/ 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.


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Duncan Ball says:
23 September 2016

I am very pleased to see Which? highlight this disgraceful ‘service’ from Microsoft. I took up the option of the free upgrade to windows 10 and my laptop promptly crashed when it was installed. I took it to a repair shop and was told my laptop wasn’t capable of running on windows 10 and I had to pay to have it cleared and windows 7 reinstalled. I continued to receive pop ups offering windows 10 every time I logged on and twice the programme installed itself without any prompt from me. The 1st time I managed to stop the download but on the 2nd occasion it wouldn’t respond to anything at all until the download was complete and then my laptop crashed again. I had to pay for repairs to the damage a 2nd time and this time a block was installed onto my computer to stop this unwanted download occurring again.

I emailed my complaints to Microsoft but never received a reply.

Crewdelis says:
26 September 2016

I like how the free upgrade crashing your computer is microsoft’s fault. how long had you been using the computer? how many viruses or bots were running on your precious laptop?

I used the free upgrade on dozens of computers and laptops and only had a problem on the infected ones. then took the infected ones and wiped them and restarted the whole process over with a clean install of 7. never had an issue.

so, no. its not that you did a lousy job of keep malware off your machine. its microsoft’s fault.

I upgraded early to Windows 10 and for a while I really liked it. But there were a few things that did not work well, but I lived with them. Then my business laptop upgraded to the anniversary version and the result was total failure – it would not boot or do anything. With help from the supplier (Lenovo) I reinstalled W8.1 and recovered the computer, but then (what a fool) I tried W10 install again and had the same result – it would not boot up in any way. So I went back to W8.1, which I now use. I asked Lenovo what to do about this and their response was in essence “we do not recommend windows 10 as it is not a fully finished product”. I must have lost about a day’s time on this process – but at least all my data was backed up. So I would now, like Which, not recommend W10.

I read with interest the issues surrounding Windows 10. However, in my case, I did receive reminders from Microsoft to upgrade, which did increase as the cut-off date approached (after which, you had to pay for the upgrade), but not excessively so. I updated the two PCs we have at home: one did the upgrade fine and without difficulty, but the other refused to upgrade using the Windows 10 icon that had appeared on the screen. However, I simply went to the Windows 10 upgrade site and then the upgrade went through fine.

Yes it looks different, but it’s not difficult to find your way around. I did wonder why in the new browser, Edge, you have the option to reopen pages using Internet Explorer: the reason is that Edge cannot open all PDF pages. I use HSBC’s internet banking, so obtain copies of statements from the HSBC web site. However, Edge cannot open them, because, I am told, of a problem in Edge, which Microsoft know about apparently. Switch to Internet Explorer and the statements open fine. The solution then was to make Internet Explorer my default browser and to ditch Edge. A pity.

Otherwise, no problems, except the famous games of Solitaire, Spider Solitaire, Free cell and Minesweeper no longer appear in Windows 10. This seems to have caused some angst to some people, but free alternative apps are available.

John smith says:
22 September 2016

Yes I think it’s a scam and in Windows10 it’s all about advertising and Microsoft earning money by having pop-up adds appear when you download and play the games like solitaire and freecell which is disappointing because you could enjoy then without being pestered by advertising on previous versions of Windows

The less well known issue is that Microsoft have coded in a unique identifier for you that can be used to track you around the web and assist in targeting you with advertising. My personal bete noir is Cortana and the ‘search Windows’ function – these silently, and exclusively, pass searches to Bing thereby artificially boosting the usage statistics of MKicrosoft’s corporate search engine.

Windows 10 does offer major improvements over its predecessors but the price has been its commercialisation. These new features will enable Microsoft to make money from our use of the product over and above the subscription that they are expected to be introducing in the near future.

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I agree, Duncan, but such is the domination of MS Windows in the retail trade the average purchaser will stay with what they have become used to.

As a matter of interest, what do small businesses with just a handful of PC’s or laptops use? Until she retired my wife ran a small accountancy practice and it was all on Windows from XP upwards.

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Michael says:
23 September 2016

Mhm. this is interesting about PDF’s in Edge. I use Edge as my default browser on my Surface Pro 3 and on my Samsung laptop. Also, I bank with HSBC and use its on-line banking facility on both machines without any problems downloading PDF statements.

Windows 10 installed itself then started refusing to run software until eventually only Microsoft software would run. Tried to revert to 7 wouldn’t insisted on reinstalling 10 and anything not backed up is gone.

The original Win10 update in 2015 wrecked my PC. It’s an older machine and there appeared to have been an issue with a driver. Because the failure occurred at the first reboot in the update process I was left without a “Windows Recovery Environment” to repair the installation from. After a couple of days of reseach – using my Linux system – I found the work around and was able to perform the upgrade from a memory stick.

