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Exclusive: Bad IT admins reveal that Windows 10 downloads to your PC

I'll be the first to admit that being an IT admin is likely a very complicated job. The idea of setting up a networked printer gives me the heebie-jeebies. Still, it is their job to be technical and know what their clients do not when it comes to computers. Toss in the ahem, forceful push out of Windows 10 and there is bound to be some confusion, especially if your local IT professional is not so proficient.

The reason I am saying all of this is the Inquirer posted an "exclusive" story this morning. The damning expose meant to cast a shadow on Microsoft, when it fact, it unintentionally highlights the poor training of their IT "source" for the article.

The gist of this cutting edge reporting by the Inquirer is that Windows 10 downloads to your machine even if you did not reserve, specifically their PCs downloaded…

"…a huge 3.5GB to 6GB hidden folder labeled '$Windows.~BT'. I thought Microsoft [said] this 'upgrade' was optional. If so, why is it being pushed out to so many computers where it wasn't reserved, and why does it try to install over and over again?"

Undeniably, that does sound scandalous. Unfortunately, it also highlights the ignorance among many computer professionals.

Over at SuperSite for Windows, Rod Trent, who is knowledgeable about IT and Windows 10 can put this in perspective. He summarizes:

"In essence, IT folks were finding the upgrade bits were also showing up on Pro and Enterprise computers that were supposedly properly managed. In every instance, this wasn't the case. Either end users had local admin rights (a no-no), the blocking tools hadn't been deployed, updates were being delivered through Automatic Updates instead of a centrally managed system, or the PC was being used in multiple environments that were differently managed…If you choose automatic updates through Windows Update, 3GB of preparatory files are downloaded to the computer. Why the issue is being raised again now, almost 2 months after the public launch, really makes you question the source."

Indeed. The deal here is that if you are a network administrator, you should not be letting those computers just use Windows Update willy-nilly. In fact, one could argue it is your job to control those machines through such tools as Local Group Policy Editor. I highlighted this tool recently to show how even Windows 10 users on their personal Pro machines can still use the Local Group Policy Editor to schedule updates.

Now, there is room here for some actual criticism aimed at Microsoft. You could legitimately assert that Microsoft is being too aggressive in pushing Windows 10 and that you have to be on your toes if you want to block it. Fair enough and we can have that discussion.

Microsoft, however, has been very public in their stance that all machines should go to Windows 10 for the best, safest and most secure experience. In fact, their goal of hitting 1 billion installs over the next few years is attainable only if they bellicosely push the update to as many users as possible.

None of that excuses a lazy admin, however. I remember "attending" some online IT workshops that Microsoft held where the explained all of this many months ago. You pay an admin to know these things, to manage them. Microsoft may be pushing Windows 10, but it is your job to know what is coming, how to prevent it, and to know the ramifications. You may not like Microsoft's position, but that is not an excuse to be ignorant about it.

At the end of the day, this is a non-story written by people out of their element. While that is a harsh criticism, these things could be avoided by talking to other, well-trained professionals. If you still need more info on that I encourage you to read Trent's larger article titled 'Reasons Why Windows 10 Might be Downloading on Domain-Joined Computers' for the full scoop.

Finally, Windows Central will be posting an easy how-to on avoiding those Windows 10 update files in the first place if it really bothers you. Stay tuned!

