This article is designed to collect together identified issues with Microsoft's Windows 10 from experts and the tech media, so that NCF members can make informed decisions as to whether they wish to use this operating system, or install an alternative one on their computer hardware instead.
All new versions of Windows meet some user resistance, although some have genuine concerns that users need to know about before they choose to install it or use it. Vista and Windows 8 did not win wide-spread support from Windows fans, but all indications are that Windows 10 has some much more serious issues for users to consider prior to installing it than any previous Windows version.
By the end of 2015 issues with Windows 10 encountered by NCF members were causing increased staff and volunteer workload trying to solve them. It is hoped this article will reduce those problems and allow NCF staff and volunteers to concentrate on getting members on-line rather than dealing with the problems generated by members' choice of operating systems.
- 1 Background
- 2 Identified Issues
- 3 Preventing a Windows 10 Upgrade to Windows 7 & 8
- 4 Preventing Windows 10-style Tracking in Windows 7 & 8
- 5 Alternatives
- 6 External links
Windows 10 is the follow-on operating system to Windows 8 that was released to the public on 29 July 2015.
There was no Windows 9, as CBC explains, "The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant earned scathing reviews for its previous OS, the buggy and awkward Windows 8 (yes, they're skipping version 9)."
Privacy and Security
In November 2015 Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore confirmed that Windows 10 collects a large amount of data on its users and that most of these features cannot be turned off. Gordon Kelly of Forbes said, "so how concerned should users be about Windows 10’s default data collection policies? I would say very. By default Windows 10 Home is allowed to control your bandwidth usage, install any software it wants whenever it wants (without providing detailed information on what these updates do), display ads in the Start Menu (currently it has been limited to app advertisements), send your hardware details and any changes you make to Microsoft and even log your browser history and keystrokes which the Windows End User Licence Agreement (EULA) states you allow Microsoft to use for analysis."
Keystroke loggers are a common feature in viruses and other malware, but Microsoft includes one in Windows 10. This means that Microsoft has every bit of data you type in your computer, including your credit card numbers, all your sign-ins and passwords, your bank accounts, your love letters, email, everything. Because of its policy of cooperating fully with the US National Security Agency (NSA) this means the US government likely has all your data as well. The keystroke logger cannot be turned off. In the EULA the user agrees that Microsoft can share this information with third parties like advertisers and law enforcement.
During the installation process the user agrees to have their contacts, calender events, speech and handwriting patterns and typing history all recorded by Microsoft, along with your web browsing history, too.
By default Windows 10 will automatically connect you with any wifi that it can detect and automatically share them with your Facebook friends, Skype contacts and Outlook.com contacts, although these can be selected off. This Wifi Sense features also shares your location.
By default Windows 10 secures your hard drive data with a disk encryption key, but as noted Microsoft has the encryption key as it is transmitted to them. Micah Lee wrote "As soon as your recovery key leaves your computer, you have no way of knowing its fate. A hacker could have already hacked your Microsoft account and can make a copy of your recovery key before you have time to delete it. Or Microsoft itself could get hacked, or could have hired a rogue employee with access to user data. Or a law enforcement or spy agency could send Microsoft a request for all data in your account, which would legally compel it to hand over your recovery key, which it could do even if the first thing you do after setting up your computer is delete it."
Windows 10 generates a unique advertising ID for each user on each computer. The ID is used by developers and advertising networks to create and maintain a profile about each user. You can turn this off, but you need to know where to look to do that in the settings.
Although it can be turned off the Cortana voice activated assistant sends everything you say, that is picked up by the computer's microphone, to Microsoft for analysis. Mic Wright of The Next Web says: "because Cortana analyzes speech data, Microsoft collects “your voice input, as well as your name and nickname, your recent calendar events and the names of people in your appointments, and information about your contacts including names and nicknames."
- We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services.
