back to article How Microsoft copied malware techniques to make Get Windows 10 the world's PC pest

Microsoft uses techniques similar to aggressive malware to promote its “Get Windows 10” offer. As many readers have discovered, the persistent and constantly changing methods Microsoft uses to continually reintroduce its “Get Windows 10” tool, or GWX, onto computers means it’s extremely difficult to avoid. Windows users who …

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          1. Daniel B.

            Re: Block it ...

            Thanks!!!

            1. psychonaut

              Re: Block it ...

              dan - you are welcome.

              wonder why the downvotes?? never mind, the world still turns

    1. PhoenixRevealed

      Re: The easier way to block it

      I've used GWX Control Panel on the half-dozen PCs I'm reponsible for and several others that people have asked me to squash GWX on. Excellent and completely effective so far. I do want to point out, however, that you don't need to "install" this utility if you don't want to. I just run the "portable" version and GWX hasn't come back on any of the PCs I've used it on. Supposedly, actually installing the tool provides a little more protection against GWX reinfection, but the portable version is so effective that I really don't see the need.

    2. 2460 Something
      Thumb Up

      Re: The easier way to block it

      This needs adding to the article.

    3. John Sanders

      Re: The easier way to block it

      Yes, it works rather well, I had to install it on my Win 8.1 VM I use for testing MS crap.

      However I'm amazed that in one form or another Windows always needs clutches.

  1. Alan Sharkey

    Another way?

    You could always upgrade to W10 - that would stop the nagging :) :)

    [Ducks down behind the barricade and waits for the mortar shells]

    1. Len Goddard

      Re: Another way?

      Nope. Tried that. The installation failed and rolled back to Win 7 (no, I am not joking).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another way?

        " The installation failed and rolled back to Win 7 "

        Same here, except the on-disk structure had been corrupted sufficiently that scandisk etc no longer were able to run, and nor was the virus checker able to do a full system scan.

        Top class stuff. Not.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another way?

          Daddy - what's a "Virus Checker"?

      2. tin 2

        Re: Another way?

        Yes indeed.

        Even worse, I foolishly said go ahead at 2 in the morning or whatever and - despite the PC coming out of standby every night as windows has made it do for months - it didn't once manage to install it, re-nagging that it wanted to start in the middle of the day and being put off again by me till the following night.

        One day it just silently gave up and started presenting the GWX reminders again.

        Even worserer, I very foolishly *bought* a laptop with Windows 10 on it. It failed to install itself properly with lots of "something went wrong" errors. Once it got to something looking like a desktop everything was black aside from an empty start menu, an edge tile icon thing and a few others proclaiming a new app will appear here soon, and still nothing worked.

        Deffo complete and utter refusenik now. Time to learn a bit of Linux or Mac I feel.

        Shame they haven't put as much effort into the Win 10 as they have done with the malvertising!

        1. Jakester

          Re: Another way?

          I have done several Windows 7 to 10 test upgrades (first backing the computer or cloning 7 to another hard drive, perform the upgrade, restore Windows 7 from the backup image or put the original drive back in the computer). I had one upgrade go horribly wrong where all data, the original Win 7 install, and the Win 10 upgrade basically vaporized. There was only a few hundred megabytes of files left on the drive and it would perform a boot in any way shape or form.

          I have a friend who upgraded his Windows 7 system to 10 and it did the same thing. Fortunately, I had worked on his system a couple months previous and I still had a full backup image of his hard drive. I was able to restore him back to 7 and he was able to restore his critical data that he backed on an external drive.

          Yes, I was also mystified at how the KB3035583 keeps reinstalling. To keep the patches out, I changed my Windows Update settings by unchecking the 'Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates'. I also don't install (or uninstall if they happen to slip by):

          KB2952664-Compatibility update for upgrading Windows 7

          KB2970228-Update to support the new currency symbol for the Russian ruble in Windows

          KB3006137-Update changes the currency symbol of Lithuania from the Lithuanian litas (Lt) to the euro (€) in Windows

          KB3021917- Update to Windows 7 SP1 for performance improvements (sends telemetry)

          KB3035583-Update installs Get Windows 10 app in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 SP1

          KB3068708-Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry

          KB3075249-Update that adds telemetry points to consent.exe in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7

          KB3080149-Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry

          KB3102429-Update that supports Azerbaijani Manat and Georgian Lari currency symbols in Windows

          KB3123862-Updated capabilities to upgrade Windows 8.1 and Windows 7

          The descriptions are the titles of the KB articles. I have no use for the foreign currency symbol updates, but you may wish to leave in on your installs. I don't know if those updates can be removed once installed.

