Microsoft has a dirty little Windows 10 upgrade trick up its sleeve

Clicking “X” won’t stop your PC upgrading to Windows 10.

Windows 10 upgrade reminder

Microsoft really really really wants you to upgrade to Windows 10.

Maybe if you’re one of those folks who hasn’t upgraded to Windows 10 yet, you are seeing a message like the one above pop up.

So, what if you don’t want to upgrade to Windows 10? What if you just want the pesky reminder to go away? You may very well press the “X” in the top right corner, right?

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X mark

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Because, as BBC News reports, although most user interface design would consider the pressing of that “X” to be a cancellation of the process, Microsoft has decided to read it as your acceptance that you wish to upgrade your computer to Windows 10.

Brad Chacos, senior editor at PC World, is one of those who considers this to be a “nasty” trick:

“So after more than half a year of teaching people that the only way to say “no thanks” to Windows 10 is to exit the GWX application—and refusing to allow users to disable the pop-up in any obvious manner, so they had to press that X over and over again during those six months to the point that most people probably just click it without reading now – Microsoft just made it so that very behavior accepts the Windows 10 upgrade instead, rather than canceling it.”

“Deploying these dirty tricks only frustrates long-time Windows users who have very valid reasons to stick with operating systems they already know and love.”

Judging by responses on Twitter, there are plenty of other people who are mystified as to how their computers upgraded to Windows 10 even though they thought they had cancelled the process.

Chacos’s wife is one of those who is reported to have been caught out by changed behaviour, and even though she has a 30 day grace period during which she can roll back to Windows 7, she is now reportedly looking to buy a Mac.

Here is what Microsoft has to say about it:

“With the free Windows 10 upgrade offer ending on 29 July, we want to help people upgrade to the best version of Windows.

“As we shared in October, Windows 10 will be offered as a ‘recommended’ update for Windows 7 and 8.1 customers whose Windows Update settings are configured to accept ‘recommended’ updates.

“Customers can choose to accept or decline the Windows 10 upgrade.”

Whether that is enough to convince Mrs Chacos to remain loyal to Windows remains to be seen…

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

37 comments on “Microsoft has a dirty little Windows 10 upgrade trick up its sleeve”

  1. Nzall

    I wonder why his wife wants to switch to Mac. Apple wants you to upgrade to the newest version of OSX just as much as Microsoft. It just is not as public that they do so.

    1. Chris Bidmead · in reply to Nzall

      Yeah, sure. But the Mac OSX upgrade isn't force-fed like this.

      1. Anonymous · in reply to Chris Bidmead

        Yes. But everything Apple does is also highly proprietary and in that sense, imposes such limitation onto it's users in other largely frustrating ways. For example, if you purchased mp3 files from iTunes and tried to play them on a Windows computer or other non-Apple device (or vice versa), they for the most part are just not operable.

        Again, this just odes to the greater configurability and usability concept so readily employed by the pc market. And up until the recent Win10 debacle, pc users pretty much still had free reign to customize their pc's however they liked with very few limitations.

        If you were one of the lucky ones to head off at the pass, Microsoft's nonsense with Win10 and you still have your copy of Win7 in good working order, so long as you know what you're doing, you can still avoid the forced behavior from Microsoft, however it does require that you pay close attention to this aspect of pc computing for the foreseeable future.

        There are also many resources available to help pc users avoid the many catastrophe's which often plague unsuspecting windows users due to their simply trusting Microsoft to do what is right. Woody Leonhard is just one of many columnists whom have spear-headed this effort in recent years. Additionally, he also maintains his own database of 'How-To' articles with scores of other easy to understand bits of information for the purpose of navigating the Windows update landscape.

        And while that might sound involved to average users, on the contrary, Woody, at least, breaks it down quite nicely so that even non-techie users can understand how to proceed. If you really like your customized Win7 machine, then by all means do what you can to keep it that way. It is possible and experts like Woody make it easy to do.

        Also, since this nonsense with Microsoft, there have been several applications developed (GWX Control Panel, Never10, etc… ) which specifically provide users the ability to block the Windows 10 upgrade parameters and even ones that also remove any already existing Win10 bits from your machine, such as Ancile (formerly Aegis).