I’m not suggesting Microsoft and its lawyers are alone in making provision for such sweeping power over your data, but we should all be very careful about relying on the “good faith” of corporations. I’m not even sure such a thing exists."
C. Mitchell Shaw of The New American says "When Microsoft announced the "free" upgrade, many were left wondering why the Redmond giant would give away licenses to use the new operating system. Now it appears that the reason is simple: greater data-mining opportunities. Windows operating systems have long included security weaknesses that leave users vulnerable to spying and data-mining from others. What is different with the newest iteration of Windows is that Microsoft is directly involved in that spying and data-mining and has built the entire operating system in such a way as to allow it."
Dan Gillmor of Medium.com said "Microsoft’s Windows 10 ... looks more and more like spyware masquerading as an operating system (a characterization that may be unfair, but not by much). Yes, the upgrade from widely installed earlier versions is "free" (as in beer), but it takes some amazing liberties with users’ data and control, according to people who’ve analyzed its inner workings."
An update to Windows 10 in November 2015 returned user's privacy settings to the default without their knowledge. Darren Allan of TechRadar reported "The bug apparently caused Windows 10 to reset four settings to default values. These were privacy settings, which explains why Microsoft was so sensitive about the affair, and they included options to let apps make use of the user's advertising ID, and to let apps run in the background, as well as turning the SmartScreen web filter on." Microsofts' initial communication about the problem seemed to be designed to dismiss the issue, but a later press release admitted the mistake. Darren Allan of TechRadar said "In the future, hopefully Microsoft will come clean on any issues in a swifter manner, and not trot out meaningless statements like the first one the company issued on this matter – frankly, radio silence would have been more palatable than that initial communication."
In late December 2015 Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President, Windows and Devices Group indicated that Windows 10 had passed the milestone of 200 million computers running the operating system. While attempting to show its popularity he raised more privacy concerns, stating "Windows 10 users have spent over 44.5 billion minutes using the Microsoft Edge browser that debuted with the new operating system, asked 2.5 billion questions using Cortana, viewed 82 billion photos in the Windows 10 Photo app, spent over 4 billion hours playing PC games on Windows 10 and streamed more than 6.6 million hours of Xbox One games to Windows 10 PCs." This is all data that Windows 10 devices reported on their users. Darren Allan of TechRadar noted, "the real issue here is the uncertainty over what data is being recorded, and the fact that the user has no control or real say in the process". Martin Brinkmann of GHacks noted of this, "The statistics indicate that Microsoft may be collecting more data than initially thought. While it is unclear what data is exactly collected, it is clear that the company is collecting information about the use of individual applications and programs on Windows at the very least. The real question is how fine grained the data collecting actually is. For instance, is Windows 10 recording what users do in Edge or the actual questions that individual users ask Cortana?"
There is now a whole industry showing users how to reduce the invasive privacy problems in Windows 10, like this article by Ian Paul of PCWorld.
Canada's federal privacy commissioner is concerned about Windows 10 privacy issues and has launched an investigation into it.
Russian government members are also concerned about Windows 10 passing information to the US government and have proposed banning it for Russian government use. Adarsh Verma writing on Foss Bytes says "Russian lawyers have filed a complaint with the Prosecutor General’s Office, demanding strict actions against the OS and consider the option of Windows 10 ban in Russia. They have claimed that Windows 10 is being used to collect user information and it infringes the local Russian laws."
If you turn this off for any reason, such as a malfunction in it or it gives a false positive, it will turn itself back on.
Windows 10, when installed as an upgrade, will change your browser to Microsoft Edge, even if you had another browser installed, like Firefox of Chrome.
Mozilla chief executive Chris Beard said that Microsoft is using the upgrade process to "throw away the choice your customers have made about the Internet experience they want, and replace it with the Internet experience Microsoft wants them to have."
Making all updates automatic and mandatory has some benefits in that it reduces vulnerabilities in the system that have been identified and patches issued for, but many experts have problems with what goes along with this.
