control Panel and extended its capabilities to disable the GWX program entirely, as well as tell Windows 7 or 8.1 that you don't want to install operating system upgrades.
A month later, on Oct. 14, I wrote about Mayfield's new version of GWX Control Panel, which managed to snip off all parts of the crawling GWX monster, as long as you ran it before it metastasized. However, once your PC started seeing Windows Update notifications that "Your upgrade to Windows 10 is ready" or "It's almost time for your upgrade" -- allowing you to reschedule but not cancel the update -- it was too late.
Today I'm very happy to announce that Mayfield has had a couple of major breakthroughs, and his new version of GWX Control Panel can even inoculate systems that have reached those advanced stages. Although version 1.4 is still called a beta, it's improved in three significant ways. According to Mayfield:
GWX Control Panel now casts a much wider net when searching for traces of unwanted Windows 10-related settings on your PC, and as a result the "Are Windows Update OS upgrades enabled" field is more likely to report Yes when you first run the program.
Likewise, the Disable Operating System Upgrades in Windows Update feature is much more comprehensive in neutralizing those Windows 10 settings.
Finally, there is a new Clear Windows Update Cache feature, which is kind of a nuclear option for dealing with Windows Update problems.
We've been testing this latest version over on AskWoody.com, and there are reports from many people now who say this latest version has brought their PCs back from the brink.
If you know someone who's trying to hold on to their Windows 7 or 8.1 system, this may be a solution. Follow Mayfield's instructions, and let him (or me) know if you hit any snags. At the very least, GWX Control Panel 1.4 won't make it worse.
There's no pressing reason to upgrade to Windows 10 right now -- and plenty of reasons to hold off. You have until July 28, 2016 to take advantage of the free upgrade offer.
What's the rush?