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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.

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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.

Neil says:
11 October 2016

I’ve lost six hours of work time due to Windows 10 updating itself and two days restoring lost functions. I fully intended to update from Win7 to Win10 but only in my own time. Whenever the pop-up asking, ‘update now,’ appeared I closed it. I intended to wait till the Spring. But one day I turned my work PC on and walked away to make a cup of tea. When I returned all was normal for about ten minutes then without warning it shut down and started doing the Windows 10 update. I couldn’t use the PC for four hours while it updated. I assume that the ‘update now’ pop-up appeared while I was away and because I didn’t close it then it decided that it must be fine to do the update. Then came the Anniversary update, this works like any other update but it took nearly two hours to complete. In both cases no explicit instruction was asked for or given that it was OK to make my work PC unuseable for hours. Lost functionality critically included XPMode for virtual PCs that I use a lot for work. I had to figure out how to use Hyper-V instead and then rebuild three virtual PCs.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

Merete Hall says:
13 October 2016

For months Microsoft pestered me to upgrade from Windows7 to Windows10. I kept on declining. Then one night they changed to Windows10 without asking and I woke up to a colourful beach scene. I was furious – and confused – and had to get somebody in to explain and of course pay for it. (I am 8o years old and can do the basics but I am not a computer whizz kid).

Recently Microsoft kept on offering updates which I declined at first but then accepted, thinking it might be similar to Windows7 – over in a short time. The updates took ages and blocked the work I wanted to do at the time. When I opened the computer again Microsoft had also changed the picture into a dreary black and white one which is not only unedifying but annoying because on the black and white screen the curser is very hard to see. I have to move the mouse for quite a while to find the curser to then connect to the internet – especially in daylight. I have to get somebody in again for help.

Since Windows10 the computer seems to have got slower and since the updates I definitely am getting more spam mail – and this is serious.
I find it outrageous and object thoroughly that Microsoft does as it pleases.

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Christine Wyatt says:
13 October 2016

I have just spent £90 and a lot of the last week trying to get my laptop back in action after the latest Windows 10 update trashed it. A subsequent update stopped my laptop from rebooting. However, I found advice on the internet recommending disconnecting all peripherals and removing the battery pack before starting up and this did the trick until a subsequent update solved the problem which I believe concerned the BIOS version. Last week’s update completely trashed my laptop. It failed to install and crashed every time it tried to restore the previous system; it would restart the install and fail, switch off momentarily then start the process all over again.. I left it cycling through this routine for several hours but there was no progress.
Microsoft Support website advice was to insert a Windows 10 installation or recovery disc. I had none because all the upgrades/updates had been downloaded. A local expert found that he could not rescue the laptop as the OS was corrupt and the machine could not boot, so he removed the hard drive, download all my data files to an external drive, reformat ted the hard drive; installed a completely new copy of Windows 10 and reloaded my data files having re-organised them as many were in the wrong place to be accessed in Windows 10. The bill was £90 which in my view was modest for the amount of time.
So Microsoft have yet again released a significant upgrade without proper testing and expect the likes of me – a pensioner – to pay for what should be an essential part of their development programme.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Dr Sheila Glasbey says:
16 October 2016

Hi. I upgraded to Windows 10 in Auguest 2015 on my Acer laptop, which until then had been performing just fine. The upgrade was a disaster. Once it had finished I could no longer even start up Windows. I got a blue screen (the death screen) and a completely unhelpful error message in computerese – had absolutely no idea what it meant – was little more than a filename ending, I think in .dll.

I was away from home with no one to help me and am far from being a computer expert. However by dint of googling the error message on my phone I found a site whether others had had the same error message. The instructions to put this right involved typing commands at the command prompt – something I was scared to do in case I made things worse. I braced myself and went ahead and I think the offending file – something to do with my Avast virus checker I believe (not Avast’s fault), which was apparently clashing with the Windows upgrade.