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

154 Comments
  • Btw, I hope you all get the tongue-in-cheek title and intro for this story. Yes, the snark is heavy with this one, but with it being Friday and the age of the internet, well, I'm feeling sassy. Look for Mauro's more serious how-to coming up either today or tomorrow on how to really avoid Windows 10 on your 8.1 machine if you are concerned. Cheers.
  • I don't come here for the news. I come here for the sass! lol
  • Oh gurl!!!!!
  • Top ten IT goofs in the industry. Number 2 will shock you!
  • The snark and sass was well deserved. I have seen lots of places have "an IT guy" without vetting him/her properly. You are correct in that there are certain standards for these jobs. Just like showing up on time to meetings, or common professional courtesy, an IT pros job is to be on top of trends. The source in the inquisitr article clearly hadn't done much research outside of his/her own speculation, let alone the author of said article. That's why I get my Windows news from this site and no other.
  • Yep, Windows Central FTW :)
  • Or been sent to any/many conferences... That's where the real good tips and tricks come from.
  • I left the site when you did that stupid censorship of the Astoria tools. Today I went back to this site again after a long time to find something redeeming and I find this crap article. I don't give a shit about the "Bad IT admins" part of the story. The main issue is that it's downloaded to home users computers using their bandwidth and disk space without permission. That's unacceptable. Somebody at MS should get fired for this, and MS sued for damages. And yes, some people reporting on this got part of the story wrong. Big deal. You are so great, you never got anything wrong. I'll start using your site again after you get rid of this bulshit reporting. And after reconsider your position on censoring stuff.
  • Take as long as you need.  I honestly never noticed your not being around.  I'd be suprised if anyone else did or cared.
  • Oh you are back.. who are you??  /s
  • Answer me this, Vlad C - Do users who setup Automatic Updates and agree to Microsoft Update's Terms of Use and understand the utility of Windows Updates grant permission to Microsoft to utilize said service, which includes allocation of updates, requiring bandwidth utilization (unless otherwise denied through Metered networks) and utilizing user disk space? Get wrecked.  
  • Amen!
  • "Somebody at MS should get fired for this, and MS sued for damages. And yes, some people reporting on this got part of the story wrong. Big deal. You are so great, you never got anything wrong." - What the hell is wrong with you?!?!?! Sued for 'damages'.....using 'bandwidth'....?!?!?!  I'd say get off the AOL pay/MB dial-up plan and you will be just fine.
  • lol its funny how crackberry promotes side-loading & wc doesnt eventhough likely most apps well never see ported Posted via the Windows Central App for Android on WM10
  • It comes as a Windows Update and that's exactly what you agree to when you sign up for Automatic Updates or when you check for Updates and click download. Maybe someone with limited bandwidth might care, but for me I have unlimited fiber broadband so it really makes no difference at all. Fed up of ignorant people coming out of the woodwork, but hey, what do I really expect as I am on the internet the home to 4 billion idiots.
  • I hope you dont mind but I am going to steal that comment
    "what do I really expect as I am on the internet the home to 4 billion idiots."
  • its quite easy to block uninstall the get w10 app update then hide Posted via the Windows Central App for Android on WM10
  • Some stories deserve an attack of the snark.  This is one of them!
  • Educate them Teacher Dan!
  • Kappa
  • Still, this is not good. If for no other reason than it has given the press something else to shed bad light on Microsoft, like they need that. The press should be taking shots at the Apple Pencil, but the latest "MS scandal" has front page.
  • Well, bad reporting is just that, bad reporting. Talking about things you are not familiar with is prevalent. Granted, this stuff can be complicated, but it is not indecipherable, even more so if you talk to the right people. All reporters should be doing that.
  • ^this
  • Seriously. If putting a stylus away backwards and it gets stuck is a  "design flaw" then WTF is up with the pencil? Design fail? Yet, the "tech journalists" won't touch the issue I bet, at all, ever. There are a lot of places that I don't read simply because they claim to be impartial, when they clearly are not. Windowscentral has a bias, yes, but it's up front and not hidden. Some other places though, are clearly biased towards a certain company, but claim impartiality.  
  • Apple Pencil?! Looks more like a tampon in my opinion.
    "The new iPon... Coming to a pharmacy near you".
  • well, it is used as an accessory to an iPad...
  • You both win the internetz today. *slow clap* Posted via.........deez nutz!!!!!!
  • ^^^iPon, iPad & deez nuts win the award for the funniest, irreverent retorts of the week!
  • Lol..
  • Well this tampon fits the maxiPAD.
  • Thanks for the scoop and clarification. I saw the headline yesterday and thought MS couldn't have done something that stupid, could they?
  • Good retort DR.