      3. Andrew Jones 2

        Re: Another way?

        And did it fail at 32% overall progress and 6% installing drivers & features by any chance?

      4. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Another way?

        The rollback actually worked after a failed upgrade attempt? Count yourself lucky... a lot of people had the rollback fail too, leaving the PC unbootable.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Another way?

          a lot of people had the rollback fail too, leaving the PC unbootable.

          Mine wasn't unbootable, but it was certainly unusable with svchost consuming 95-98% of cpu.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Alan Sharkey - Re: Another way?

      Yeah and if you hit your front teeth with a hammer you'll never have to brush them ever again. Oh, and you'll be free from cavities also.

      Don't duck, come out and fight like man! :)

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Another way?

      "You could always upgrade to W10 - that would stop the nagging :) :)"

      you forgot the <facetious> tag

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        Re: Another way?

        Shouldn't that be the <feces> tag instead? Having used the upgrade and that's the taste I was left with.

    4. Pookietoo
      Linux

      Re: stop the nagging

      Stop the nagging and start the stealthy snooping - no thanks.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: stop the nagging

        "Stop the nagging and start the stealthy snooping - no thanks."

        I seem to be getting the snooping anyway (on Windows 8.1); at least there's a "telemetry" process consuming 100% of disc bandwidth until I kill it.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another way?

      Ducks down behind the barricade and waits for the mortar shells

      Given that mortar shells tend to follow a high arc, I fancy that a barricade would be of little use to you.

      I suggest a concrete bunker, with a very thick roof.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Another way?

        I think we have a number of bunker busters in the inventory. "You can hide but we'll find you."

        1. Dagg
          Pint

          Re: Another way?

          >I think we have a number of bunker busters in the inventory. "You can hide but we'll find you."

          Not if the OS of the bunker busters is W10....

    6. Gudgeon

      Re: Another way?

      I've got 2 PCs that can't, for reasons that drivers are unavailable, be upgraded to W10. GWX Control Panel keeps it at bay for the moment. Why the **** can't Microsoft accept that I would upgrade if I could, but I can't. And as I'm in the wilds of France on a limited satellite broadband connection with an 8.5 Gb/month download limit, 6.5 Gb downloads sneaked onto a computer is something I can do without, thanks........

  2. Rory B Bellows
    Pint

    Helpful comment

    I used the GWX control Panel tool from Ultimate Outsider several months ago on both win 7 and 8 machines, and i've never seen or heard from a windows 10 pop up since... It was brought to my attention by a fellow El Reg reader in the comment section of a previous article on this topic. Whoever it was, I owe you a beer...

    1. pakman

      Re: Helpful comment

      That might have been me (I have certainly mentioned it, although I am probably not the only one). GWX Control Panel has certainly been helpful, although I am slightly uneasy about the source code not being available. By and large I have managed to avoid being press-ganged into Microsoft's conscript army of unpaid support staff by pleading ignorance (I haven't used Windows seriously since Win2000). I have to make a couple of exceptions though, and not having to do things like muck about with the registry is a big deal.

      1. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: Helpful comment

        I've meantioned it too...

        ...and I found out via another poster here.

        GWX control panel, the circular helper

  3. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Mushroom

    1. Windows is insecure, so Microsoft has to release numerous security patches. It is stressed to users that they must install all security patches to keep their system safe.

    2. Microsoft subverts the security patch system to distribute nagware.

    3. Everybody complains.

    4. Microsoft tells them they can avoid the nagware by changing their security update settings.

    5. goto 1

    What part of quis custodiet ipsos custodes don't they understand?

    1. Adam Jarvis

      Its comments like this is why I love theregister.co.uk. And why I'd so like to meet you in the flesh. Intelligent, rational but downright cutting, hitting the problem right on the nail. :)

    2. theOtherJT

      All of it, I would imagine.

      Somehow I can't see there being a lot of Latin speakers in Redmond. Or just roundly educated people in general, based on evidence so far.

  4. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Sadly it may still be a while before we're finally rid of this virus, once, and for all. But this is merely just one of the many straw's that have broken that Camels back. But, of I had to cite my single biggest concern it would be down to the question of trust. Not that MicroSoft were ever that big on trust to begin with. These, and their chief clown actually believe that it's ok for the Government to snoop on us....

