The case against Windows 10 Anniversary Update grows

With myriad problems now evident, it may be best to skip the Anniversary Update for now

The case against Windows 10 Anniversary Update grows
Credit: flickr/Steven Depolo

Given the massive testing and repeated refinement that brought us Windows 10 Anniversary Update, you’d think the rollout would proceed with few debilitating problems. But you’d be wrong. From common installation problems to minor irritants to significant data destruction, reports of problems are mounting up.

You should consider dodging the update until Microsoft irons out the worst difficulties.

Everyone who's been paying attention to Windows 10 updates expected installation problems. Microsoft hasn’t yet delivered a Cumulative Update that installs on all machines, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Anniversary Update installs trigger a wide variety of failures, rollbacks, flakey Universal Windows programs, and error codes such as 0x80070020. I talk about all of those errors and more in my May article, 20 fixes for a Windows 10 update meltdown.

Mauro Huculak at Windows Central has a different list of problems that have occurred -- problems connecting to the Microsoft servers, driver incompatibilities, insufficient storage errors, damaged installation files, and more.

And, of course, we finally found out how to fix Cortana if he/she/it gets zapped in the course of the update.

There are very credible reports that the Anniversary Update is making entire volumes/drives invisible, prompting a reformat. The newest version of Win10 refuses to see some drives, identifying them as RAW, and prompting for an NTFS reformat. It’s easy to accidentally reformat the drive.

I’ve seen a report on AskWoody.com that the Anniversary Update makes the entire Group Policy setting for Configure Automatic Updates useless. While the gpedit setting for Configure Automatic Updates is still there, changing the setting there has no effect in the Win10 user interface (Start > Settings > Update & security > Update settings). It’s still too early to tell exactly how that’ll work, but the “Available updates will be downloaded and installed automatically” notice appearing in the Settings app does not inspire confidence.

There are more credible reports about Win10 locking up completely after the Anniversary Update. Redditor KuruQan found out that running a clean install fixes the problem. There are many different solutions proposed, but nothing official from Microsoft. We don’t even have official acknowledgment that the problem exists.

It looks like System Restore gets turned off when you install the Anniversary Update.

Several of the reported problems disappear if you roll back to the previous version of Windows -- for those in the Insider program, that means going back to build 14393.0 (or possibly .5). For those of you who aren’t in the beta test program, that means rolling back to the Fall Update, build 1511.

But there’s yet another problem with rollbacks. Richard Hay reported yesterday on Windows Supersite that Microsoft has just -- unilaterally, and without notification to anyone -- changed the rules, so rollbacks can only be performed for 10 days after the initial installation. “Microsoft can now recover anywhere between 3 and 5GB of storage space on the users device that would normally be occupied by the previous operating system files that were saved for a possible rollback recovery.” That’s a decent argument now, but somebody should’ve told Microsoft last year when they silently pushed 3GB to 6GB of unwanted data onto Windows 7 and 8.1 computers as part of the “Get Windows 10” effort. How convenient to have that change of heart.

Adding insult to ignominy, the Anniversary Update is changing all sorts of settings. The officially recognized changes include:

  • Pen Settings. To personalize your pen settings, go to Settings > Devices > Pen & Windows Ink.
  • Notification settings. To personalize, go to Settings > System > Notifications & actions > Notifications.
  • Tablet Mode settings. To personalize, go to Settings > System > Tablet Mode.
  • Virtual Desktops. To recreate your virtual desktops, click the Task View icon on your taskbar and select Add New Desktop.

Poster jescott418 on the same Microsoft Answers thread adds this:

Just great, all the tiles are live again, back to annoying notifications, default icons Edge, and Store back on taskbar which is not such a big deal. But still, so much for customizing your PC anymore. Well, I just got to move past Windows I guess. No respect for the individual user anymore. Can't stop these updates and I guess can't expect your PC will be like before they updated. Long-time Windows user, really had enough. 

The list of broken drivers goes on and on. For example, Brother Corp just sent a reassuring email to all their customers that says:

This notice is for customers using Win10 OS. If you are not using Win10, this notice does not pertain to you. The next major update to Windows 10 is scheduled to be released on August 2nd, 2016. After your Windows 10 PC has been updated, either automatically or by manually updating through Windows Updates, you may no longer be able to print or scan using the USB and Network connections. To resolve this issue, you will need to uninstall the existing Brother software and then reinstall it. 

With the update rolling out slowly, there’s a good chance it hasn’t yet tried to install itself on your machine. If that’s the case, you can proactively try to block the update for now. If you’re on a Wi-Fi connection, you can use the metered connection trick to keep the Anniversary Update off your machine. If you have Windows 10 Pro, you can bypass the forced update to Win10 Anniversary Update by clicking Start > Settings > Update & recovery > Advanced Options and check the box marked Defer upgrades. If you aren’t on Wi-Fi and only have Win10 Home, you’re forced into a considerably more complex blocking situation which involves using wushowhide to keep it off your machine.

There’s one conclusion that rings out loud and clear: Windows 10 desperately needs a way to control forced updates. And I’ve said it for the past 18 months, but Windows 10’s aching Achilles’ heel is patching. Microsoft’s refusal to allow normal Win10 users to vet patches before they’re pushed still ranks as one of the main reasons to avoid Windows 10.

Back in the not-so-good old days, Microsoft released periodic Service Packs for Windows. The terminology isn’t fashionable anymore (somebody please remind me why). But back then, you had a choice about installing Service Packs -- you could surf on the bleeding edge and install them as soon as they came out, or you could wait a week, or a month, or a year to make sure Microsoft had its act together before you installed a massive change.

Not so anymore.

Windows honcho Terry Meyerson started us down this road a little over two years ago, when he released Update 1 for Windows 8.1, which was a coerced “Service Pack” without the name. That campaign drew unprecedented attack because Microsoft didn’t allow enough time to iron out the problems with Update 1 (later renamed to just “Windows 8.1 Update,” and the “Update” terminology has slowly disappeared).

We’re seeing the same disaster playing out again. Microsoft expects all Windows 10 users (except those on the Branch for Business or LTSB) to move to Anniversary Update as soon as Microsoft pushes the update onto their machines. There are no exceptions and precious little opportunity to push back, in spite of the problems.

Kinda makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

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