        When you consider the actual numbers on just how many corporate clients continue to maintain their Enterprise versions of Windows 7, the evidence for it's viability is still overwhelmingly in it's favor——-despite the deceptive rhetoric spewing from Redmond.

        Don't listen to Microsoft and it's hype. They, like many other corporate thugs, love to fear-monger the people into accepting their actions. However, you still have a choice, albeit one that involves a little bit more effort——-it is nonetheless worth it, if you play your cards right.

        Remember, the rabbit hole goes deeper than they really want you to know, and that goes for Apple, Google and every other corporate monstrosity out there too. Most of them are bent on manipulating peoples lives to no end, except of course, in terms of their own insane profiteering at our expense, financially, emotionally and personally.

        We can fight their tyranny. All we have to do is stand up against it, and we can show them we have more of a back-bone for good principles and values than they could ever possibly imagine.

        1. SexyMotherFscker · in reply to Anonymous

          "…if you purchased mp3 files from iTunes and tried to play them on a Windows computer or other non-Apple device (or vice versa), they for the most part are just not operable."

          Utter rubbish. Music you purchase via iTunes is not protected in any way and can be used wherever your conscience allows.

  2. LOL

    What's wrong with windows 10? people is so stupid. if you dont like the win10, even you accidently click the free upgrade, anytime you can get back to your os.. -_-

    1. J Cardon · in reply to LOL

      You're missing the point. It is wrong to change what users are used to in order to trick them into doing something.

      Chocolate cake is delicious. I love chocolate cake. But if somebody comes up to me, asks if want chocolate cake, and then shoves it in my mouth whether I say yes or no, I'm not going to be too happy about it.

    2. coyote · in reply to LOL

      'people is so stupid.'

      You don't have to suggest your intelligence (or your insight) to anyone… you make it quite clear enough (and I'm only really after your lack of insight into the problem). It's manipulation, it's filthy and it's a disgrace even for Microsoft. Why do they have to trick people into getting the best for free? No trickery would be necessary.

    3. Philip J · in reply to LOL

      How about people who only have cellular internet access and that unwanted upgrade has just used their entire monthly download quota?

    4. Eric902 · in reply to LOL

      One issue with downgrading from Win10 to Windows 7, the downgrade in some cases does not properly restore Task Scheduler's tasks. Go to this author's tool attempts to restore many windows tasks. It seems to repair some but not all Scheduled Tasks. Many critical task functions are crippled, such as Microsoft Tasks including scheduled defragging, and third party schedules such as automatic Adobe Flash updates. How to tell if your Task Scheduler in Windows 7 (after downgrading) got messed up – just get into Task scheduler, you'll get a series of error messages – sometimes dozens.

  3. M. Possamai

    What a sad article..

    It says so in the message: "based on your windows update settings, this PC is scheduled to be upgraded on dd:mm:yyyy"

    So no, of course it won't help to click the X and if you have the ability to read you could understand that. It’s scheduled. It says so very clearly in that message.

    Is it nasty to force it like this? Sure.. but don't act surprised that pressing the X won't stop it because that just makes you look like some computer-noob..

  4. Helladog

    I haven't used windows since I tried reinstalling. The MS downloadable ISO didn't want to activate, though it worked at the time, and the other method that MS recommended was to install 8, then upgrade to 8.1, then to 10. I was stupid enough to try but updating 8 didn't want to work.

    I'm using Linux now, and the nvidia drivers actually work with it as opposed to Win 10.

  5. Alan Robertson

    "Deploying these dirty tricks only frustrates long-time Windows users who have very valid reasons to stick with operating systems they already know and love."

    Love Windows 7 – works efficiently and reliably. Hate Windows 10 – spyware riddled, locked in eco system. The "new" Microsoft has annoyed me so much that I'm now using Linux Mint Cinnamon edition. Guess what? It works perfectly fine out of the box with no spyware. Wine runs a lot of Windows legacy software which makes transitioning easier and Winetricks helps a lot.

    Keep it up Microsoft – it was the push that I needed to make the move to Linux. My business takes enough of my time without having to work out which Windows update broke my video editing software (4 months in a row that a Microsoft update has broken Corel Video Studio!) What's going to happen with roll ups? Do I even get a choice? I don't have time to play cat and mouse games over Windows updates. I paid for Windows 7 and it's still supported until 2020 but Microsoft seems determined to destroy it prematurely and as quickly as possible.