The Anniversary Upgrade went far more smoothly. However, it ignored my settings and restored Cortana – a product that I find both annoying and useless for my purposes. Despite Microsoft’s assertion that Cortana cannot be turned off because it is at the heart of Windows 10, it can be disabled in the Pro version but it involves the potentially daunting task of editing a system template file. (Incidentally Microsoft’s assertion about Cortana is disproved by the fact that it is not part of the Windows 10 Education system).

Having got back a system that worked how I want it to, I discovered a new fault. Windows 10 was not always booting first time. I replaced my ancient – and failing – hard disc with a new solid state drive. Now Windows consistently fails to load on the first boot attempt and consistently loads correctly on the second attempt. This is reported on the Microsoft support site where the recommended solution is to reset Windows – a destructive process that un-installs software and can destroy the user file system. I bit the bullet and decided to try this only to discover that I cannot reset my system because the Aniversary upgrade did not install the Windows Recovery Environment!

Michael says:
22 September 2016

I upgraded my Surface Pro 3 from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 the day Windows 10 was released. I had, and have, no problems.
In January 2016 I upgraded my Samsung laptop from Windows 7 to Windows 10. The only problem I had is that I needed to install new drivers for Abbyy Fine Reader, my Canon MG5400 series printer and Canon CanoScan F9000 Mk 2 because the default drivers used by Windows 10 did not work properly with the scanning software. I do not think this was a major issue. One thing that does annoy me is that the Synaptics touchpad one-finger / two-finger vertical scroll no longer works even though I have the latest touchpad driver.
I now have the anniversary update on both machines. I am very pleased with it, from the point of view of (a) the enhanced Defender capabilities, (b) the more attractive presentation layer. I wish the lock screen weren’t there. Before the anniversary update I had disabled that.
The hype about Microsoft “spying” on me is getting tiresome. I have tailored my privacy settings to allow Microsoft some insight into my activities in order to get tailored adverts which are much less annoying than ads I’m just not interested in. We have to accept ads if we want free software, e.g. Skype went from ads-free to with-ads – tailored in my case. It is possible to buy a version of Skype that’s ads-free, but so far I cannot cost justify this for me.

Michael says:
23 September 2016

Having made the point about two-finger vertical scrolling not working I’d like to add that I checked this again after the anniversary update and found that it still does not work in the Edge browser. In “What’s new in AU?” there’s mention of Edge extensions which include an extension for mouse gestures. Maybe it’s because of this that vertical scrolling in Edge does not work on my laptop (it does on the Surface Pro 3 using the optional keyboard). It is therefore noteworthy that on the laptop vertical scrolling works with Mozilla Firefox and MS Office desktop programs, e.g. Word and Excel.

Robert says:
22 September 2016

How does a company the size of Microsoft get away with supplying a product which obviously hasn’t been fully tested to confirm that there will not be any conflicts with previous software, they are supplying a product which is not fit for purpose and people are worried about the Chinese spying on them when America/Microsoft are doing exactly the same with their software.

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Anyone can be a member of the ‘Windows insider’ programme that is the way Microsoft do the bulk of their testing. However, to do this you need to have a system that you are prepared to sacrifice when the latest build goes pear shaped. I suspect that most of the ‘insiders’ will be running the test builds in a virtual machine (an emulated PC running in a reserved section of memory). To do this you are likely to be using a recent PC with plenty of memory to run the virtual machine in. Consequently, I suspect that it is likely that new Windows builds get tested on the older and more restricted hardware that most of us use in our homes and offices.

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I upgraded our home PC to Windows 10 without major issue. Couple of small problems with profiles but easy to sort out. Now this PC is multiboot and Windows really only remains to run Adobe CS5.5 and games. Most of the time it’s running Linux. There really isn’t anything we need to do that requires Windows.

The others in the family use refurbished Lenovo laptops with Linux Mint installed. I can limit time by hours and time of day and there is far less risk of them “catching” something nasty and they can’t simply download and install stuff. No real problems at all, even my wife uses Linux. Once you forget that it isn’t Windows and some programmes (IE, Outlook) aren’t there it really becomes very easy. Generally it behaves in the same way, you put documents in Documents and so forth, doesn’t really matter how it’s stored.

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After upgrading to Windows 10, using Wi-Fi crashes at random times. I can still use a cable though.

Frustrating, seeing as there has not been a patch for this.

Window 10 is a pain in the ass. Its destroy my dell webcam.
I suggest to bring them to justice. during the introducing of win 10 they blocked win7 update

As a matter of interest, does one have any protection under consumer law for failed software upgrades or adverse effects on other equipment, especially if the upgrade is purchased?

