How You Could Have Upgraded to Windows 10 by Accident & What to Do

Gavin Phillips 19-10-2015

Windows 10 hit the ground running. With an estimated 110 million installs completed since the July 29 release, Microsoft is well on its way to achieving the one billion devices milestone the company has set itself.


But some users have reported issues with the somewhat aggressive tactics How to Get Rid of Windows 10 Upgrade Notification in Windows 7 & 8 Windows 10 is coming and Microsoft wants everyone to upgrade. The Windows 7 & 8 popup reminder ensures that even the last person will be aware of this option. Here's how you can remove it. Read More deployed by Microsoft during the lead-up to the Windows 10 release How to Upgrade to Windows 10 Now & Why You Should Wait Have you been waiting patiently since July 29 for your Windows 10 upgrade? You should probably wait until you receive an official notification, but if you are determined, you can force the Windows 10 upgrade. Read More , and those issues haven’t stopped there. Microsoft is dogged by rumors and confirmations that Windows 10 silently installs in the background without permission, and the latest twist has seen Windows 10 attempting (and succeeding in some cases!) to install itself by eliminating other updates from the standard Windows Update window How to Upgrade to Windows 10 via Windows Update Windows 10 is offered as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. When you're ready to upgrade, you can use Windows Update and keep all your installed programs and settings intact. Read More .

So what is going on with Windows 10 and Microsoft?

How the Auto-Installation Happened

Windows 10 has been offered as a free upgrade Windows 10 Upgrade - Free Doesn't Mean It Won't Cost Anything There's a catch to the free Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft understands its audience all too well; they are more likely to pay for the freedom of control, rather than for extra features. Read More to Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users. Those users have until July 29, 2016 to accept the upgrade, after which the new operating system will become a retail purchase. Nonetheless, some users have found Windows Update starting the installation process without their consent. Microsoft said:

As part of our effort to bring Windows 10 to existing genuine Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers, the Windows 10 upgrade Should You Upgrade to Windows 10? Windows 10 is coming, but should you upgrade? Like almost every change it's mostly good, but also comes with drawbacks. We've summarized them for you, so you can make up your own mind. Read More may appear as an optional update in the Windows Update (WU) control panel. This is an intuitive and trusted place people go to find Recommended and Optional updates to Windows. In the recent Windows update, this option was checked as default; this was a mistake and we are removing the check.

Which seems to be fair enough, and mistakes do happen. Having said that, when I opened Windows Update this evening, I was met with this delightful screen:

Upgrade to Windows 10 now


And while my system is ready for Windows 10, there are many systems out there that aren’t.

Restart Now

Reports have also emerged concerning two new update messages appearing on older Windows operating systems. GWX Control Panel developer Josh Mayfield noted the two new messages as his popular Windows 10 Update blocker-utility couldn’t stop them.

The first message appears in Windows Update:

Your upgrade to Windows 10 is ready

You need to restart your PC to begin the installation. This might take a while, but we’ll let you know when it’s done.

Windows 10 Upgrade Ready


The second begins a 60-minute countdown to installation, asking you to:

Save your work and leave your PC plugged in and turned on. Your PC might restart several times during the upgrade and it might take a while. We’ll let you know when its done.

Windows 10 Time to Upgrade

While the latter has a reschedule button, the former has none. You’re heading down to upgrade town once you restart your computer, and Mayfield confirms “if you’re seeing either of the above two screens, exactly as they appear here, GWX Control Panel is not yet able to help you.”

Ouch. Unnecessary, aggressive, and certain to inflame users already up-in-arms regarding the existing upgrade policies How to Turn Off Automatic App Updates in Windows 10 how to stop the auto-update function for apps in Windows 10, if you don't want the latest versions of apps for any reason. Read More .


Installation Files

This is all made possible as the Windows 10 installation files have likely already been deposited in your system, regardless of whether you wanted to upgrade. As our own Tina Sieber discovered, Windows 10 is an outrageous intrusion Has Microsoft Installed Adware on Your PC to Promote Windows 10? Windows 10 is coming and Microsoft is going to great lengths to ensure each and every Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 user is fully aware. Is update KB3035583 essentially adware? Read More , receiving the adware-like popup notification Get Windows 10: It's Not a Virus! The Get Windows 10 icon in your system tray is not a virus. It's Microsoft's official upgrade note prior to the official release of Windows 10 on July 29th, 2015. Read More , followed by discovery of the hidden $Windows.#BT, which had magically grown in size. This, after cancelling the Windows 10 Upgrade to continue using the Windows 10 Preview.

Windows 10 Installation Files Folder

Click here to read more Stop the Windows 10 Download & Installation on Your Windows 7 or 8 Device If your Internet has been slower than usual or if you noticed less disk space, you can probably blame Microsoft. Windows Update may have downloaded the Windows 10 installation files behind your back. Stop it! Read More about Tina’s Windows 10 struggles.