Once this was gone I could now finally start up Windows 10. But when I did – oh what fresh hell broke out! Almsot everything had been moved, changed or wrecked, including all my cloud backups, which seemed to have disappeared and had to be backed up all over again.

All I can say is that I’ve had problems ever since (over a year now). I’ve found workarounds (less than ideal) for all these things and am managing to hobble along with my poor Acer… but it is not what it was and I guess never will be again. Miscrosoft were less than helpful. Did consider at one time replacing my laptop but why the f should I have to? Still angry after all this time. Woyld like recompanse, compensation, apologies from Microsoft for this utter cockup. Computer people have told me I should have delayed my upgrade until the teething problems had been ironed out, but hey, why shuld I have to? The teething problems should have been ironed out in trials, before releasing this vile upgrade on an unsuspecting and uninformed public.

We loyal customers deserve better than this. Much better.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

Unless it has improved MASSIVELY in the last few years, I would not advise anyone to attempt to use Reactos on actual physical hardware for normal every day uses.

Last time I tried it out it was only a work in progress and it seemed doubtful that it would every achieve its goal of providing a working free alternative to XP.

I note the Reactos website says”They’re talking about ReactOS 0.4.2 (Even if we’re just Alpha) You’re just a click away from discovering a new alternative!”

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The official ReactOS installation wiki currently says:

“Warning: Please bear in mind that ReactOS is still in alpha stage, meaning it is not stable or feature-complete and is not recommended for everyday use. Operating system bugs can and do result in corrupted file systems, overwritten partitions, and more. Do not install ReactOS on any computer containing important data without using a virtual machine or making full backups first.”

I think I had problems with lack of built in device drivers for motherboard chipsets and usb systems. So I think I managed to get basic but limited systems up and running, but not to the standard of a properly installed W2000 or XP system.

If I did manage to get a ReactOS box up and running – and wanted to surf the net with it, then I presume I’d need to start worrying about security software.

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Well Duncan, since ReactOS is a free download, why don’t you try it and let us know what you think?

Anna says:
18 October 2016

For the past couple of years I have been refusing to update my mobile phone software ever since not one but TWO previous mobile phones were irrevocably made vastly worse by “updates” with no option of undoing. So I now refuse point blank to “update” my current Z3 Xperia compact handset.
It utterly infuriates me that we’re pressured to “update” something that as a consequence loses half its functionality.

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Lucky so far – only Windows PC we have has gone from Vista -> 7 -> 10 without major issues. But it’s only really there to run some games and a couple of programmes else mostly the family use Linux. Main PC is multiboot with Linux (OpenSuSE 42.1) as main O/S. Laptops are all refurbished Lenovo’s running Mint and both my wife and children are fine.
Seriously think about what you use PC for, most folk it’s email, browsing and some office stuff all work fine in Linux. It can look and feel very similar to Windows, menu at bottom left, window decorations where you expect them. For the kids I just set up icons to “Browse Internet”, “Read Email” and so on. It even saves files in “Documents”, “Photos”, etc. Yes underneath it’s different but the experience is easy to change to.
You can even start in Windows, switch to Thunderbird, Firefox (or Chrome), Libreoffice. They will all be there when you do switch. Backup to Dropbox (client is there for Linux rather than as recommendation).

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techresearch@which.co.uk is apparently broken today, by the way

Dear Which,

Where to begin! We have a small workgroup of PCs running Win7 and XPsp3 at home linked to a NAS box. XP was required for legacy and once costly photo printer and 2 similar SCSI scanners. Happily? I have now discovered how to convince Win 10 to install the adaptec SCSI cards, courtesy of the Vuescan website.