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I am thinking of those people who have reported here that other hardware and peripherals have been corrupted when installing a Windows 10 upgrade. Probably just the thin end of the iceberg, there could be thousands who have lost data or had their devices incapacitated – but what redress do they have? This would make a good subject for a bit of research and a Conversation [so long as no one asks me to do it – it is way outside my comfort zone].

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You say it’s not the peripherals that become corrupted but people have reported that their printers don’t work or their webcams are damaged. A wide range of other functionalities have gone missing from their applications following installation of the Windows 10 upgrades to previous operating systems. That shouldn’t be happening and there should be an avenue for getting some redress. I suspect most people would not be able to sort these problems out by themselves [and MS support seems to get a bad review on here] and would need to spend money on external assistance and possible new devices.

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Duncan – I appreciate that the peripherals aren’t physically broken and will run again – or at least hobble better – as soon as the W10 shackles are taken off. But so far as the average user is concerned they have paid for a transition to Windows 10 and it doesn’t work, it stops their printer/speakers/webcam/whatever from working, and it gives them a hard time uninstalling and ending up back at square one on a previous OS. In the process they’ve probably been tearing their hair out and kicking the cat and they might have felt the need to pay someone to come in and sort it out for them. With your experience it might seem like a simple matter to resolve but to many people such a scenario is an absolute nightmare and they might even go out and buy a whole new set up. I just think there needs to be a way of getting some recompense from the mighty MS. It is probably a regrettable reality that most users are not much concerned about what is going on at the back door of their computer so long as they can do what they have to do [and what they have always been used to doing] without interference or obstruction.

Agreed. I have a Minolta film scanner from the days of XP (possibly earlier). It worked brilliantly under Win 7 Pro. Win 10 Pro just ignores it – possibly because it is behind a SCSI interface that Win 10 knows nothing about.

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Michael says:
23 September 2016

Just for the record, I understand that the anniversary update is a complete reinstall of Windows 10. This would explain why it took so long to download and install on my Samsung laptop but not on my Surface Pro 3 which is very fast indeed with its solid state hard drive and I9 processor.

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Richard Harrison says:
22 September 2016

After updating from Windows 8.1 to 10, about August-time last year (2015), I was hit by loss of printer connectivity, loss of CD/DVD drive connectivity, and after every software update I lose internet connectivity for around 2 hours. The printer connectivity has, thankfully, resolved itself, but I still have no CD/DVD drive visible, and have learned only to allow updates immediately before I am going out for a few hours. I paid the first time I lost internet connectivity to get it restored, but am not prepared to fork out every time it happens. Microsoft have been worse than useless, including their support site. I did not uninstall and revert back to Windows 8 as I (naively) thought Microsoft would fix the issues. I even liked Windows 8! I also object to the difficulty of fixing Internet Explorer as my preferred browser. Every time I think I have it sussed it flips back to Microsoft Edge. I could go on… and on… Not a happy bunny.

I have no need for W10 at home – all my (ancient) silly games run fine under XP or Vista 🙂

For surfing the net, I seldom use anything other than various LTS versions of Ubuntu Linux.

As I’ve argued before in these debates, installing W10 on PCs that were originally manufactured to run earlier versions of Windows should not be considered as an “upgrade”. From where I’m sitting, the most useful and effective free upgrade for any Windows PC is simply to do a nice free and easy installation of some suitable Linux version. This, at least, suits my modest needs.

Whilst Linux certainly isn’t perfect – it’s not bad for free! I’ve never actually failed to install Linux on any old PCs (or MACs !!!) that I’ve played with, but I have encountered a couple of laptops where the effort required (with drivers for uncommon hardware) really was more trouble that it was worth.

Interested in your comment about Linux installation and difficulty with “a couple of laptops”. Thinking of getting Asus UX 305 and installing Linux. Would there be a problem? GeoffH

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GeoffH – my experience is that most older laptops work with Linux. Newer (W8 & later?) ones tend to use Microsoft UEFI “secure boot” system. I’ve not tried anything that new but I believe that, for anything x86 based, Linux can be installed either from a version that comes with a UEFI key or by manually disabling UEFI from the system startup menu.

The two machines I had bother with were an MSI U180 netbook (thanks to its uncommon and almost unsupported Cedar Trail GMA 3650 graphics chipset) and a Vista-era Dell, with an AMD CPU and an obscure wifi card – software updates tend to remove the drivers for the latter.

Otherwise, all the other laptops I’ve tried have all used mainstream Intel chipsets and common wifi cards; all of these have worked. Hence I expect the UX 305 will be OK, e.g. googling “Ubuntu on the Asus Zenbook UX305 ultrabook” found a relevant blog entry.

