For some time now, Microsoft has gone to significant trouble to point out the high satisfaction rating of its newest Windows operating system, Windows 10. But deeper research shows that there’s trouble in paradise.
Microsoft’s Aggressive Promotion of Windows Products
The way that Microsoft has marketed Windows 10 to its customers has been extremely pushy and aggressive. One woman actually sued Microsoft and won $10,000 after Windows 10 was installed on her computer without her consent, rendering it unusable.
While Microsoft changed the dialog to reduce the chances that users will feel that they’ve been “tricked” into installing Windows 10 on their computers, the changes were minor, and for many they were too little, too late. The free upgrade offer ended in 2016. But many people felt that the Windows 10 upgrade was forced on them against their will. Some have paid hundreds of dollars to have their computers restored back to a previous version of Windows.
Windows Update Hell
Windows 10 also has a habit of forcing updates onto users. Windows automatically downloads updates and installs them, and there’s no easy way to disable this automatic feature. You can reconfigure when Windows installs the updates, but not when it downloads them. This has been a problem for some people with bandwidth caps on their Internet service. In addition, Windows 10 also sends updates to other users using the customer’s upload bandwidth, without their knowledge or consent. Many Windows users have upload bandwidth limits, so it seems pretty lousy that Microsoft snuck this feature into Windows without our consent, and didn’t even provide an “off” switch.
Windows’ Privacy Invasion
But privacy is biggest concern about Windows 10 by far. Windows 10 comes with a telemetry feature that tracks the way people use Windows 10, and automatically sends that information to Microsoft. Microsoft has also added the telemetry feature in updates for Windows 7 and 8, to the consternation of users who stuck with the older operating systems for privacy reasons. There still is no way to turn telemetry off completely, despite a very vocal outcry from Windows users regarding this feature.
Screwing Around with The Start Menu
The Windows 8 and Windows 10 Start Menu are a dramatic departure from the older Windows Start Menu. Many people like the widely expansive Start Menu populated with colorful tiles; others absolutely hate it. For people who like to customize their Start Menu, Windows 10 creates a pointless struggle. While most of the tiles can be removed from the Start Menu and the Menu can be resized, this is a time-consuming process, and doesn’t necessarily result in a Start Menu like the one from Windows 7. Gone are the tremendously useful “Computer”, “Documents”, “Pictures” and “Control Panel” shortcuts. They are replaced by glaring tiles for Metro apps such as “Candy Crush Saga” and “Minion Rush” and “Spotify”. (Reminds me of a few outtakes from “Megamind”, in which the film’s namesake keeps mispronouncing “Metro City”, rhyming it with “atrocity”.) While it is possible to recreate the classic Start Menu on Windows 10, it requires considerable time and effort, and doesn’t necessarily turn out looking like the Windows 7 Start Menu.
And then there’s Cortana. While the old Windows Search Bar only searched the local computer, Cortana searches everything, including the web, for search terms typed within its field. While this seems convenient in some ways, it is another potentially privacy invading feature. And it is notoriously difficult to remove from Windows 10.
Security Holes, Vulnerabilities, and Exploits
And last but not least, Windows suffers from vulnerabilities that can allow a hacker to gain control of your computer without your even knowing about it. While Microsoft offers updates and patches to fix these problems, they don’t always work as planned, and they aren’t always installed in a timely manner by Windows users.
What We’ve Learned
Our experiences with Windows 10 have been less than pleasant. We bought a slightly older laptop for my husband on Craigslist, which came with Windows 7 pre-installed. When I saw the dialog offering Windows 10, I thought that this was my big chance to try it out. It installed fairly easily, but after installation the laptop began to run extremely slowly. Trying to install the programs that my husband needs to use on a daily basis only made matters worse. Only after uninstalling a large number of RAM-intensive programs did we manage to get the computer running smoothly again.
So I thought that perhaps the problem was that I was buying too many used computers. If I really want best results, I should buy new. So when my husband needed a new computer for business, I bought an Acer Aspire Gaming Desktop on Amazon. It shipped with Windows 10 pre-installed. Since this was a brand-new, relatively high-spec computer, I had high hopes. But within a few months of setting it up, it started to have problems. On one occasion, immediately after booting Windows 10, both the Firefox and Google Chrome web browsers crashed the moment they started. At other times, Photoshop CC crashed, giving an “out of memory” error. I dug into the settings, and found that the Windows Page File was unimaginably huge. Perhaps I should give the Acer a memory upgrade, but it doesn’t seem that any computer with 8 Gigs of DDR4 RAM should run out of memory so easily.
Worse, even though we’ve paid nearly $800 for a brand-new computer, we’re forced to watch advertising that’s built into the Windows 10 interface. I spent hours removing tiles for things like “Get Skype” and “Get Office”, only to watch them magically reappear at every update.
Microsoft’s Near Monopoly in the Open Source Market
Most people turn a blind eye to the fact that Microsoft dominates the operating system market with a market share which hovers around 90%. Microsoft’s recent acquisition of GitHub has been met with similar complacency. Many people seem to think that it’s wonderful that Microsoft has bought one of the most important websites for open source developers. After all, Microsoft is the largest contributor to open source code on GitHub. But other people see Microsoft’s purchase of GitHub as a dark omen of even more privacy invasion, monopolizing, and impinging on the development, distribution and use of free and open source software. Microsoft is a direct competitor of many of the software programs, such as LibreOffice, which are distributed on GitHub. So as a result, many developers are abandoning GitHub in favor of other sites.
Most people don’t seem to be aware that there’s a problem. If a single company dominated any other important aspect of our lives, such as cars or groceries, we would be up in arms. But if Microsoft dominates the operating system market, we think that’s just fine.
Richard Stallman has written an excellent article called “Reasons Not to Use Microsoft”. It is well worth a read. While I’m not a purist like Stallman, and I do use non-free software, I am making an effort to reduce my dependence on Microsoft software.
For many people, there are no easy alternatives to using Microsoft Windows. In the operating system market, only Mac OS and Linux have given Microsoft any real competition. Fortunately, many Linux distributions are free to download and install.
Free and open source software are an expression of our right to freedom and privacy. They offer an alternative to overbearing influences like Microsoft. We need to protect free and open source software. There are many ways that we can contribute. Why not give Linux a test drive today?