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Win 10 Downloads Itself Whether You Want It To Or Not

Today in ‘things we wish Microsoft would ask really, really nicely about before they just went ahead and did it without telling us’, it’s Windows 7 & 8 quietly downloading Windows 10 for you, regardless of whether or not you intend to install it.
Fear not: it won’t begin the actual Windows 10 upgrade process unless you actively request that it do so. But it will download between 3.5GB and 6GB of data, which is bad news for anyone with a download cap, as well as leaving that data sat on your hard drive, which is bad news for anyone with a weeny-teeny SSD. Some ultralite laptops and hybrids have a mere 32GB capacity, so that’s going to sting.

The folder’s also hidden by default, which may leave the unaware flummoxed as to quite where all their space has gone. Go to Folder Options in Windows explorer (alt-f-o is a keyboard shortcut to it), view, then select ‘Show Hidden Files and Folders’ and you should then spot a ‘$Windows.~BT’ folder hanging around the root directory of your main hard drive.

This isn’t happening merely to people who chose the ‘reserve Windows 10 update’ – it’s for anyone using Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 who has automatic updates turned on. The only way to dodge it, for now, is to turn automatic updates off in Windows Update and select whatever you want manually, though that potentially introduces security risks if you don’t do it regularly.

While Microsoft have pretty much kept mum regarding Windows 10’s privacy concerns – which partly explains why so much online opinion is polarised between the equally hysterical ‘they’re reading all my sexy emails and uploaading my browser history to the feds!’ and ‘anyone who expresses even the faintest concern is a tinfoil hat-wearing lunatic’ – they have broken cover to address this particular issue.

Responding to queries from The Inquirer who broke this story, they issued this statement: “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.”

Which is similar ‘hey, we’re only trying to help’ language to that used around targeted ads and Cortana’s ‘tailored’ browsing suggestions. Maybe this is simply happening because Microsoft want the Windows 10 update to be as quick and smooth as possible for anyone who does go for it, but at the same time clearly it’s very much in their interest to encourage as many people to upgrade to their new shiny thing as possible. ‘X million people use Windows 10’ is a powerful marketing line to throw at anyone flicking through the Argos catalogue and wondering whether to buy a Windows laptop or a Macbook.

Windows 10 is pretty good. It feels more modern than Windows 7 and far, far more coherent than Windows 8. I’d still maintain that it’s worth the upgrade, at least for as long as it’s free, and so long as you can do it on your own terms. I still don’t know entirely how seriously to take the privacy issues, but stuff like this just makes me sigh. I’m prepared to ascribe it to over-enthusiasm, but it’s a shame that a good OS keeps raining on its own parade.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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