    Which was perhaps one thing, but now they want a look in as well in order to flog some more tat from what used to be Eidos. Then that's the universal sign to GTFO. With, what on the surface would appear to be a two teired approach to Windows Programs (i.e. Games), running in some new, and improved (e.g. a DRM'egd enforced), native mode, or a watterd (i.e. dummmed down) slowed down mode...

    Well even if the Mustardrace would gleefully lap it up. It seems that some of the bigger boys (Tim Sweeney), however might hopefully have better ideas. But, MicroSoft shall not be darkening my PC ever again.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I doubt we'll ever be rid of this virus. I expect that at some point around EOL for Win7, every pc with Win8.1 or lower will wake up in the middle of the night and install Win10. It will be unannounced, no known update, it will just happen.

      MS has shown no concern for anyone, even those who are disabled <see above comments>.. They've not been honest but have pumped out the PR BS at max. I would hope that hell* has a very special place reserved for them.

      *Not knowing if there really is a hell, there should be one just for them.

  5. Adrian Jones

    Interesting

    I had removed and hidden KB3035583 on both my Win7 desktop and Win8.1 laptop and have had no problems since then. My partner's Win7 laptop however keeps getting the nag box to upgrade, despite doing the same to it.

    It appears that KB2952664 *was* installed on my desktop, so I've nuked that too. I'll have to spend some time going through the laptops to clean them out too.

  6. Richy Freeway

    Import this into your registry.

    Have done this on a number of Windows 7 and 8 machines and not had any sign of Windows 10 return.

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Gwx]

    "DisableGwx"=dword:00000001

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate]

    "DisableOSUpgrade"=dword:00000001

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Import this into your registry.

      While this may work at the moment but for how long eh?

      All it needs is for MS to change the registry keys it looks for (nah, they wouldn't stoop so low to do that would they?) and you are into whack-a-mile territory again.

      I've raised the white flag. No more microsoft for me. They are as dead as the proverbial Dodo.

      {Posted from a Windows 10 free Environment}

  7. adnim Silver badge

    I is dreaming

    of a Windows update that gives the user the option of switching off all windows 10 upgrades and notifications, world peace and cats cuddling dogs.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: I is dreaming

      That is GWX Control Panel with each nagware item set to "No" or "Off". Try it, you might like it.

      You have to tackle the telemetry updates yourself though.

      1. adnim Silver badge

        @Dan 55... Re: I is dreaming

        Was wishing for others... I always run GWX Control after applying *ANY* MS update. Still, have an up vote for mentioning GWX Control panel... I hopes at least some of you are clicking on that donate button :-)

      2. kb
        Happy

        Re: I is dreaming

        I can help with that, there is a handy .bat on the middle of this page that strips those out, followed by a nice list to slap into HOSTS that blocks the websites that MSFT likes to phone home to. HTH.

        http://techne.alaya.net/?p=12499

    2. Chemical Bob

      Re: I is dreaming

      "of a Windows update that gives the user the option of switching off all windows 10 upgrades and notifications, world peace and cats cuddling dogs."

      I can understand wanting to turn off Windows 10 upgrades and cats cuddling dogs (the horror!), but *why* would you want to turn off world peace?

  8. Mikel

    Get a Mac

    Or Linux. It is long past time to stop dealing with this nonsense.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Get a Mac

      One notification and a nice picture in the 'Appy Store for while... and everybody ends up updating.

      Sometimes less is more.

  9. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Talk about cancer.

    Well done, Microsoft.

    And thanks to El Reg for calling a spade a spade.

  10. Adam Jarvis

    Aesop's Fables: The North Wind and the Sun

    Have the folk at Microsoft never heard of it? They really need to.

    The North Wind boasted of great strength. The Sun argued that there was great power in gentleness. "We shall have a contest," said the Sun.

    Far below, a man traveled a winding road. He was wearing a warm winter coat.

    "As a test of strength," said the Sun, "Let us see which of us can take the coat off of that man."

    "It will be quite simple for me to force him to remove his coat," bragged the Wind.

    The Wind blew so hard, the birds clung to the trees. The world was filled with dust and leaves. But the harder the wind blew down the road, the tighter the shivering man clung to his coat.

    Then, the Sun came out from behind a cloud. Sun warmed the air and the frosty ground. The man on the road unbuttoned his coat.The sun grew slowly brighter and brighter. Soon the man felt so hot, he took off his coat and sat down in a shady spot.

    "How did you do that?" said the Wind.

    "It was easy," said the Sun, "I lit the day. Through gentleness I got my way."