We assure you: you’re not alone!


Before & After Workarounds

The right solution for preventing or undoing the automatic upgrade depends on how far along the update path your system is.

  1. You could stop the Windows Update Service Windows Update: Everything You Need to Know Is Windows Update enabled on your PC? Windows Update protects you from security vulnerabilities by keeping Windows, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office up-to-date with the latest security patches and bug fixes. Read More , temporarily suspending all Windows Update actions across your system. However, this also prevents your system from receiving security updates, so it is far from a perfect solution. Instead, as advised in previous posts, you should disable recommended updates and remove any optional updates associated with the Windows 10 upgrade How to Cancel the Windows 10 Upgrade If You Changed Your Mind The Get Windows 10 app made it incredibly easy to sign up for the upgrade. If you no longer want it, you can opt out again. We show you how. Read More .
  2. Others have suggested using a System Restore Point How to Factory Reset Windows 10 or Use System Restore Learn how System Restore and Factory Reset can help you survive any Windows 10 disasters and recover your system. Read More  or Windows.old to revert back to your old installation How to Downgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 7 or 8.1 Windows 10 is here and maybe it's not what you expected. If you already upgraded, you can perform a rollback. And if you haven't yet, create a system backup first. We show you how. Read More . An excellent idea, provided you have a point to return to. Remember: System Restore is not turned on by default in Windows 8 and 8.1. You’ll have to manually create a System Restore point Should You Refresh, Reset, Restore, or Reinstall Windows? Ever wanted to reset Windows 7 without losing personal data? Between a factory reset and a reinstall, it was tough. Since Windows 8, we have two new options: Refresh and Reset. Which one is right... Read More : if you haven’t already, do it now.
  3. The final suggestion is to use a third-party software to backup and restore from. If you upgraded to Windows 10, the Windows.old-aided downgrade option doesn’t work, and you never prepared a system backup you can go back to, then backing up your Windows 10 settings How to Upgrade to Windows 10 & Take Settings and Apps with You Windows 10 is coming and you have a choice to make. Either you upgrade your existing Windows installation, or you can install Windows 10 from scratch. We show you how to migrate to Windows 10... Read More  and restoring them to a fresh install of Windows 7 or 8.1 is your last resort.

None, I repeat none of these are guaranteed to work, so we offer them to you in the knowledge we have tried our best. I would suggest every user create a system restore point or, better yet, a system image, regardless of Windows 10 Update terror.

Windows 10 Auto-Update Roundup

Is it okay for this to happen? No.

Windows 10 is a great product and it’s free. That combination alone should see people flocking to pick it up.

Alongside the impressive installation figures mentioned at the top of the article, it would seem Windows 10 is actually chugging along nicely and perhaps doesn’t need the overbearing, pushy approach Microsoft seems to have adopted. Then again, how many of those 110 million updates came as a result of the persuasion strategy, and how many weren’t ready to update at all?

Genuine mistakes or not, Microsoft seems to have dropped the ball on this one.

Have you been hit with an auto-update issue? Did you have to follow through, or did you retrieve your old settings? Let us know your situation below!

Image Credits: Confused computer engineer by wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock, Windows Update Reschedule, and Upgrade to Windows 10 both via Has Microsoft Installed Adware on Your PC to Promote Windows 10? Windows 10 is coming and Microsoft is going to great lengths to ensure each and every Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 user is fully aware. Is update KB3035583 essentially adware? Read More

Related topics: Windows 10, Windows Upgrade.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. JamesR404
    March 11, 2016 at 11:15 pm says you can disable the upgrade notifications via right clicking start bar > properties > adjust > and hide the GWX windows notification.

    Sure it won't help prevent the downgrade from downloading or finding other sneaky ways to install.

  2. JamesR404
    March 11, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    I'm installing Linux Ubuntu as a dual boot option, as windows 10 is not allowing me to downgrade to windows 7. (downgrade option throws an error).

    Let's see how often I'll still boot into Windows.

  3. Anonymous
    October 21, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    You can win against Microsoft, but you have to hammer them. And the Board of Directors has to know how you feel about the way THEIR firm does business. The people running Microsoft are really glorified bureaucrats who care not one whit for the customer. Here are the board members:

    Helmut Gunter Wihelm Panke Ph.D.
    Chairman of Board
    BMW US Capital, LLC
    1209 Orange Street
    Wilmington, New Jersey 19801

    Garrison Mason Morfit CFA
    Partner of ValueAct Capital, LLC
    435 Pacific Avenue
    San Francisco, California 94133

    Bill Gates
    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    1551 Eastlake Avenue East
    Seattle, WA 98102

    John Wendell Thompson, CEO
    Virtual Instruments Corporation
    1209 Orange Street
    Wilmington, New Jersey 19801