    Good luck to everyone moving to Windows 10 – you're going to need it. Let's just hope Microsoft doesn't get hacked with all YOUR personal information they are gathering… Data Protection?, Nah, that's more a guideline than a law. Who cares?

    sudo apt-get purge microsoft

    1. Krista · in reply to Alan Robertson

      Couldn't have said it better myself. I've designated part of this weekend to setting up a Linux system (just have to decide on a flavor) and begin my transition away from Microsoft. I've had every OS Microsoft ever put out and have been a big supporter over the years, but the way they are forcing this Windows 10 down everyone's throats, and the fact that it's nothing more than bloated spyware disguised as an OS, just raises too many red flags for me. When it comes down to it, you have to make a stand and put your money where your mouth is. This is my breaking point with MS.

      1. David · in reply to Krista

        I would probably recommend Ubuntu for new users. I can't recommend Linux Mint in good conscience any more. They are staying with GTK2, and creating xapps that have the same name as existing utilities. It used to be an excellent distro, though.

        PCLinuxOs is also an option.

  6. Steve

    For those that are not computer literate, this forced upgrade can be frightening. I've had 3 phone calls from elderly customers who are scared that they are going to end up with non working PCs or be forced to pay for the upgrade. Mind you I had one guy who asked why his desktop background had changed last week. He's been using Windows10 for nearly a week without knowing!

  7. Al45cdo

    Why does everyone bring up the privacy argument when the want to kick a vendor. Lets not kid ourselves every vendor is collecting as much data on us and our habits as they can. Google, Apple and Microsoft not mention all the rest they are all just as bad as each other.

    The message from what I have seen is very clear it says you have said I can install recommended updates which I am going to do on this date. if you don't want me to do this click here.

    If you have clicked the x which is standard to close a pop but not changed any of setting what do you expect to happen.

    The problem is Joe Public and their inability to slow down to read something properly because they are so used to skim reading and clicking next, next done. The amount of customers who come to me with spyware, toolbars, etc Is unbelievable despite being advised time after time not do it.

    The headline in this article is misleading there is no dirty little secret. They put a bloody great message in the middle of your screen telling you what they are going to do the fact you didn't read it properly is your fault not the vendor and that goes for any vendor not just Microsoft because I own Apple kit as well and they do the same.

  8. Pas

    When you see the widespread global havoc W10 causes with sound-issues, printer-issues, dead pc's, to name a few, I wouldn't call Microsoft's persisting computer-criminality "a dirty little Windows 10 upgrade trick". But hey, we live in the era of Corporation Understatement New Speak so everyone complies. As a user, I do not completely recognize myself in the quality ensurances and enhanced safety experience Microsoft so generously offers me to enjoy.

  9. John

    I tend to be a big advocate of MS software.

    I know, they have not been behaving quite the way I was used to (different businessmodel, thereby trying to datamine all of my actions & documents), but still … being a privacy-aware user (both on my own files, and towards my clients' confidential files) so far I have been 1) warned and 2) able to circumvent the real great dangers of MS and the likes (Be it having a tough "cloud"-no-thank-you-unless-end-user-encrypted" stance, be it by installing extra software/using other services that protect (most of) the privacy issues.)

    Seeing, that MS is now involved in behaviour that many of us know from malware/scammers … is beyond what I held possible. If it were not for the benefit of my clients, I would switch my systems just for this. But I can't.

    It shows, this industry is by now so totally fukkedup – that it is beyond words.

    (Paying for software that is inherently insecure over and over again, having myself combatting "them" to protect privacy, then to see that malware tactics are used?!?! WTF? )

    I shall stop ranting, it makes me really mad.

  10. DarkMatter

    For those that don't want this to happen to them I would recommend the use of GRCs never 10

  11. RAC

    Nothing good is free and nothing free is good, some times there are shades of grey though. At the moment I'm trying out Ubuntu, free to download and it's a lot more polished than other Linnux os I've tried it even has automatic updates.

