/ Technology

Microsoft must act over Windows 10 woes

Windows 10 update

Software updates can be our heroes – fixing bugs, improving performance or adding new features to our gadgets. But they can be villains, too, as with the many Windows 10 problems.

We’ve received well over 1,000 complaints about Windows 10, as well as plenty of comments on Which? Conversation, with PC users telling us that this software update has brought them nothing but problems. We’re calling on Microsoft to do better.

Broken window

As reported in the October issue of Which?, consumers have told us about being ‘nagged’ by Microsoft to install the update and, despite declining its advances – sometimes on several occasions – they said that Windows 10 installed itself anyway.

Once installed, it caused various problems, including printers, wi-fi cards and speakers no longer working with their PC; or instances of lost files and email accounts no longer syncing.

In some cases, members’ computers were so badly affected that they had to pay someone to repair it.

Microsoft must do better

Microsoft is offering free support to anyone affected by Windows 10 woes (call 0344 800 2400 or visit support.microsoft.com/en-gb). However, many people have struggled to find a way to contact the company. Either that or they thought that the problems were with their PC, so contacted the manufacturer or took their own action.

But would they know if they were actually speaking to Microsoft anyway? Before going to press on the October issue, one of the Windows 10 cases we took up for our article was contacted by a scam caller pretending to be Microsoft.

Sadly, this is a common ruse we’ve seen many times before, and we’re worried that the Windows 10 problems will only give scammers more ammunition.

Have you been affected by Windows 10 problems?

Which? is calling on Microsoft to honour the rights of consumers adversely affected by the Windows 10 update. This includes paying compensation where it’s due under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

If you’ve been negatively affected by the Windows 10 update, we want to hear from you on Which? Conversation. Alternatively, send us an email at techresearch@which.co.uk.

Comments

I have built a custom built desktop PC. I upgraded to windows 10 because I thought it would run better than windows 8.1, but after multiple updates my pc keeps crashing, I now regret updating and can’t go back to windows 8. I wouldn’t care I spent just over ÂŁ500 in December 2015 and the Microsoft had the cheek to tell me I needed a new computer!

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JLS – I’d also be tempted to carefully check over all your the hardware and/or try a fresh complete download and re-installation of W10, using the install discs available from the Microsoft website. (If you have a h/w fault, no OS is going to run without crashing…)

Windows 10 has cribbed the Unix/Linux model, in which drivers are automatically spliced into the OS kernel. This doesn’t always work unaided, not least for wifi card drivers 🙁 because , if you depend on wifi, you cannot download a working wifi driver once you have a broken one.

Failing those options, you should at least be able to get some version of Linux running on your PC. As Duncan suggests, if you have newish mainstream h/w, Linux Mint is a good choice, especially if you liked the “look & feel” of Windows 7. On older or less mainstream (e.g. AMD or Apple) machines, I find that Mint does not always come with all the required device drives, in which cases the LXLE distro usually “just works”.

If your now broken PC is your only PC, you may not then be able to download anything. When faced with this dilemma a few years ago, I was able to use a bootable cover disc from Linux Format magazine (as sold in all good hypermarkets) to rescue my PC.

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I said when windows10 first came out it was made just for computer experts and geeks not for the average computer user I still think the same now But it seems experts are having problems now

I think it would be fair to say that Windows 10 was designed mostly for Microsoft’s benefit – i.e. to try an re-unify their customer base from the groups of folk who either did or did not like Windows 8.

An obvious additional objective was to strengthen the use of the Microsoft online equivalent of the Google Play Store (and, of course, also whatever the Apple equivalent is called). Ideally, I think Microsoft (and Google and Apple) would love to be monopoly software suppliers for their respective OSes, so they can take a nice percentage cut of all software purchases.

As far as that goes, I think W10, W8, W7, Vista and XP all pretty much do the same job. But with Microsoft (and other) software suppliers phasing out support for the likes of XP and Vista (etc…) sooner or later users of those systems may choose to move on to new, still supported OSes – but not necessarily ones from the Microsoft stable.

At least where I’ve worked, the rise of Microsoft Windows was largely driven by the demands of folk who wanted (or needed) Microsoft Excel. But, for home use, I doubt that that can still be regarded as a compelling reason for wanting to use Windows. This is especially so if continuing Windows usage comes with the penalty of a learning curve for the transition to W10 and/or the need to replace older, no longer supported hardware.

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Duncan, as I see it, when going onto the internet one is entering a public space, just as if one takes a walk down the local high street. In either case, we can be spied upon, either by tracking software or by the likes of CCTV.

Online, we might resort to encryption software to give ourselves the illusion of privacy, but quite likely some latter-day Alan Turing will come along and crack the encryption.