Computer book author Adrian Kingsley-Hughes notes that in the past Microsoft has tried to force unwanted "junkware", as he terms it, on users through updates, including the Bing toolbar and Skype, both of which are owned by Microsoft.
As part of the update process the computer will automatically reboot itself.
Updates are delivered via a sharing process like bit torrent and are all cached on your computer. This means that you not only download the updates, but you are sharing them with other Windows users, as well, which may use up a lot of your monthly bandwidth cap, depending on the size of the updates. This can be disabled, but the default is "on".
Joel Hruska of Extreme Tech said, "for decades, one of the anchor points in the Apple vs. Microsoft debate was that Microsoft gave you more control over your OS than Apple did, even if it layered that control in obtuse menus and difficult-to-parse options. With Windows 10, the balance of power has clearly shifted. The company that brought us the “Scroogled” campaign now hoovers up your data in ways that would make Google jealous. It selects defaults that allow it to use your bandwidth to distribute its own software without any exposed option for how and when that sharing takes place."
Windows 10 is free if you upgrade from Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 home or professional editions prior to 29 July 2016. If your earlier version is a non-genuine version (ie: pirated) then your version of Windows 10 will also be non-genuine. Enterprise editions are not eligible for the free upgrade.
Solitaire isn't exactly free
The long-packaged solitaire card game that has always come with Windows is still included, but it includes lots of advertising. If you want to get rid of the ads it will cost you US$1.49 per month or US$9.99 per year.
Mark Hachman, Senior Editor at PC World said "it does seem a bit odd that Microsoft can make Windows 10—an entire operating system, mind you—a free upgrade, while asking you to pay to remove ads. If this is the future of Windows as a service, count me out."
If you have a dual boot computer with one partition running Windows and another running a Linux distribution you may lose the ability to boot to the Linux distribution after upgrading to Windows 10 as it seems to disable GRUB, the Linux bootloader.
Preventing a Windows 10 Upgrade to Windows 7 & 8
If you are running Windows 7 or 8 Microsoft will try to upgrade it to Windows 10. You can prevent this using the GWX Control Panel tool from Ultimate Outsider.
Preventing Windows 10-style Tracking in Windows 7 & 8
Microsoft also tries to add the user tracking from Windows 10 to users of Windows 7 and 8. This can be fixed as explained at Stop Windows Telemetry/Tracking/Upgrading to Win10. That article advises "The advice from many experts now is to not go near Windows 10. Do not install it. Retain your privacy and control over your systems."
If you have reviewed the information on Windows 10 and decided that you do not want to use it, then there are many alternatives available.
If you are already running Windows 7 or 8 and wish to keep using it then just avoid upgrading or having the Windows 10 privacy-violating software installed in your Windows 7 or 8 software, as described above.
If you have hardware already running Windows 10 then you can replace the software with another operating system instead. There are hundreds of Linux distributions available for free that will run on Windows 10 hardware and that provide good privacy, stability and functionality. The NCF office has stocks of free Linux DVDs for installation.
Available at the office are DVDs for:
- Review: Windows 10 is the best version yet—once the bugs get fixed by Peter Bright on Ars Technica
- Windows 10 doesn’t offer much privacy by default: Here’s how to fix it by Sebastian Anthony on Ars Technica
- Windows: it's always the next version by Thom Holwerda on OS News
- The Windows 10 Review: The Old & New Face of Windows by Brett Howse on Anandtech
- The truth about Windows 10 spying on almost everything you do on Emisoft Blog
- Windows 10: A SYSADMIN speaks his brains – and says MEH - Average Joe will be happy with it. So long as he hasn't used Windows 7 by Trevor Pott on The Register
- How to reclaim your privacy in Windows 10, piece by piece, by Ian Paul, PCWorld
- Stop Windows 10 From Spying On You? 36 DNS Addresses to host file on DSL Reports
- Free Software
- VLC Player to let you play DVDs, videos, etc.