Not willing to give up Win7 (very reliable) we paid £150 for Win10 pro, and did a trial clean install on one of the XP boxes. All went well, but it took about 3 weeks of my spare time on line to persuade Win10 to recognise the network as a workgroup member (Homegroup requires a full set of Win10 PCs). Often the one PC appeared under 2 names (more clean installs). This appears to have been cured some 12 months after launch on the unsuspecting public by an update a couple of weeks after the so called anniversary edition reset all my privacy settings. As supplied for £150, not fit for purpose, for free, a frustrating give away.

Underneath the rubbish, there may well lurk the best usoft OS yet, but controllable it is not. A usoft person posted “it may be your computer but it’s our OS”. What you call total contempt for customers.

It is very difficult to remove most of the apps, which are no use if you want a plain installation. It is possible, but not for the casual user. Even when usoft lets you (after nagging you not to) choose your choice of default software (say firefox) various actions still trigger the Edge browser to start. Usoft have deliberately made it difficult to ignore their attempt to tie you in to their shop and their choice of software, for their own ends.

Further to the vast array of useless apps, come the privacy settings, 13 screens full at the last count. Usoft wants to know who you are, where you live, what you watch, buy, and browse, to whom you mail and tweet and chat, telephone and more. You can see why usoft bought linkedin for a few million dollars recently. They want to make metadata analysis the new cash cow, not Windows itself. This is OK perhaps, 1/ if you’re aware of what they’re up to, and 2/ if it’s free; but not for £150 a throw! What on earth will business make of this mess?

You might care to alert readers about the new usoft snooping policy. Maybe the EU (remember that?) will take them to task, if they do, it might not benefit the UK (we’re out). Please make a big a stir as you can!


Ivan Hall

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Ivan – thanks for your detailed post.

Duncan – as you know I favour all things nuclear. That includes the nuclear option – i.e. just remove W10 and install Linux.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Not sure what hackers would want to do to a washing machine, but when I get my new one wi-fi will be switched off if that is possible.

Wanting a washing machine to match my tumble dryer, didn’t have much choice. I can’t see the point of connecting to a washing machine from afar. From a safety point of view, why would you run a washing machine when you are not at home?

Just because it is possible to have an “internet of things” as Duncan puts it, doesn’t mean you should.

Bill says:
29 October 2016

Why is it necessary to have so many updates on a system I installed only weeks ago. I think it is a con to keep my computer switched on, microsoft must get a cut from the broadband supplier.

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Emily Gale says:
1 November 2016

I had Windows 10 installed on my laptop for almost a year and it was working fine when it installed three updates at once on 27th September. From that point on it’s been running slowly, which only really matters for using the internet, because it quite often times out before a webpage has managed to load. It often works when I’ve refreshed the page a few times, but not always. It means I sometimes can’t read my emails and I can’t complete anything that requires progressing through several webpages, such as applying for insurance or bank accounts online, because it’s sure to fail in loading the next page somewhere down the line. I’ve been on the phone to Microsoft technicians six times, probably totaling more than twelve hours, and they have fiddled around on my laptop using screen-sharing (which we had difficulty setting up because of my laptops’ poor functioning). One of them did a system restore, but picked a restore point after the updates, which meant that the problem was still there and the previous restore points were gone, which was very frustrating. All three insisted it could not be the updates causing the problem, but after a while I tried uninstalling the updates and found that one, called KB3176936, does not let you uninstall it and getting rid of the other two didn’t help. The last Microsoft technician eventually persuaded me to do a system reset (‘I’m 99% sure it will solve the problem’), but when Windows 10 reinstalled it came complete with KB3176936 and still had the same problem! So I still have to put up with it. I can’t even estimate how much of my time it has wasted on trying to fix the problem, trying to do things online with it working really slowly or not at all, and now reinstalling all the programs after the reset, which I’m still only half-way through. There are lots of people who have reported problems with the KB3176936 update and it seems like none of them have solved their problems without restoring to before the update and blocking the update from installing again. The only small hope I have is that a later update or patch will fix this problem, but who knows how long I’ll have to wait for that?