    Charles H. Noski
    4 World Financial Center
    250 Vesey Street
    New York, NY 10080

    John W. Stanton, CEO
    Trilogy Equity Partners
    155 108th Avenue NE
    Bellevue, Washington 98004

    Melinda French Gates
    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    1551 Eastlake Avenue East
    Seattle, WA 98102

    Maria M. Klawe Ph.D., President
    Harvey Mudd College
    301 Platt Blvd
    Claremont, CA 91711

    Teri L. List-Stoll
    Danaher Corporate Office
    2200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Suite 800W
    Washington, DC 20037

    Charles W. Scharf, CEO
    Visa Inc.
    PO Box 8999
    San Francisco, California 94128-8999

    • Gavin Phillips
      October 26, 2015 at 12:09 pm

      Thanks, George. Are you suggesting we email or write each board member a letter?

      • Anonymous
        October 26, 2015 at 12:56 pm

        Yes, Gavin, I am. I hammered away at them and top management. I bought the Assure support plan from them for support of Office 2013 and Win 7. It is bad enough to have to deal with the off-shore tech support and the language/accent barriers. But each call resulted in an another problem -- ultimately in a cascade that required a fresh install of Win 7.

        By the way, Office 13 is inferior to the 2003 version, but that's for another day.

        The truth is that boards are ultimately responsible for everything having to do with the company and, as one can see from the composition of Microsoft's, the emphasis is financial. But, management also shields boards from negative information, especially operation issues; and, that is especially true in big, mature organizations. So dysfunctional and incompetent management can thrive for a long time before being brought to account. The way to counter this is for people to hammer at boards. It isn't hard to find board composition of public companies.

        There is so much more to say about this, but it's enough for now to suggest this to anyone who has had or who objects to the ethics and the actions underlying the Win 10 upgrade: Write the board members. Many times. Document your problems. Copy the misguided CEO (I can't even bring myself to type his name for fear of my blood pressure rising). Good luck.

  4. Anonymous
    October 21, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Windows 10 is a VIRUS! I upgrade early on when 10 became available and on reboot, my PC kept flashing every 2 seconds... icons went away and slowly returned.... I called Microsoft and they said click x then y then... and I said, "I can't click or navigate, because my desktop keeps resetting". They had no answer on how I could return to Windows 7 without a reinstall. Oh well, lesson learned. Windows 7 is "relatively stable".... Internet Explorer is crash prone and we all know this. Why would we think that after so many flops like Vista/Milennium/Win 8 that MS FINALLY fixed their operating system? It's madness. Leave Windows 10 to the dreamers and MS fanboys.... if your OS and PC work OK, do not upgrade. Not worth the hassle.

  5. Anonymous
    October 20, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    My Windows 7 at home got upgraded to Windows 10 and my computer seems to become slower when booting up? also I noticed that my Microsoft Office 2006 does not work anymore? If you have any solutions to this, please let me know so that I can use my MS Office 2006. if not, Maybe someone can show me how to revert back to my old Windows 7 so that I can use my applications. Thanks a lot.

    • Gavin Phillips
      October 26, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      Hi Henry. Sounds like you're having a bad time. If your laptop upgraded and it wasn't a clean install, you should be able to revert back to W7 quite easily.

      Head to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery

      You should see a 'Go back to Windows 7' option. If you do, follow the instructions and life we return to normality.

      Unfortunately, I am unsure as to why your Office 2006 installation would cease to work, but hope you can get back to Windows 7.

  6. Anonymous
    October 20, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    The problem is that Microsoft has sneakily made a Win 10 upgrade look like a regular Update and unless you're pretty tech savvy, many people will 'update' to Win 10 before they realize whats happening.

    I also believe that the words 'update' and 'upgrade' have been deliberately conflated when they mean different things. Updates traditionally meant 'fixes' to problems that surfaced on an OS whether security, function or crashes. The word 'Upgrade' is normally seen as a quantum jump from one OS to a newer one as in XP to Win 7, Win 7 to Win 8.

    Installing Win 10 in the manner that Microsoft has primarily pursued is an Upgrade disguised as an Update. Even worse is the fact that you cant do a clean Upgrade install as was possible with family pack versions of XP to Win 7. Generally speaking I've found clean installs which require re-installation of your apps and normally drivers to be the simplest and least troublesome method of moving from one OS to the next as you start with a clean slate.

    Win 10 doesn't do this and I'm convinced that many people including myself have had problems because of this and in my case, resulting in a permanently trashed SSD. This 'porting' of existing apps from Win 7 to Win 10 has increased the Upgrade/Update time for Win 67 to Win 10 to become very long and tiresome. For example, a 1 year old HP pavilion laptop took me over 6 hours and a HP envy took around 3 hours. Previously a Win 7 upgrade took on vintage hardware around 1 hour and another hour for my apps & some drivers.

