Windows 10 is an odd beast. It’s a worthy upgrade to Windows 7, and a big improvement from Windows 8. But Microsoft made quite a few decisions people weren’t happy about. So, a year into Windows 10, with a new update on the way, we ask: Did Microsoft listen to the complaints?
After all, Windows 10 is supposed to be “the last version of Windows”. It’s “Windows as a service”, continually updated and fixed by developers who are listening to Windows users and improving things. That’s the promise, anyway. We’ve been using the Windows 10 Anniversary Update for awhile now, so let’s see what complaints Microsoft has succeeded (and failed) to deliver on.
Failure: Windows 7 and 8.1 Still Push Windows 10 Too Hard
This arguably isn’t a Windows 10 problem, as you’ll never notice it if you just use Windows 10. But people who want to stick with Windows 7 or 8.1 have been continually assaulted by increasingly aggressive upgrade notification pop-ups.
This was a common complaint just after Windows 10 was released. So, did Microsoft listen and make the upgrade notifications better? Well, not exactly. The upgrade notifications actually became more and more aggressive over time, with Windows 10 even becoming a recommended update in Windows Update. At the worst point, Microsoft even changed the function of the “x” button in the window. Rather than cancelling the upgrade, as the button did previously, clicking “x” accepted the scheduled upgrade and closed the window. People complainted.
At the very end of the free Windows 10 upgrade offer, Microsoft pulled back a bit and announced changes to the upgrade dialog to make it less confusing. But Microsoft only did this at the very end, and only after a woman successfully sued Microsoft for $10,000 after a Windows 10 upgrade broke her PC. These changes should have been made shortly after the Windows 10 upgrade offer began.
Did Microsoft Listen? No, not really. We suppose the changes they made were welcome, but they were very small and took nearly a year. Microsoft knew better. Thankfully, those pop-ups are going away along with the free upgrade offer, so at least they’ll be over soon.
Half Success: Windows Update Gives You a Little More Control
Automatic updates, especially ones that require a restart, are a major complaint with Windows 10. Windows 10 automatically downloads and installs updates whenever they’re available. It then needs to restart your computer automatically. It automatically downloads and installs drivers, too, which can cause problems with hardware if a bad driver is offered through Windows Update.
There are ways to prevent Windows 10 from automatically downloading updates–on Wi-Fi, you can set your connection as metered and Windows will ask before downloading updates. But that doesn’t work for wired connections (unless you make a registry tweak). There’s an official Microsoft tool that can blacklist Windows updates and driver updates if one is causing a problem.
Many Windows 10 users wanted–and still want–ways to control exactly when updates are downloaded and installed.
Did Microsoft Listen? No, not really. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update does include an option that lets you set limited “active hours”, though, during which Windows Update won’t automatically restart your computer. It’s a step in the right direction, at least.
Failure: Windows 10 Is Getting Even More Built-in Advertisements
Windows 10 shipped with a “Candy Crush Saga” tile in the Start menu that automatically downloads this app when you click it. It’s like bloatware, but, to be fair, the app isn’t actually downloaded and taking up any disk space or system resources. it’s just cluttering your Start menu.
The built-in Solitaire app was also particularly egregious, displaying video ads and asking for a monthly subscription fee to get an ad-free experience. Windows never had a Solitaire game with video ads and a monthly subscription fee before.
Not only is Microsoft not backing down, they’re doubling down on this. The TripAdvisor application now appears as a pre-installed tile, and Microsoft is making room in the Start menu for PC manufacturers to pin more bloatware tiles. The Solitaire application still has a subscription fee. Microsoft has also extended other types of advertising, with suggested app ads in the Start menu and full-screen ads for games available through the Windows Store on the lock screen.
Did Microsoft Listen? No, expect more built-in ads in the future.
Failure: Windows 10 Doesn’t Care About Your ISP’s Data Cap
If you have an Internet service provider that imposes a data cap–something many ISPs are now rolling out–Windows 10 is bad for you. Those automatic updates count against your data cap. If you’re using Windows 7 or 8.1 and Windows 10 tries to install itself, that’s gigabytes of data it might download and count against your cap.
Windows 10 does have a way to set Wi-Fi connections as “metered” so updates won’t happen on them. However, this doesn’t work for wired Ethernet connections unless you make this registry tweak, which is not really a solution for most users.
Did Microsoft Listen? No, not really. The “metered connection” solution doesn’t work on wired connections and isn’t available to Windows 7 users who might have found Windows 10 automatically downloading itself.
Success: Microsoft Now Provides More Information About Updates
As if all these updates automatically downloading themselves weren’t bad enough, Microsoft took it further. Microsoft announced that it wouldn’t be providing any details or changelogs of what those updates to Windows 10 actually changed or fixed. Many professionals and businesses expected this information.
Thankfully, Microsoft eventually gave in. Microsoft began offering details of Windows 10 updates that you can view on the Windows 10 update history web page. There’s also a link to this page at the bottom of the Windows Update pane–just click “Learn More” under “Looking for info on the latest updates?”.
Did Microsoft Listen? Yes. Microsoft completely reversed course here.