    1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Aesop's Fables: The North Wind and the Sun

      Nice story and quite profound. But hey girls and guys you are all a bit late to the party. Did you not notice that Windows became spyware beginning with Vista. It's inbuilt DRM was constantly using *your* resources to check that you were not doing something criminal.

      I went over to Linux but I am applauding Apple for their stance on privacy. This coming from a long-time Apple basher is quite a rare occurrence. As for Windows it's "time to die". (Bladerunner)

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Aesop's Fables: The North Wind and the Sun

        > ... I am applauding Apple for their stance on privacy

        What ! Apple and privacy ? You don't have any if you use their stuff - at least not unless you turn off some actually useful features and find a myriad of obscure and unrelated settings to turn off the telemetry they have. Might not be as bad as MS, but they certainly don't respect your privacy either.

        For example, did you know that by default, whenever you type or edit anything in the Safari address bar, the entire text in that box is sent somewhere unspecified to be used for something unspecified. Not just the characters you type, but the entire contents every time you change it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aesop's Fables: The North Wind and the Sun

      Here's another Aesope's fable - The Sick Lion

      A Lion had come to the end of his days and lay sick unto death at the mouth of his cave, gasping for breath. The animals, his subjects, came round him and drew nearer as he grew more and more helpless. When they saw him on the point of death they thought to themselves: "Now is the time to pay off old grudges." So the Boar came up and drove at him with his tusks; then a Bull gored him with his horns; still the Lion lay helpless before them: so the Ass, feeling quite safe from danger, came up, and turning his tail to the Lion kicked up his heels into his face. "This is a double death," growled the Lion.

      This will be Windows 10 one day.

      1. Steven Roper

        Re: Aesop's Fables: The North Wind and the Sun

        While we're on Aesop's Fables, my favourite one is the shortest in the collection, but to my mind the most profound in its simplicity:

        A Vixen sneered at a Lioness because she never bore more than one cub, while she, the Vixen, boasted she could whelp several at once.

        "Only one," the Lioness replied, "but a lion."

  11. BobChip
    Unhappy

    Can this be legal?

    I don't use Windows (and boy, am I glad I don't, after reading all this) so none of this affects me directly. However, if the entire Windows ecosystem now has to be viewed as essentially an aggressive form of malware, I am beginning to wonder if I ought to protect myself from unsolicited content in documents, drawings, spreadsheets etc. that I receive from Windows users.

    I can't see that I would be directly affected - I use Linux - but I regularly comment on documents, modify drawings etc. and then send the work back out to other people, some of whom are Windows users. If I inadvertently foist an unwelcome Win 10 update on a user who has so far managed to avoid it, my business / reputation would undoubtedly suffer. I could hardly complain if a client sued me for damage done to his business.

    Which leads me to question whether or not Microsoft's actions are actually legal in the first place? And can I protect myself against it? Just thinking.......

    1. 's water music Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Can this be legal?

      And can I protect myself against it? Just thinking.......

      Sounds like tin foil may be the kind of protection you need :-)

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Can this be legal?

      > ... question whether or not Microsoft's actions are actually legal in the first place?

      In the UK I don't believe they are. I've commented earlier with respect to visually impaired users, and I believe they are probably committing an offence under the UK Computer Misuse Act for starters. It's clear that many of the people having this foisted on them do not want it, and would not authorise it if given a real choice. The fact that MS don't actually state what the update they are pushing on users actually does should pretty well remove any defence of "the user approved it by installing the update".

      Then for those where it fails and causes them problems, there could be an argument of Criminal Damage - also a criminal offence.

      As since the spyware is not laid out in a meaningfully clear way, and the user does not get to give informed consent (or in reality, even uninformed consent) - there is also the issue of Data Protection offences which unfortunately (see other stories on The Reg) a criminal activity I believe.

      And to finish off, since we can probably assume some of this data goes outside the EU, and specifically to the USA, then there is another question to be asked under data protection laws.

      EDIT:

      And yes, you raise a good point about office documents. There isn't really anything to stop MS stuffing something into Office updates to also circumvent users attempting to avoid the upgrade. One thing I think we can probably look forward to is Office updates with a minimum OS requirement that excludes pre-10 users, and with format changes so users of earlier versions can't work with the documents. Ie if you don't run up to date office you can't work with documents people send you, and you can't run up to date office without running W10. It's something both MS and other vendors (Quark, you complete and utter b***ards) have used in the past to force upgrades.

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