Like It Or Not, Microsoft Silently Downloads Windows 10, Grabbing Valuable Disk Space

Just when we thought that all the hoopla surrounding privacy in Windows 10 and questionable disclosure practices was starting to die down, Microsoft has to go and stir the pot once again with another seemingly overzealous move. It’s not enough that Windows 10 is installed on over 75 million PCs and counting; Microsoft is aiming for one billion installs within the next two to three years.

And to get to that one billion figure, Microsoft wants to entice customers to upgrade their Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines to Windows 10. Making the upgrade free during the first year of availability is a big factor in getting people to make the upgrade, but Microsoft is also wanting the upgrade process to proceed smoothly, minimizing any installation glitches and cutting down on download/install times for the operating system.

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No need for this prompt, Microsoft will download Windows 10 without user intervention

It’s that last point that has Microsoft facing enormous heat this morning — even from diehard Microsoft supporters. As it stands now, customers are given the choice to install Windows 10 if they wish. Microsoft has a little pop-up that appears for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users that allows them to reserve their copy of Windows 10 and install at their leisure. If you choose to proceed with installing Windows 10, you enter in your email address and wait patiently for the download to proceed. It was assumed that if you didn’t want to install Windows 10, you could just ignore the prompt and go about your business without any further intrusion from Microsoft.

That isn’t the case, however, says The Inquirer. One of the publication’s observant readers discovered a massive $Windows.~BT folder on his machine despite the fact that he never gave Microsoft the “go ahead” to initiate the Windows 10 download/installation process.

The symptoms are repeated failed 'Upgrade to Windows 10' in the WU update history and a huge 3.5GB to 6GB hidden folder labelled '$Windows.~BT'. 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? 

I know of two instances where people on metered connections went over their data cap for August because of this unwanted download. My own internet (slow DSL) was crawling for a week or so until I discovered this problem. In fact, that's what led me to it. Not only does it download, it tries to install every time the computer is booted.

Not cool, Microsoft, not cool at all. If this is true, sneakily downloading a multi-gigabyte operating system in the background without the customer’s express consent is rather bold, especially in an age when some customers may be on metered connections or simply don’t have the disk space to spare to accommodate a 6GB install. Microsoft has already come under fire for forced automatic updates in Windows 10, which have hit those with metered connections hard.

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With that being said, what’s Microsoft position on all of this? How could the company possibly explain why it is forcing Windows 10 installation files on to customers’ computers without permission? Surely the company has a reasonable explanation for its actions? In a statement to The Register, a Microsoft spokesperson wrote:

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.

In Microsoft’s eyes, if you have agreed to automatic updates in Windows, it’s fair game to send Windows 10 down the pipe. Making Windows 10 freely available to a large portion of the Windows install base should be reason enough to get many customers to upgrade. The awesome new features in Windows 10 like Continuum, the return of the Start Menu, and even Xbox One game streaming are great reasons to upgrade to Windows 10. But let the customers choose when he or she is ready to commit to downloading a massive ISO — don’t make the choice for them on the chance that they might want to upgrade in the future.