If I had any computer data that I really needed to keep private and secure from prying eyes, I’d start by keeping it only on computers that were never allowed to access the internet.

Apple, interestingly, don’t sell a lot of their own software; it’s mostly included in all of their computers when bought. What they do sell, however, tends to be extremely high quality: Final Cut Pro X, for instance, has become the de facto video and film editing software of choice for many companies. And although database packages are in decline, File Maker Pro is possibly one of the best there is.

I have long been an enthusiast for FileMaker Pro. It’s expensive, so I’m sticking to version 10.

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Duncan – thanks for that one.

I checked it out and this seems to be real if somewhat academic just now. Seemingly, Windows developers (and other Windows OS users) have the option of installing a bash-based Linux emulator, which can then run malware, e.g readily available Windows malware, if the Linux windows emulator Wine is installed. So the easiest way to exploit this vulnerability would be to install Linux inside Windows and then Windows inside that Linux. Doing that would then bypass the checks possible by any normal Windows security software…

All in all, I agree with Duncan’s advice “REMOVE it at once”. For clarity (and security), my personal take is that the “it” here should refer to “Windows” and that is generally what I do with most old PCs.

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I don’t think MS are alone in having lots of updates and security patches – I receive an almost daily series of updates for Ubuntu LTS 16.04, also quite a few for 14.04 but very few for 12.04, although the latter is technically “out of ticket” now.

Complex modern software is hard to comprehensively test and, if written to a prescribed launch deadline, is likely to end up containing flaws and half-baked ideas. My own software certainly exhibits those features too.

Hence there is a constant battle between developers, to find and patch bugs, before hackers can find and exploit them.

All that having been said, so long as Windows continues to be the most commonly used consumer PC OS, it is likely to be the most attractive target for developers and perpetrators of malware and scams. But, at some point, this “accolade” may be passed on to Android.

I think most home users can largely (but not entirely) eliminate most threats by installing good security software, and/or by discipline on-line. Of course, Mac and Linux users can also be targeted, but at least their PCs won’t run “native Windows malware”. One Linux PC in my family once suffered a browser hijack attack – but it was comparatively easy to remedy.

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Yes, there are plenty of updates for Macs. Good security software will deal with most problems but malware appears before the software is updated to deal with it, hence the importance of regular backups.

The basic issue lies with the way code originated. Many years ago I wrote arcade games for Sinclair’s QL and, to get the speed we wanted, we had to write in Assembler.

Assembler is one step up from what was popularly called ‘Machine code’, but used Mnemonics to make the arduous chore of writing code more manageable. Because every single operation had to be coded individually, programs ran to several hundred feet in length when printed on a dot matrix printer.

This inevitably led to programmers seeking ways to extend the Mnemonic principle to make it easier still, and incorporate several actions into a single word. This led to Basic, C, C++, Fortran and many others. In that process, however, mistakes were made – inevitably, some might say – which led to fundamental weaknesses being incorporated into every type of coding language.

These commands were then baked into the firmware of processors to increase speed still further, and the legacy from all those early experiments is with us today. Some of it is being used in the fly-by-wire systems used by Airliners…

Windows 10 was put out by Microsoft before in was ready to be installed on any computer There were many flaws from the beginning and it seems there are many more still on it and there will be more to come I uninstalled it twice and now only use it because it was installed on every new computer or nearly every one Try to find one without A chrome book maybe

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Duncan – to clarify your last paragraph above – are you now tinkering hands-on with W10 yourself?

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Duncan – thanks for the clarification.

For your info, I have the warnings pushing Edge when new browsers installs are attempted may now in the general releases of W10. I’ve certainly seen them on one of my W10 test boxes. I assume it is just running a general release, not a preview version.

That said, I was still able to install Chrome.

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Thanks Duncan. I figured out that, if I get accepted to work as a volunteer “IT buddy” in my local library, I’d need to know about W10, so I’ve dragged a few of my W10 boxes out for some actual use.

This also allows me to be more clued up on other topics, such as W10 recovery discs and tech support scam vulnerabilities and counterstrikes.

That said, I’ll be sticking with Linux for the all (or most) real home usages, at least for myself and most immediate family members.

I’ve also been providing a little bit of operating experience and tech support in the comments pages of the ExplainingComputers YouTube channel. Its author, Christopher Barnatt, is a keen advocate of Linux Mint as an alternative to Windows, e.g. for anyone inclined to resist the so-called upgrade to W10.

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Duncan, it would be great if your enthusiastic blanket statements like “anybody with Win 7 will find it very easy to transfer” and “No problems with the installation” were actually literally true, for each and every one who might be tempted to try Linux, irrespective of their chosen hardware and software.