  • All this hatred on Windows and Microsoft....its all thanks to them you guys have a chance in IT department in the first place. Don't forget apple and google uses what Microsoft emphasized years ago. Name one app that's like the insider program, the users made and helped and aided Microsoft in the line where everyone is looking for. It won't be much till we see progression with MS.
  • Yeah, I never even got the update icon at work. My understanding was that enterprise installs didnt get it. Its a little pushy of MS, and probably a bad PR move, but I dont really see this as all that outrageous. If you dont have a metered connection, or full hard drive, its not really an issue.
  • That is correct. If your company is on Enterprise editions of Windows, you will not be automatically offered the Win10 update. And if your IT team has a good grasp of their WSUS or SCCM server, you'll never see a word about Windows Updates except the occasional "pending reboot to install Updates" notice.
  • Yep, thats how it works here. We have a regular monthy patch day when updates are pushed out and reboots happen overnight.
  • You don't even have to be on an Enterprise edition, just joined to a domain. I know because I have a domain at home and none of the computers I have joined to it were ever prompted for the update (even when logged in with a Microsoft account). A couple computers that weren't on the domain got the prompt just fine.
  • Windows Updates downloading an update shouldn't even be news. If you are on automatic updates it downloads things automatically. Be it regular updates, service packs, or now Win10. Nothing changed.   If bandwidth/space are such a concern you shouldn't have automatic updates on in the first place. Or, in the case of business, actually manage updates properly with WSUS/SCCM.
  • I think it is important actually. Windows updates are typically 350 MB, not 3.5 GB. That constitutes 10% of some people's monthly data. There are a lot of ignorant people here, on both sides. And the sad reality is, it makes reading WC worse each week.
  • monthly data?  Its a PC, not a phone!
  • Some ISPs are still backwards and has monthly limits, and mobile broadband is quite common in some places. However, updates does not download on metered connections if you don't let it.
  • Upgrade are not updates and no..they should be downloading them unwanted. The wsus topic has nothing to do with it really. They still push out the files to people so are not interested at all. Just like a U2 album on iOs
  • Why is everyone misreading the source of the false news(including Rod Trent). It's "The Inquirer", not "The Inquisitor". However, I understand that it's quite an easy mistake to make :-D
  • Either it was a mistake or I'm trolling ;) (But fixed, anyway)
  • Haha :-D
  • Good lord, how hard was it to talk their IT "admin" about why the files were being downloaded automatically? How hard is it to search to see why you might be getting these files in the background? I'm not the network admin at my job, but I for sure know all about group policies, granting local admin rights and managing domains. It's basic knowledge!
  • I wish it was basic knowledge... A lot of users dont know how to login if someone else was logged in before them and their name shows up on start.
  • My work in a nutshell
  • "Microsoft, however, has been very public in their stance that all machines should go to Windows 10 for the best, safest and most secure experience." Microsoft can go FUCK themselves unless they force their stupid OEMs such as HP to release Windows 10 drivers on the PCs they are wanting you to upgrade to Windows 10!!! Nothing just old Windows 7 drivers: http://support.hp.com/us-en/drivers/selfservice/HP-Pavilion-dv7-6100-Quad-Edition-Entertainment-Notebook-PC-series/5112005/model/5112007 And no the drivers are not available through Windows Update.
  • But how do you really feel?
  • Yeah maybe I went off a bit there, but you would too if you bought a $1600 HP laptop and HP refused to support upgrading to Win 8 [just 6 months after buying the notebook], Win8.1 & now Win10, while you are hearing from Microsoft that you should upgrade every chance they get, yet they are not adressing any driver issues you might have, especially with swichable graphics that dont work with generic intel/amd drivers.
  • Well, then shouldn't HP be the ones to 'jump on their swords' then? I get that the OS isn't playing nice w/ the hardware but then its also the reason MS felt the need to make a few of their own hardware devices... but then sometimes Intel is a bit behind too! =[
  • Of course the blame is with HP, but MS should look at the realities of lazy OEMs like HP before telling everyone to upgrade or they should at least try to force HPs hand to release drivers for all PC's that have hardware that is capable of running Win10.
  • They do have an update checker that's supposed to look for that sort of thing before updating. I'm not sure I would trust it to be completely thorough though. It may be that your hardware doesnt need new drivers to work in W10.
  • HP is bad about support. It's why I refuse to buy PCs built by them. I made sure I downloaded the Windows 10 drivers from the manufacturer's website before I even performed the update.  Microsoft doesn't own HP. They can't make them do anything. If HP has been selling PCs stating "You can upgrade it to Windows 10 when Windows 10 is released" and then they didn't follow through, then with the way capitalism works, their future sales will suffer for it. You can also sue them directly if this is what was advertised. If, however, this is a slightly older PC, then you're on your own. HP doesn't want to perpetually support old PCs so that you don't have to buy a new one. It's their job to get you to need a new PC. It's how they stay in business. Personally, I abhor that tactic. Not much I can do about it, though.
