Have you noticed recently that your Internet connection was slower than usual, the free space on your system drive shrunk, and maybe you even maxed out your Internet data cap? This time you can probably blame Microsoft! If you’re getting automatic updates on Windows 7 or 8, Windows Update may have downloaded the Windows 10 installation files behind your back…
We can’t give you your lost bandwidth back, but we can help you to stop it from getting stolen. We’ll also show you how to delete the hidden Windows 10 files from your system and stop Windows Update from doing this again.
Anatomy of the Free Windows 10 Upgrade
Windows 10 was released on July 29, offering a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8.1 systems. Prior to that, users could sign up for the free upgrade via the Get Windows 10 app, which was delivered to their systems through Windows Update. The app presented itself with a Windows icon in the system tray, as well as a message under Windows Update. Annoyingly, removing the Get Windows 10 app isn’t trivial.
Users who did sign up for the free upgrade received the Windows 10 installation files prior to its launch date or soon thereafter, provided their system was deemed compatible. Installation files were deposited in a hidden folder on the system drive and took up 3-6 GB.
Once an invitation to upgrade was issued, users could delay it for 72 hours before their system went ahead and automatically upgraded to Windows 10. Individuals who had changed their mind were left with little time to figure out how to cancel the Windows 10 upgrade.
Windows 7 & 8 Users Are Coerced to Upgrade
Right now, Windows Update deposits Windows 10 installation files on people’s computers, regardless of whether or not they reserved the free ugprade to Windows 10. To confirm reports from the Inquirer, I booted into Windows 8.1, which hadn’t been updated in a while, checked the status of the Get Windows 10 app (no reservation), as well as the hidden folder (present, but essentially empty), and ran all pending updates.
What happened then was outrageous. After allowing Windows to run updates and rebooting twice, an adware-like notification popped up that my system was ready to upgrade to Windows 10. When I opened the Get Windows 10 app, I saw this:
I had actually cancelled the Windows 10 reservation on Windows 8.1 in late July because the Windows 10 Preview I had been dual booting was upgraded to the release version and activated just fine.
While running updates, the hidden $Windows.~BT folder had rapidly grown from a few KB to 3.87 GB, exactly as reported by other outlets.
My original reservation had been cancelled weeks earlier, but somehow it still triggered the upgrade, once the installation files had been downloaded. When I clicked OK, let’s continue, Declined the license terms, and returned to Windows Update, I found a failed optional “Upgrade to Windows 10 Home” update, which was released in late August. This is the update that is supposed to let you upgrade to Windows 10 after you made a reservation.
Microsoft told the Inquirer:
For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade. When the upgrade is ready, the customer will be prompted to install Windows 10 on the device.
Not only does Windows download the installation files to your computer, regardless of whether or not you agree, Microsoft also admits that it will prompt you to upgrade, again, irrespective of whether or not you requested the upgrade. Thus it doesn’t surprise me to hear this story from an Extreme Tech staffer:
[David Cardinal] left on a two-week trip with an HTPC box running Windows 8.1U and came back to find it running Windows 10. Windows Update was configured to install automatic updates, and Microsoft has flagged Windows 10 as an important [recommended] update — so it’s at least theoretically possible that the box automatically installed the new operating system.
If this happened to you and if you catch it within 30 days, you still have a chance to downgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1.
What You Can Do to Prevent & Undo the Forced Windows 10 Upgrade
The Windows 10 upgrade is optional! At every step of the way, you can opt out, cancel, and undo whatever Microsoft did.
Stop the Automatic Upgrade to Windows 10
The files have been downloaded and you’ve been told that your system is ready to upgrade. Well, you can still cancel the upgrade. Open the Get Windows app, open the menu from the Hamburger icon in the top left, navigate to View confirmation and select Cancel reservation.
Should you have accidentally initiated the installation by selecting OK, let’s continue, simply Decline the license terms or schedule the upgrade as far in the future as possible (72 hours), then proceed to remove the Windows 10 Upgrade notification as we described earlier.
Stop the Windows 10 Installation File Download
For now, we recommend you remove the Get Windows 10 app, as per in the link above. We can’t guarantee that Microsoft won’t or hasn’t already released other updates that will attempt to upgrade you to Windows 10, thus we also recommend you take control over Windows Update, as described below.
Reclaim System Drive Space
After removing the Get Windows 10 app, run the Disk Cleanup for your system drive. Briefly, go to This PC, right-click your system drive, select Properties, then click Disk Cleanup. Once it has finished compiling files to clean up, click the Clean up system files button. This will give you the full amount of temporary files, including up to 6 GB of Temporary Windows installation files.
Stop Microsoft from Messing with You Like This
Don’t let Windows automatically install recommended or optional updates. We do recommend that you allow important updates to install automatically because they protect your system from vulnerabilities and we don’t expect Microsoft to abuse this setting to force an undesired Windows 10 upgrade on its users.
To disable recommended and optional updates, head to the Control Panel (click Windows key + R, type Control Panel, and hit Enter), navigate to Windows Update, and select Change settings from the sidebar. Under Important updates, select Install updates automatically.
If you choose to be given recommended updates the same way you receive important updates, you’re offering Microsoft a path to force-feed you whatever they think is “important”, although it isn’t purely for security. That’s exactly how they’ll give you Windows 10 related updates. Thus remove the respective checkmark under Recommended updates.
Microsoft Is Taking Windows 10 Too Seriously
While it is possible to opt out and stop the forced upgrade, Microsoft is making it too hard. For the average user, the steps aren’t trivial and the Windows 10 notifications are borderline adware. Users will either be driven away from Windows or give in and upgrade.
But why is Microsoft in such a hurry? Extended support for Windows 7 and Windows 8 doesn’t expire until 2020 and 2023, respectively. It doesn’t matter whether one thousand or one billion users remain on either of these operating systems, Microsoft is contractually bound to provide support, i.e. ensure the integrity of these operating systems and deliver security patches.
It’s understandable that Microsoft would like to get as many people to switch to Windows 10 as soon as possible. In this case, the end doesn’t justify the means, because the Windows 10 upgrade is not necessarily in the best interest of the customer.
Particularly, Windows Home users function as Microsoft’s guinea pigs because they are among the first to receive and test run mandatory updates. Moreover, they are the most likely crowd to subscribe to Microsoft’s new entertainment offerings, such as the Music and Movies & TV services, offered through the Windows Store.
Have you had issues since the Get Windows 10 app was released? Or are you happy with Windows 10? Share your stories or frustrations in the comments!