Microsoft hasn’t exactly been endearing themselves to tech geeks everywhere lately, with all the privacy concerns and other issues. And now they are automatically downloading all of Windows 10 to your Windows 7 or 8 PC, whether you asked for it or not.
To be clear, they aren’t automatically installing Windows 10, but they are downloading the entire installer, which is at least 3 GB, which takes up a lot of drive space, and also wastes your network bandwidth. For people who don’t have unlimited bandwidth, this can seriously cost you a lot of money.
According to a statement provided to The Register by Microsoft, their explanation is that they think this is a better experience:
“For those who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help customers prepare their devices for Windows 10 by downloading the files necessary for future installation. This results in a better upgrade experience and ensures the customer’s device has the latest software.”
So this only affects people who have automatic updates enabled, but that’s almost everybody since automatic updates are on by default and are rather important for security reasons — the flood of critical security patches in the last year has shown that it’s probably a good idea to leave automatic updates enabled.
Based on the comments in other news reports about this, a lot of fanboys are going to come along claiming that this isn’t a big deal, it’s just business as usual. But downloading an entire operating system “just in case” you might want to upgrade to it instead of simply waiting for people to decide to opt in — that isn’t the type of behavior that we want.
This is a really stupid move by Microsoft, and it won’t be surprising if they reverse their decision and stop doing it.
How to Block Windows 10 from Downloading (Hopefully)
Unfortunately, there’s no magic button to click to stop Windows 10 from downloading. In fact, you’re going to have to install a special patch from Microsoft to keep them from making you download something else. And that’s if you believe Microsoft’s support documentation, which says that you can block the Windows 10 upgrade this way.
We haven’t been able to absolutely prove that this will stop Windows 10 from downloading because it’s hard to say that this is working just because Microsoft hasn’t forced us to download 3GB of files we didn’t ask for.
This is one of those instances where we normally would avoid writing on the topic, since too much is up in the air and we like to be accurate at all times. So please excuse us if this doesn’t work for you.
You’ll need to install this patch from Microsoft’s website (from what we can tell you’ll need to be on Windows 8.1 and not 8 to install the patch), so pick the version for your OS, install it, and reboot.
Open up your registry editor using the Start Menu search or by pressing WIN + R and typing regedit and hitting enter, and then navigate down to the following key:
You’ll probably have to create the WindowsUpdate key on the left-hand side, which you can do by right-clicking the Windows node. Click on that new key, and then create a new 32-bit DWORD called DisableOSUpgrade on the right-hand side, and give it a value of 1.
Don’t want to bother with all that? You can simply download our registry hack file, unzip, and double-click on the file to install it.
And you should probably reboot after you do this.
Alternative Option: Set Windows Update to Not Download Things
If you set Windows Update to notify you but don’t download anything, Microsoft won’t automatically send the updates down.
Please note that this is a bad idea for security reasons, so unless you have a metered connection and don’t have the bandwidth to download updates, you probably shouldn’t do this.
You can simply go into Windows Update and click on Change settings, and then change the drop-down to “Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them”.
If you do this, please make sure that you keep up with installing updates.
When You Do Want to Upgrade in the Future
The one side effect of going through all of this is that you won’t be able to upgrade to Windows 10 in the future until you remove that registry key.
Luckily you can simply use the uninstall registry key provided in the download.
So You Already Have the $WINDOWS.~BT Folder?
If you already have the folder, which is hidden on the root of your system drive, you’re going to want to follow these instructions over on AddictiveTips to remove it. We haven’t verified these instructions, as we already upgraded most of our computers to Windows 10, and we don’t have the folder on any of our test VMs.