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Microsoft sets stage for massive Windows 10 upgrade strategy

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 8, 2015
Uses updates to enable -- and re-enable -- Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs for next move: auto-downloads of Windows 10 upgrade bits.

By monitoring his own test PCs -- eight all told -- and from the reports he's received from GWX Control Panel users, Mayfield has concluded that Microsoft is manipulating Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs with behind-the-scenes changes, part of its effort to ensure Windows 10 ends up on as many devices as possible.

Microsoft's original GWX app, for example, does more than just display an icon in the Windows 7/8.1 taskbar and let customers "reserve" a copy of the Windows 10 upgrade. "It's pushed down three different processes that each had different jobs and were unrelated to the icon," said Mayfield Friday. Currently, his GWX Control Panel monitors 10 different Windows settings that may leave a Windows 7/8.1 PC "potentially vulnerable to unexpected Windows 10 upgrade behavior," Mayfield wrote in a Nov. 26 guide to his app.

Microsoft keeps changing those settings, sometimes adding new ones, without the user knowing, Mayfield said. For example, users have reported that their prior GWX Control Panel settings have been overridden by recent updates from Microsoft. In some cases, even Mayfield has been unable to figure out which components of Windows 7/8.1 were responsible.

It's unknown whether Microsoft has, in fact, begun placing the Windows 10 upgrade on older OS-powered devices as an optional item in Windows Update. Microsoft has declined to provide more information than what Myerson gave out on Oct. 29 about the timetable for the upgrade hitting Windows Update. "We will soon be publishing Windows 10 as an 'Optional Update' in Windows Update for all Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers," Myerson said five weeks ago [emphasis added]. "Early next year, we expect to be re-categorizing Windows 10 as a 'Recommended Update.'"

The lack of reports online, including on Microsoft's own Windows 10 support forums, argues that the company has not yet started adding the upgrade to Windows Update on Windows 7/8.1 PCs.

The first move may happen as soon as Tuesday, Dec. 8, which is the month's already-scheduled "Patch Tuesday," the day Microsoft historically serves up security updates. Microsoft often uses Patch Tuesday to deliver other, non-security updates.

In Mayfield's eyes, the background machinations conducted by Microsoft's GWX app and the recent changes to the Windows Update client on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 systems are clues that the company is preparing for the upgrade reaching the optional list.

The GWX Control Panel app can be downloaded from Mayfield's website. While the app is free, Mayfield does accept donations from appreciative users via PayPal. But he's not getting rich from those donations. "I get a donation from about one in every thousand downloads," he said Friday.


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