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Be warned! Free Windows 10 upgrade could cost you lots!

We are all aware of the hype announcing the imminent arrival of Windows 10. Everybody I know has had that little Windows icon appear on their notification area with advice to reserve their copy of the new operating system.

And before any of you want to jump up and yell that I am off topic let me assure you that I am not.

If you read on you will discover how you may save yourself some bandwidth and hence dollars all because Microsoft is playing a covert game; certainly covert for those who happily click to update their system and do so with absolute faith in one of the greatest brands on the globe. After all, brand integrity should be upper most in everybody’s aim to retain their most valuable business asset.

One of the more intriguing changes in Windows holds the potential to save you a ton of wasted download bandwidth: Its new peer-to-peer (P2P) delivery update mechanism. This is similar to the BitTorrent protocol used for software sharing over the Internet. Using the P2P option, you could download a Windows update once, then use that machine to spread the update to all the PCs on your local network. Great! Super efficiency! After all it is a 3.5 odd gigabyte download. So what is wrong with that?

Unfortunately, the settings for the new P2P option defaults by design to sharing with other computers over the Internet, not just ones on your network. And that means anybody’s computer anywhere not only Microsoft servers.

The first thing the unwary user may detect is that their computer has slowed down while connected to the Internet. The convincing evidence would arrive with your next providers invoice showing upload charges that you could not explain. Not only that, but if you are operating a network you may also discover a sudden but probably intermittent loss of LAN speed.

From Microsoft’s view point this is a great scheme. However I question the security and moral aspect of such a move. How are we to know how safe these unknown, remote, computers are? Answers to that question appear to be hard to find. Even the usual technical sources appear to duck that question.

The only way I know how to learn is to do something for myself. I decided to “risk” one of my computers and proceed with the upgrade. I received an acknowledgement that my copy had been reserved and that things would happen in due course. That point in time could be anything from a few days to many weeks. For the purpose of this exercise I was not prepared to wait and easily found the Microsoft link that permitted an immediate update.

The process started with a number of screens requiring some choices be made. The most significant of these was the option of just updating or to download an ISO image file that would allow me to update as many certified computers as I wished. I chose to ignore the ISO option as I figured that most peopled would choose the straight out update unless they were fairly technically informed.

My screen turned a dark purple with notices advising me of the download progress. What I did not expect was to have my computer remain on “46 per cent completed” for the next eight hours without any sign of life. Since there was a cancel button I decided to do just that. And that is where real problems start. Nothing happened while I waited and so, in disgust and with some concern went to bed. Nothing had changed by next morning so the obvious question had to be answered, Should I “crash” my computer and if I did would I finish up with a useless pile of junk?

Fortunately I have several devices with which to access the Internet to almost instantly discover this problem was also experienced by many others. However, clear solutions did not exist. I did find that a few other poor souls had used the conventional Ctrl+ Alt + Del and had managed to restore their computers. Since there did not appear to be another solution except to wait for at least 24 hours as suggested by Microsoft I proceeded to stop Windows through the task manager.

To complete the experiment I committed my restored computer to another download. That one proceeded but took some 13 hours with a few more gigabytes of bandwidth being chewed up. I ascribe that time to the slowness of the P2P system.

The remaining part of the update proceeded without any issues at all. The first thing I did was to disable the P2P option as I am not prepared to share my hard earned dollars with Microsoft. I do wonder what the less well equipped users will do under similar circumstances?

This is one of the instances that taint a company’s image. It is all very well to boast that 1.5 billion users will be running Windows 10 by the end of twelve months but not when there is no warning about the intended method of distributions.

If you choose to disallow your computer to become a server for Microsoft do as I did. Go to ‘settings’ in the ‘start menu’, search for ‘update & security’. Under Windows update, open ‘advanced options’. Under ‘choose how updates are installed’, select ‘choose how updates are delivered’. Disable the toggle under ‘updated from more than one place’, thereby disabling the whole option.

The feature is a good idea to speed up software updates but enabling it by default without the knowledge of users is probably not at all a great idea.

In a statement, Microsoft said that the feature “helps people get updates and apps more quickly if they have a limited or unreliable Internet connection” and that it “doesn’t slow down your Internet connection” because it uses a “limited portion” of idle upload bandwidth.

In my case a scan of my new system proved to be clean of any threats but I will continue to do as I have in the past and only accept updates as a deliberate option under my control.

What do I think of the upgrade? Despite it being designed to serve all hardware formats such as phones, tablets and so forth and after only a few hours exploration my first impressions are good . If you don’t like it you can always revert back to your old system; that facility does exist.

Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke is managing editor at Multimedia Publishing.

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