The countdown to Windows 10 has begun in earnest, and Microsoft is going to great lengths to ensure each and every Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 user is fully aware. We know that the Windows 10 upgrade will be free for those users, and Microsoft wanted to remind us with a handy notification service that appeared in the recent KB3035583 update.
Is there more to the notification service? Or has Microsoft silently installed adware promoting their Windows 10 roll-out?
Windows 10 Downloader
The update has been criticized for the content it delivered, and the nature of delivery. Update KB3035583 “enabled additional capabilities for Windows Update notifications when new updates are available to the user.” It uses the existing update system to introduce alternative avenues of promoting Windows 10.
The update installs four folders to System32. The main folder, called “GWX,” contains 9 files as well as another folder called “Downloads.” Within the GWX folder, an executable named “GWXUXWorker” features a file description of “Get Windows 10.” Microsoft calling a spade, a spade then. At least we know where we stand on the matter.
It also contains a file named “config.xml” which, when opened in a text editor, reveals itself to be a sort of running script for how the countdown to Windows 10 will play out. Each part of the timeline is a different phase. During the first “none” phase – which we presume is currently active – none of the features are active.
The second “AnticipationUX” phase sees true statements for arguments <AntUXProcess>, <TrayIcon>, and <Advertisment>, presumably injecting a tray icon and advertisement into your desktop, possibly via a Live Tile.
The third “Reservation” phase will feature <ReservationPage>, confirming the individual intention to upgrade, or a notification that the individuals system has a copy of Windows 10 reserved.
It is currently a recommended update, meaning it won’t auto-install, though we have heard some speculative reports that it will become an important system update as the Windows 10 release date edges closer, giving Microsoft the change to really drive the upgrade message home.
Is It Adware?
Microsoft is ramping up Windows 10 promotion activity. Chatter is on the rise. Conferences are in abundance. Microsoft is looking to assure us that Windows 10 is the best thing since sliced-bread – all the while reminding us of the price tag: free.
It makes the inclusion of hidden adware all the more baffling, as if it would realistically slip under the radar throughout the technology world. And the answer to the question is yes. Any software installed to an operating system without announcing its true credentials, that is then used to display adverts without the users express consent is definitively adware.
Sure, Microsoft probably doesn’t see it that way. It isn’t acting as an access point for other malicious code and it only advertises the new operating system, within a Microsoft developed environment.
Implications for Windows 10
Are we worried about this somewhat underhand adware installation technique? After all, we’d be spitting chips if this had larger malicious potential. Luckily for us and Microsoft, it is relatively benign, but it could still have implications for the Windows 10 release.
Introducing dedicated adware for Microsoft promotional activities opens the Redmond-based tech-giant up for scrutiny. Microsoft has repeatedly and consistently informed us that Windows 10 is to be a free upgrade. App developers have shown that running both ad-free and ad-supported versions of even the most popular applications to be immensely successful, while catering to both markets. Happy consumers, increased market capitalization: win-win.
The flip side of this is ingrained in Windows 10’s upcoming update system. Microsoft has confirmed Update Tuesday will cease, replaced with higher-frequency, more consistent updates arriving when ready. These updates aren’t limited to the operating system either, and will feature regular updates for Windows software, such as Office.
Who is to say Microsoft won’t introduce further advertising to the Windows 10 operating system down the line, using this to moderate a continual flow of income while maintaining a single operating system? We will certainly have to thoroughly examine the Windows 10 License Agreement when it arrives on our desktops.
For those who have already installed the KB3035583 update, all is not lost. Microsoft has not updated their adware to begin the Windows 10 push, and you can happily remove the offending files.
Here are guides for removing an update for both Windows 7 and Windows 8:
To make sure Windows doesn’t install KB3035583 again, right-click the update and select Hide Update.
Pro Tip: If the GWX.exe file is being particularly stubborn i.e. simply won’t delete, follow this short tutorial to take ownership of the file. Once you own it, you can delete it for good.
Microsoft might be illustrating what’s in store with Windows 10. And Microsoft might have just made a bad move. It is likely too early to make a definitive call on the implications of this somewhat underhand installation, but it will likely disappoint some, and others will be outright furious. I wouldn’t let this choice cloud the overall experience.
Have you removed the update and what do you think about it?