How Can You Deal With Forced Updates To Windows 10?

Windows 10According to The Register’s Trevor Pott, Windows 10 is a resounding “MEH” from a sysadmin perspective. To be fair, Pott likely wrote his blog before Microsoft began aggressively pushing the operating system onto its users, resorting to everything from incessant nagging to outright deceit. If you think Microsoft’s behaving like a purveyor of malware or adware, you aren’t alone in that.

“It appears as if Microsoft designed the Windows 10 upgrade mechanisms in a way that makes it very complicated for users to block the upgrade offer for good on machines running previous versions of Windows,” writes Martin Brinkmann of Ghacks. “This persistence is similar to how malware evolves constantly to avoid detection or come back after it has been removed from operating systems.”

For the end user, who might be perfectly content sticking with Windows 7 or 8, Microsoft’s obnoxious tactics are annoying at best, aggravating and inconvenient at worst. But for administrators whose network and application infrastructure rely on a previous version of Windows? This is basically a kick in the teeth.

“I’m an IT admin in a small group of sysadmins for a large decentralized organization,” writes reddit user Tektium on r/sysadmin. “The organization’s hierarchy requires a thousand employees to purchase and manage their own laptops in the country on Windows 7 Professional. Half a year ago, we decided we did not want to upgrade to Windows 10 because of compatibility problems with some of our apps, and have asked our users to refuse the upgrade.”

That only worked for a time, says Tektium. Now, user devices are being forcibly upgraded, and there’s nothing the IT department can do to stop it. Microsoft’s blundering attempt to ‘bring people into the future’ is destroying the business’s infrastructure.

“Microsoft is systematically destroying all our efforts by changing the way they do this terrible thing every week,” the user continues. “And we can’t keep up. We’re at the point where our users are removing their laptop batteries when a Windows 10 update starts every day.”

Now, there are a few things worth noting about Tektium’s situation:

  • The laptops are not serviced through WSUS, which makes devices exempt from the forced upgrades.
  • The systems aren’t running an enterprise installation of Windows 7. Again, that would make them exempt.

At the same time, neither of those factors should matter. If a user doesn’t want to upgrade, they shouldn’t be bullied into doing so. What exactly can be done, then?

A few things, actually:

  • Set a group policy that prevents Windows 10 from being applied through Windows Update.
  • Create this registry key:
    • Subkey: HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate
      • DWORD value: DisableOSUpgrade = 1
  • Or this one:
    • HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Gwx
      • DisableGwx = 1

Of course, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how many help files Microsoft publishes. This sort of thing shouldn’t be happening. And if your organization is among those impacted by this whole snafu, maybe it’s time to start thinking about a different operating system.

Linux is pretty nice.

Matthew Davis is a technical writer and Linux geek for Future Hosting.

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