I help out a friend of mine by maintaining his Windows computer for him. When his computer was Windows 7, all was well, but since he bought a new Windows 10 computer things have become a nightmare.
Before Windows 10, you could tell Windows not to update automatically; you could even tell it not to download updates in preparation if you wanted to. But that option seems to be missing in Windows 10.
My friend uses his computer sparingly. It’s a mediocre laptop with 8MB of memory and he checks his emails a few times a day, reads the news and occasionally researches something on Google. The only software he uses is Word from time to time and some software to grab photos off his camera. He really is one of the lightest computer users I know. He is also one of the least technical users I know.
So what I’d do, pre-Windows 10, is switch updating off and then once in a while I’d grab his computer for a few hours, switch updating on, take all the updates, switch updating off again and give him back his computer.
Why do I do this? Well, when I said he’s one of the least technical people I know, I really meant it. If an unknown message comes up or his computer grinds to a halt because of background updates, he panics and calls me.
When he bought a new Windows 10 computer we hit problems because there’s no legitimate (by which I mean a switch in Control Panel somewhere) way to turn updating off. The only option is to disable the service. Astonishingly, Windows 10 even ignores this and starts the service itself sometimes. So now his computer will randomly (as far as he sees it) grind to a halt, often when he’s got an urgent email to send. And then it ends up on my desk.
This is only part one of the idiocy of Windows 10 though.
The second part is the updates themselves. There’s always one that will fail and then your first port of call may be Microsoft’s help page about fixing Windows Update issues. But this has rarely worked in my case. I get through the first seven attempted fixes on that page, ending up with an in-place upgrade, which of course doesn’t work. The eighth item is to install a fresh copy of Windows, essentially zapping all apps and data in the process.
Let’s just pause to consider this. It’s a fucking update on a lightly used computer and the only way to fix it is to reinstall the entire operating system. What’s that all about? Quality assurance is clearly something that only happens to companies other than Microsoft.
I don’t particularly want to get all OS evangalistic here but in five years of being a macOS (and previously OSX) user, I’ve never had an update fail. I have many criticisms of Apple but at least they have a QA department.
I have no idea how people put up with this nonsense. I didn’t. I took one look at Windows 8 and switched to Apple. I would probably have been Apple long before if it wasn’t that I had a job as a Windows software engineer.
So my message to Microsoft is: give me a formal option to shut off Windows update entirely. In the absence of that, if I disable the service, keep your fucking mitts off it until I say the computer can take updates. This isn’t Skynet and I demand the right to tell Windows 10 when I’ll allow updates. I don’t want it to have the temerity to assume it can tell me when it’s going to update.
Oh and QA-check your fucking updates. I don’t expect to have to reinstall the entire machine just to get an update through.