  12. Lisa B.

    Using Never10 ( when it was first released, I locked down the 2 computers at work to which I had access. These computers were spared the unwanted upgrade while the other computers were upgraded overnight this past Sunday.

    I spent all day Monday reversing the upgrades, repairing network connections and locking down all computers with Never10. Needless to say, I'm now the unofficial IT go-to person of the office and will have to manually update each computer when Microsoft sends legitimate updates.

    I realize it's job security but honestly! Windows 10 is a malfunctioning privacy abomination that should not be forcing itself on users. One should never have to go to such lengths to keep from getting what should be a choice. Windows 7 is my last Windows OS.

  13. Joris De Donder

    Makes you wonder how many Windows 7/8 users have turned off updates all together over the past year because they were fed up with this.

  14. Kate

    So how can I make sure my Windows can't be upgraded without my consent? Where do I find the option to set so they can't force me to change?

    1. DarkMatter · in reply to Kate

      1. DarkMatter · in reply to DarkMatter

        For more details on this see
        where they also mention this post

    2. Heather · in reply to Kate

      You can go into your Control Panel Home –> System/Security –> Windows Update –> Change Settings.

      Look for the heading "Important Updates" and change the default to "Check for Updates but let me choose whether to download them and install them".

      This will notify you of ALL updates, and you will be able to select to download/update them. this also allowed me to stop the download of Windows 10 because the "stop upgrade" button wouldn't stop the download.

  15. TimW

    Ubuntu Linux is it, download, can even install alongside Windows until you are comfortable with using. Runs quicker than windows, boot time excellent and less overhead. Can even install windows applications in WINE, a compatibility layer for running windows applications if you like any of them.

  16. You're Welcome

    to opt out of this upgrade you have to hit the 'here' link and then follow the dialog within. this is what happens when an american company sells out to foreigners and lets them run it into the ground.

    it's plain as day:
    "Click here to change upgrade schedule or cancel scheduled upgrade."

    those sneaky lil weasels. next time i'm throwing out MS OS for Mac OS, because steve would've wanted it that way!

  17. Johann

    I like using W10 but the subsequent mass upgrades are driving me insane. Many do not complete, first attempt goes to 30%, second attempt to 56% every time. Then spins and restarts just to try twice again. Then reporting, it did not succeed and undoing the changes 3 times. Meanwhile I am in such a hurry I could boil an egg. Eventually my lock screen shows up and I attempt to boot up. It then takes another 45 secs to 74 secs to do that and then still has multiple back ground activities. Hell no man, this too much. I cannot just shut off or restart without the update attached to this activity and go through the entire process again. I delete the latest update and it goes well for a day or two and then the same old story. What a sad story just to have Windows 10. It is like having a very expensive car with an irritating squeak which nobody can identify the origin.

  18. Pete

    Slime. Naked, unabashed slime.

    I run a document server. The server software developer just dropped support for the OS X version of the server software, and my remaining choices are Windows or Linux. I hadn't decided which way to go, but this makes me want to choose Linux.

  19. David

    Why are there no class action lawsuits against Microsoft? I would have expected them months ago, but not a hint of one. Certainly, this should be grounds for a Class Action. The "X" should never be an acceptance of the dialog.

  20. Name

    MS-KB3035583 update is causing the issue…
    – Go to installed updates.
    – Select and uninstall the update (reboot)
    – Search for windows updates
    – Right click on 3035583 to hide update

  21. PopuriAO29

    Recommended: I don't want Windows 10 update KB3035583 running on Windows 7/8.1

  22. Marcia Barfield

    So is there anything we can do to stop Windows 10 from downloading when the pop up appears??

  23. carlos

    Can anyone tell me what's going on. My computer started to upgrade to Windows 10 even though I had previously clicked decline. This time when it came time for me to accept the agreement, I clicked on "do not accept" and then clicked on "decline" again.
    Then it said we are restoring your computer to Windows 7 or something like that. Now that it's done almost all of my files and documents have the tiny icon of a padlock on the lower left hand corner (before the document is opened), the document opens just fine, but I don't like that the ican now has a padlock. Anyone knows what's going on or why the tiny padlock is there?

    1. BGC · in reply to carlos

      Carlos – haven't you read the preceding comments ???

  24. dave brogan

    all done with Microsoft buying apple product

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