After years of complaints, Microsoft has now pledged it will never again forcibly download installation files of a new operating system on users' computers. Following a lawsuit from a consumer protection authority, the company's German subsidiary has now agreed to stop downloading files without user permission.
Earlier in 2016, a consumer rights body in the German state of Baden-Württemberg took the Redmond software giant to court over the forced Windows 10 update issues. It said that the company was automatically downloading up to 6GB of files on user's PCs without their consent. This was predominantly reported by Windows users in the first year of Windows 10's release when the company was offering the new operating system as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and 8 users. The forced Windows 10 update wasn't only downloaded without consent but in some cases even started to install itself without any user interaction, bringing stories of interrupted news casting, business deals going haywire and other issues to the front.
"Microsoft's approach to marketing the new Windows 10 operating system was a source of excitement: even those who did not agree to the free upgrade received up to 6 gigabytes of installation files on their computer. The consumer center took legal action against this unsolicited 'forced download', which was often unwanted by consumers." [translated]
No more forced Windows 10 update downloads
Verbraucherzentrale Baden-Württemberg, a major regional consumer protection agency, took the company to court as a result of these forced Windows 10 update complaints. The watchdog announced this week that there will be no ruling in the case since Microsoft has voluntarily agreed to stop the offending behavior. Microsoft is "obliged to avoid placing installation data for new operating systems on Windows users' hard drives without their permission," the agency said.
"We would have wished for an earlier backing-down, but [Microsoft's agreement] is a success for consumer rights in the digital world," Cornelia Tausch of the agency said.
It is unclear if this pledge will only be applicable in Germany or everywhere else too. However, looking at how the company has changed its aggressive tactics that it had adopted in 2015 with the introduction of Windows 10, it shouldn't be hard for it keep this promise. The company has already stopped offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade so it can't really forcibly download Windows 10 installation files on un-upgraded PCs anymore.
But, several users are still confused when their Windows 10 PCs restart themselves following installation of any new updates. The new update process appears to be more of an opt-out rather than opt-in. (Since Creators Update, users have better control over when an update is installed) Would this promise apply to the feature upgrades that are received by Windows 10 users and are technically new operating systems? If not, what's the point of this promise since there won't be any more operating systems after Windows 10 as Microsoft has adopted the Windows as a Service (WaaS) model. We are waiting for Microsoft's confirmation on this.
Since the release in 2015, Microsoft has faced multiple lawsuits, not only from watchdogs but also from individual users who had accused Microsoft of losing their data during the update process. The company also paid $10,000 to a US citizen in one of these cases.
However, over the past year, Microsoft has increasingly changed how it deals with Windows 10 concerns and complaints. Earlier this year with the release of Windows 10 Creators Update, the Windows maker offered increased control over privacy tools - another major concern following the release of the operating system.
- We have reached out to Microsoft for a comment and will update this space.