Failure: You Still Can’t Completely Disable Telemetry
Windows 10 “phones home” in many different ways, like practically every operating system and software program these days. It fetches operating system updates and antivirus definitions, downloads new data for live tiles, and automatically presents web search results and other updates via Cortana. It also contains “telemetry” features that track how you’re using Windows so Microsoft can see how many users use various features and use this information to improve the operating system.
Microsoft did a poor job of explaining these features. In addition, the settings for these features are scattered all across the operating system. And, while most of these features can be disabled, telemetry can’t be completely turned off, although you can reduce the amount of data it sends. Many vocal people want a way to disable telemetry completely.
To be fair, we think these concerns are a bit overblown. Other modern operating systems also contain built-in telemetry and other Internet-enabled features. But it’s unusual that Microsoft doesn’t allow you to disable them, and it’s a big change from Windows 7 and Windows 8.
Did Microsoft Listen? No. You still can’t disable telemetry completely, at least without registry tweaks that break other features.
Half Success: Windows Store Games Are Less Limited, But Still Need Work
Microsoft is making a big push at PC gaming, with more and more games available as “Universal Windows Platform” (UWP) applications offered through the Windows Store. The first big game to be offered through the Windows Store was Rise of the Tomb Raider, and we recommended buying the Steam copy instead.
UWP seemed like a poor gaming platform because many basic features weren’t available, such as the ability to turn off Vsync, use multiple graphics cards, and mod the game. In addition, the Windows Store seemed to offer a poor, slow download experience for games that are so huge in download size.
Microsoft has listened to the criticisms through, and outlined changes and improvements that would be made to the UWP platform to better support these games. Already, Vsync is no longer mandatory for UWP games. Other improvements are coming, too.
Did Microsoft Listen? Yes, but the UWP platform still needs a lot of work.
Success: Windows Store Apps Are No Longer a Closed Platform
Tim Sweeney, cofounder of Epic, took Microsoft to task over the UWP platform being a closed environment. Users would have to get their apps from Microsoft’s own Store and developers couldn’t distribute apps outside of it. This would also make Microsoft the gatekeeper, who could decide what types of content would and would not be allowed in apps. This was absolutely the case in Windows 8 and 8.1, where those “Metro” apps were literally called “Store apps” to emphasize that they could only be distributed through Microsoft’s own store.
This wasn’t technically the case in Windows 10, however. In Windows 10’s first release, there was an Android-like switch to enable sideloading. With Windows 10’s November update, Microsoft went even further and enabled sideloading of UWP apps by default for everyone. Anyone can install a UWP app from anywhere without changing any settings.
Did Microsoft Listen? Yes, this is a welcome change.
Failure: Windows 10 Still Uses Your Upload Bandwidth to Share Updates
Windows 10’s updating system also includes a BitTorrent-like peer-to-peer feature that has your PC automatically upload the updates you download to other Windows computers. In other words, it uses your home Internet connection’s bandwidth to take stress off MIcrosoft’s servers and speed up downloads for other people.
This was on by default, and not mentioned once in the long list of options you had to read about and agree to in Windows 10’s first-time setup process. People with low data caps found Windows 10’s update-uploading chewed through them. There’s no notification that any uploading is occurring.
Did Microsoft Listen? No, as far as we know this feature is still enabled by default. It’s also still not mentioned anywhere obvious where normal users will see it.
Success: You’re No Longer Forced to Use Ugly White Title Bars
Windows 10 shipped with only white window title bars, a dramatic retreat from the Windows 8 desktop that allowed you to customize your window title bars with your preferred colors. Coincidentally, UWP apps could set their own custom colors. Perhaps Microsoft wanted desktop applications to look bland and out of place next to those snazzy UWP apps.
People complained, and Microsoft reversed course and offered an option to enable colored window title bars in the November update. We can’t help but feel that this option should have been there in the first place.
Did Microsoft Listen? Yes. White title bars are still the default, but you can enable colors.
The Jury’s Out: Windows 10 Still Feels Unfinished, But It’s Getting Closer
Many of the complaints about Windows 10 were that certain features just weren’t ready yet and needed more time in the oven. For example:
- The Settings app isn’t good enough to replace the Control Panel yet, and having both is confusing. Microsoft has continued adding features to the new Settings application, but this is an ongoing project.
- Microsoft Edge lacks important features like browser extensions and can be a bit slow and unstable. Microsoft has improved Edge and it’s getting browser extensions in the Anniversary Update.
- The Universal Windows Platform for apps isn’t powerful enough. Microsoft has worked on adding more features to it.
Microsoft has continued improving and fleshing these lacking features out, but the Settings app, Edge, and UWP applications still have a good ways to go.
Did Microsoft Listen? Microsoft knew these features needed more work, and it’s still working on them.
Microsoft hasn’t reversed course on any major decisions here. They’ve decided to offer information about Windows 10 updates and they’ve communicated that they’ll be improving the UWP platform with more features. Colored title bars are back. But Microsoft is still pressing full steam ahead when it comes to automatic updates, built-in advertising, and other Internet-enabled features.
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