For the sake of argument, a Windows user with a Linx 12×64 tablet PC and an Lenovo X85 printer would discover that (a) their printer isn’t supported at all under Linux and (b) their on-board wifi isn’t supported by any of the drivers that come with Mint (or any other Linux version that I’ve tried).

In similar vein, a user with an EeePC 904HD might find that their wifi card didn’t work with Mint, but would work under MX.

As evidenced by the above remarks and by the community comments on “Linux Mint 19 For Windows Users” youtube.com/watch?v=eI7QQqnV1P8, Mint is a great (but not yet perfect) alternative to Windows.

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Duncan, I don’t think it’s nit-picking to point out that Mint isn’t prefect and cannot be guaranteed to work 100% of the time when re-purposing old PCs. When it works, that’s great, but when it doesn’t, folk may need to know to look elsewhere.

With regard to open source drivers, I’m more than familiar with the concept. I even have a fully open source GNU/Linux version (Trisquel) installed on a USB stick, so I can evaluate that alongside Linux systems (e.g. Mint and MX) that use some closed-source drivers. In due course, I may move my most sensitive data across to a suitable GNU/Linux version, so that I can be sure that no spyware has been written into ANY of the software at all. But for most tasks, if I’ve got nothing to hide, then I won’t be greatly at risk, even if I am being spied on by anyone.

I suspect that most ordinary citizens just want their computer to ‘plug-in & play’ with the installed software so that they can order their groceries. I expect that is why, after the first two pages, input to this Conversation from average consumers has fallen away as most of it is over their heads, mine included.

Me too John. I just want to use software. I’m really not at all worried about being spied on. I try to follow normal security precautions and in 25 years do not seem to have suffered. I’ve got more productive things to do with my time (apart from posting on Convos when I have enforced confinement).

However, I’m sure specialist Convos like this appeal to some, just as we indulge in consumer rights or car emissions, for example in rather a lot of detail.

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Agreed, Malcolm. The problem as I see it, from the point of view of the aims of Which? Conversation, is that it didn’t start life as a technical conversation but has morphed into that and is now largely inaccessible to regular [non-tech] consumers. Just a personal view, but I think a little steering or guidance from Which? would keep these types of conversation on the right road. I agree that there is a place for both types of discussion and there might not be a suitable place to hold the more advanced type.

Perhaps the worst with the Windows 10 upgrade is now over and there might no longer be a need to assist people with those difficulties.

When I get round to replacing my PC I am just going to get something straightforward off the shelf with no further modifications required to give me the functionality I want. It will probably run on Windows as I have been with it for over twenty years without any problems or serious concerns.

I have no quarrel with the technical issues and opinions being put forward, and they are fair warnings that retailers or the media do not present. I notice that I had been more involved in the earlier part of this Conversation and quite critical of Microsoft’s ‘abuse’ of its then dominant position. So its share of internet connections has fallen, but 8% of the global market is still colossal and I suspect that much of the gains by other systems have been in countries where MS are not welcome or cannot operate without restrictions.

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Thanks for explaining the reason for Micrsoft’s reduced share of global internet connectivity. I had overlooked the influence of mobile phones’ use for accessing the internet, so the question really is how much of the PC [including laptops and tablets] internet access dimension is under MS control?

Who says Technology has no place in Which? Conversation? It is an extremely significant issue for consumers – virtually all households have some technology products and people need advice and information on it.

I cannot comment on the category title ‘Technology’ and its contents. It is presumably a convenient way of classifying Conversations that relate to consumers experiences with technology products.

I don’t know who you feel is condemning you for posting on technology subjects – not me for sure. We can all pick and choose what subjects we follow and which comments we read and there are several topics that I do not follow, although articles on tech products is not one of them. I find it a struggle to relate to some of the more technical digressions, however, and feel that they tend to block out the main points of the Conversation – but that is Which?’s problem and they have abdicated on it in my view.

Just as we have the off-topic Lobby, I feel there should be a corner of the website where detailed and intense dialogue can take place among the technology aficionados with no pretence to inclusivity or abstention from the use of jargon and obscure technical terminology.

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For anyone still wanting to buy a new home computer in a traditional laptop or desktop format, Windows 10 will be associated with the widest range of products. Many pre-owned PCs are also retailed with W10 too.

In my experience, many old PC’s, even up to about 12 years old are working acceptably with W10. So I’d say Microsoft is much better at supporting old hardware than Apple. As far as I know, upgrades to Linux or BSD are the only options that give still-supported OSes for old Macs.

That said, buyers of new PC’s can also choose Macs or Chromebooks. In the past, I think Which? has failed to realise the benefits given by the simplicity of Chromebooks. When home users only need easy-to-use appliances for internet access and simple home office functions, I think Chromebooks are ideal.

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