    Had Microsoft done a clean install of Win 10 I'm sure the pain for many people wouldn't have existed.

  7. Anonymous
    October 20, 2015 at 2:05 am


    Fortunately, I haven't received either of the screens shown at the top of this article. Therefore, I can't test any of the ideas I'm about to describe. However, like other situations, I'd think that seeing these screens merely indicates that the user has a problem, and, as with most other problems, a workaround is probably available.

    Accordingly, I doubt that it's inevitable that "you’re heading down to upgrade town once you restart your computer." Granted, that will be the case for all but the type of user reading this column. Moreover, those users most likely will have taken one or more of the defensive actions mentioned in the article. Nevertheless, I'd like to present some ideas on how an advanced user might proceed if this particular problem is encountered, and nothing suggested thus far is available as a remedy.

    When reading these ideas, please remember that, for the reasons stated in my second sentence, they are only theories and suggestions--not recommendations. In the best case, they will stimulate other users to contribute their ideas and experiences, and thus move toward the point where a recommendation can be made.

    Since the timer screen "has a reschedule button," the first order of business must be to relieve time pressure by using it to reschedule to a later time. Among other benefits, doing that would provide the opportunity to research the experiences of others with rolling back from a Windows 10 installation to the previous operating system. If that has been working for most people, and no full system backup is available, we could simply let the upgrade happen, and then undo the effects through the roll-back. Doing so would be the least time-consuming approach, and probably the most likely to successfully return the system to its previous state.

    If that approach is not possible or desired, the next step would seem like another defensive one: taking any or all of the "preventive" steps mentioned in the article. They are preventive in the sense that they might prevent the completed upgrade from damaging the system, because they might be able to return it to it's previous state.

    Unfortunately even if defensive steps are taken, the system might be restored to a state in which the conditions have been met to create this situation in the first place. Thus, at some point, it will be necessary to figure out a way to disrupt at least some of those conditions, so that they can't recreate the problem.

    In order to do so, the first point to consider is that, if the upgrade will start in 60 minutes, some mechanism must be in place to trigger the restart. Most likely, a new task has been created in the Task Scheduler. Most likely, that will have been created in the same "subfolder" with other tasks regulating the GWX process. Reviewing that folder (a subset of the "Microsoft" task set) might make it possible to disable that task, along with the other GWX-related tasks.

    If a task can be found, but it can't be disabled in the Scheduler, it should be possible to find and delete the task from the Registry by doing a text search for the task name. This might necessitate "taking ownership" of the relevant key, and changing permissions so that it can be deleted.

    If neither of these approaches work, and we can't disable the trigger, we might be able to defuse or remove the bomb. By that, I mean that we should make the assumption that the files necessary to run the upgrade have already been downloaded. Since those files are contained in "$Windows.#BT" [I'm not sure if that's a folder or file], the next step would be to try to delete "it." I expect that "it" would have file or folder attributes set to "hidden" and "system," but attribute changing utilities are available that often can make that possible.

    More drastic would be to use a hex editor to delete large quantities of code from one or more files in the bomb, so that it would be corrupted, and could not detonate.

    Deleting files, or corrupting them, should be possible without problem if the file system is exposed when the system is started from a boot disk such as Hiren's Boot CD.

    Since this message has been quite long, I want to say to anyone still reading that I hope these ideas have been helpful in leading you to a solution. Perhaps they will even prompt Mr. Phillips, the author of this informative article, to respond and elaborate.

    Good luck to all!

  8. Anonymous
    October 20, 2015 at 1:25 am

    Bless you Gavin for being more forgiving, then I, for what I see as a blatent attempt by MS to get you do install 10. I also met the same delightful screen. I mistook the "get started" button, because of the eye candy logo, as the button to start the "important" updates, unaware that this optional update was front and center instead of the other way around. I pressed the button and immediately realized my mistake and aborted the update. Pretty sneaky and just another reason why I'm seriously thing of abandoning MS altogether for Linux.

    • Gavin Phillips
      October 26, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Thomas, thanks for reading. Seems like there is a rich vein of people switching to Linux on the back of this update debacle. Good luck!

  9. Anonymous
    October 19, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    I had Windows 10 appear repeated in my updates - over-riding the recommended updates as described - and it even re-appeared twice when I tried hiding the update. My final solution was to uninstall two prior updates related to GWX. I'll re-instate the Windows 10 update when I'm sure that Windows 10 is properly ready for full-time use.

    • Gavin Phillips
      October 26, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      Sounds sensible, Tom. I've been using W10 preview on my laptop for months, but still haven't let W10 near my main, work PC. Now I can update using my W7 key I'm more inclined to update with a clean install. Good luck, and thanks for reading.