StephenC says:
22 September 2016

After the anniversary update was downloaded automatically in September I have had a black screen and Windows will not boot up.
Windows 10 came with the pc I purchased in December 2015.
I have spent hours on chat lines to Microsoft and in calls to the supplier Dell. Microsoft tried to help as did Dell but they were in denial. Basically their solution is for mecto return my pc to Dell and have windows reinstalled. Meaning I lose all my files.
This is more than frustrating. It defeats the object of having s computer to save files and so on.
It really isn’t an acceptable approach.

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I had a perfectly OK functioning PC running on XP before Windows 10 destroyed it. The automatically started “upgrade” didn’t work leaving me in recovery mode – which also didn’t work. After 2 days of panic and in limbo getting no useful help anywhere I somehow got windows 10 to install from a USB stick. I tried to roll back to the earlier version only to be told that wasn’t possible. I quickly realised that Windows 10 had lost me not only every bit of non MS software I had, but all my documents and several years of family photos. I also couldn’t access MS Office ( no Key!), my email didn’t synch and to this day my wireless printer goes offline when the PC wakes up from sleep mode. I spent £80 on recovery software to try to recover my photos and found about 5% of them – the rest are unrecoverable. I’m resigned to having lost the docs and software. I spent another £80 getting a code for Office. At the end of the day I hate the Windows 10 format, hate Bing and Cortana ( whch I’ve managed to disable) and my old but fine PC is now so slow and unresponsive its practically unusable. Which need to keep at this – my view is that this “upgrade” amounted to negligent criminal damage. I’m not remotely tech savvy – just a home user – the damage they have done here is ridiculous and they just get away with it.

l upgraded our fairly new laptop a few months ago and it and have ended up retrograding because Windows 10 prevented our laptop from ‘seeing’ our wifi. I searched for solutions online and it appears to be a known issue but the fixes didn’t work for me. Very frustrated.

I had this problem. I did everything I could think of, searched the internet, and then phoned Tesco where I bought it. As I had tried everything they could suggest, they put me through to the manufacturer, who answered right away, told me what to do, and I’ve had no problems since.

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Robert says:
23 September 2016

As Android keeps improving and will without doubt reach the point as true competition Microsoft will get the kicking in the wallet that it deserves and maybe they will realise customer satisfaction is the only way to product loyalty not dictatorship.

Dibdob says:
23 September 2016

I won’t let Windows 10 download onto my laptop and I disabled the reminder pop-ups. My mum upgraded to Win 10, couldn’t log in to her computer at all and had to pay £100 to get someone to sort it out as it was beyond me. She did call Microsoft help and they rolled back the updates, but every time it downloads one she had the same problem. Now she can’t use the Avast anti-virus software, as it clashes with Win 10, so has to use the Windows security shields. She nearly got rid of her laptop in frustration and bought another, but we got her an Android tablet instead, which she loves.

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Erwin Weiss says:
23 September 2016

After ibstalling Windows 10 ended up with a black screen rewquiring reset of laptop ehich meant loosing all applications including Office 2010 professional plus. Microsft tech support re installed the application and all worked well until the next scheduled update (which is compulsory and can not be chosen) same problems again and another reset with the same result and outcome. Next scheduled update same again. I finally asked Microsoft to re install Windows 7 Home premium which they did together with all the removed applications.
The problem with Windows 10 is the way it gets installed. Before the installation begins the computer (laptop) is checked for compatability, and if it is compatible the installation can begin.
THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE COMPATIBILITY CHECK ONLY APPLIES TO SOFTWARE NOT HARDWARE, as a result, your computer might not have the necessary drivers installed to operate Windows 10. As driver installation is the responibility of the manufacturer Microsoft csn not solve this issue.
I suggest that snyone with a computer older than 18 months does not install Windows 10 unless they check their model number againstthe compatibility list of models which are or are not supported

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David Rosenthal says:
23 September 2016

I’ve updated my desktop, laptop and tablet to Windows 10. These were all intentional downloads and I have never experienced forced installations. I suspect some users just need to read the screen a bit more carefully before pushing buttons. Windows are not the only providers who sometimes like to decide what might be ‘best’ for the user. However, ‘unchecking’ a box is usually pretty simple – if we take time to read what we may be committing to. Google’s frequent attempts to get us to use Chrome as a default web browser seem to me to be more pervasive than anything Windows slips in.
I’m delighted with the new Windows operating system. I had one glitch when attempting to print with Edge, the new web browser. Microsoft’s helpline accessed my computer and resolved the problem quickly, courteously and efficiently. Overall, I don’t agree with the contributors who are currently giving Windows 10 a hard time. I think it is a great step forward and would not be tempted to move to more limited operating systems from Apple or Google. However, better advertising of the excellent Windows 10 helpline would make things easier for anyone who does happen to experience problems.