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I have exactly the same problems and frustrations as Emily. Microsoft technicians have tried on six occasions to fix the problem via remote access, each time assuring me that everything is now OK. It never is, so I don’t think any further contact with them will resolve the issue, so I would like to re-install Windows 7 (on my 2 year old desktop). I have the original Windows 7 installation disc and product code. My question is, will the product code still be recognised, or has it now been attached to a Windows 10 product? I realise this will be a clean install, so any work I wish to keep has been backed up.

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John Kluth says:
25 November 2016

While trying to do some on-line training, I discovered that the latest update from Microsoft had disabled my speakers, and resorted to my iPad. On completion, I found that the latest Apple update had disabled my printer. What next?

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Hi john Kluth, sorry to hear of your woes. I agree it is really annoying when an upgrade to something is rushed out, only for users to discover that its s/w testing has failed to reveal that it will mess up some users computers.

To minimise the impacts from such problems, it is good to use operating systems that are as far removed from the leading edge as possible.

For example, Windows Vista is still supported by M$ for security patches, but receives little in the way of other updates.

I have no idea what the equivalent Apple OS versions would be.

For linux, versions based on Ubunu LTS 12.04 or Debian stable or RHEL 6 should all be good candidate platforms for this kind of use. (I also have some Ubuntu LTS 14.04 based systems that may now be OK.)

Let’s face it people …..
1) Windows 10 is/was made for touch screen/ Tablet equipment, am I right????
2) Are you happy with how your pc has worked over time you’ve had one???
3) Have you been happy with the Windows you’ve used over past whatever time???
So why would you want your desktop to a tablet ???? I certainly don’t and the way Win10 is being pushed onto us is ridiculous…. Win 10 has the most spyware on it, think about it, and you phone… ( do you want to let blah, blah know your location for your nearest chippy, etc…
Yes I have a laptop with Win10 on it ……. it came into my possession with a broken screen and Win 8 on it … I think the previous owner didn’t like Win 8 …. So I put a new screen in it, put Win10 on it to try and get used to it, and to be honest , I felt like punching the screen due to trying to find my way around ” like on a computer” .. Everything is hidden from the you as if they don’t want you to alter things …. so in fact “they want to control you and how you use your computer” … All other OS systems you can look , find and fix most things pretty damn quick and have your computer look as you want, not with a screen full of Apps what you don’t want or need… so all in all …MICROSOFT, TAKE NOTE, I DON’T LIKE OR WANT WIN 10, SO PLEASE STOP PUSHING IT UPON ME… that feels better now I’ve had my rant, yes I like changes, but I want to make my own mind up, not you make it for me …. who did they ask when they came with this bird brained OS, certainly not me or I don’t think anyone in the UK.. So peeps “have a nice day”

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I disliked having to enter a password to gain access to my computer and had problems because it’s my computer but somehow my father’s account became the main one. (Probably it was logged into that account but I don’t recall ever being asked whether I wanted that account as the main one). I switched to my account being the main one and swathes of file disappeared from view. When I discovered where windows10 had hidden them, I spent ages manually transferring preferences, files etc into the right directory for them to be visible.

Sometimes printing word files from my computer works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Last week, my email stopped synching. After at least a couple of hours on the phone to Microsoft support, they eventually managed to delete my mail app and re-install it which solved the problem. (Not before they had tried to sell me an annual maintenance package for $199 if I recall correctly).

Now I cannot log on to my computer, except in safe mode, because my video card driver appears to be corrupted. I wish I had never updated. I’ve never had any problems like this prior to windows 10.

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Getting windows 10 is only the beginning. I have had to disable windows search process and install another search utility on all our PCs to enable them to work without grinding to a halt. This is a known bug and I have spoken to Microsoft about it on many occasions. None of the updates have fixed it. I feel as if I’m limping from one problem to another all the time! I can’t find anywhere to complain. My emails go unanswered and there is no one to talk to on the phone.

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