  • IT admins DO look at and consider the realities of lazy OEMs like HP. That's why this admin doesn't use them for anything but printers - and that's iffy also
  • Hah! I don't even recommend their printers anymore. I have suggested their laptops in the past to users just for the customer service, and warranty replacements and such, but now I've found it hard to suggest anything HP. Their support on these last few OS upgrades has been horrid. Thanks, but no thanks.
  • "...and HP refused to support..." "...driver issues..." This is purely an OEM problem not Microsoft's. Microsoft does not make drivers for your hardware. If drivers aren't available with Windows Update then that means the OEMs didn't provide MS any drivers to use through it. Your only option is to go to the OEM's website. Blame HP/OEM for your woes.
  • Which model HP did you get? I got an Envy 17 with nVidia graphics in January and it updated fine to W10.
  • Same here.  My two-year old Envy 15 upgraded with only display driver issues and a wonky fingerprint reader.  A reinstall then upgrade of the Nvidia drivers directly from Nvidia fixed the former.  The latter is still an issue, but only when browsing in Edge and trying to access a username/password with the fingerprint reader.  Firefox no problems.
  • I feel your pain and anger but its not MS's fault that HP are being the bad guy - I would be furious as well but at HP.
  • Dan, I think the right phrase is "And how does that make you feel?"
  • This is completely right. I work for an huge IT company, I had noticed that my notebook indeed downloaded some Windows 10 files (only some Kbytes about some 10.10240 files) BUT it didn't download the Windows 10 setup, because our Security guys didn't allowed that.
  • The Inquisitor. The news there is lacking. Unfortunately it frequently appears at the top of a Bing search. Better to skip to a source with improved writing.
  • Bellicosely.  Learnt a word today!  Good response.
  • Interesting that it was such an issue for that IT admin. I managed an office network for 10 yrs, we kept everyone on XP until we (the IT dept) decided to upgrade everyone to Win 7. Then we kept everyone on Win 7 as we didn't think it was worth retraining people vs any advantages Win 8 offered
  • Good to see someone clear that up
  • Its always these British rags, Inquirer and Register... I mean, I get it, hard-hitting no bull shocking exposés at their finest but really just internet tabloids. =/
  • They are just awful headline grabbing articles mostly not remotely true, they are an absolute joke.
  • This shouldn't even be an issue in the first place.
  • Good sassy article Daniel. Didn't Techcrunch or Endgadget also run this from the source? The comments were all about how W10/is not a security update. I actually disagree as W10 is more secure. Still I get people feeling upset because of the aggressive update requests. Again only happens of you have auto update set as your default.
  • Sorry it was Ars Technica. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • What article is Daniel reading? The article in in the inquirer that has been linked talks nothing about Pro and Enterprise computers. Its talking about individuals. According to the article Microsoft has confirmed that they will download the Windows 10 update even if the individual has not reserved a copy of Windows 10. The incorrect reporting is in the Windows Central article, not anywhere else!
  • when you agree to automatic updates, you are agreeing to download files from Microsoft. If you are on a metered connection, the OS should discover that or you need to specify it: MS says:
    "For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade. "When the upgrade is ready, the customer will be prompted to install Windows 10 on the device.”
    The IT part comes from those users complaining about it on mass systems and, the fact, that none of this is actual news. I do concede there is room here for a debate about how aggressive MS is about their update. That is legit. But there are also not a heard of people, to my knowledge, complaining about any of this. Not only is Inquirer being sensational here (single source), they are also late.
  • This is ridiculous, in your article you speak as if it's the fault of network administrators who should know better, but actually Microsoft is forcing the download to individual users who don't even reserve a copy of Windows 10. The download happens even if you are on a metered connection.  I can't believe you are actually defending this retarded move by Microsoft.
  • MS isn't forcing anything. Every consumer Win 7/8.x PC has the ability to change to "notify but don't download" on first boot and thereafter. If your device is set to "automatically receive updates" on a metered connection then that's on you.
  • Oh of course, it's never Microsoft's fault. Everyone should have anticipated they would push a 3.5 GB download of a completely new OS without any warning to people who have not even reserved a copy of Windows 10.
  • WTF is a metered connection?!  This is a PC, not a phone!  Even DSL isnt metered and thats the crappiest internet still in existence.  What are you, on a mount Denali using dishnet?
  • Some ISPs are still backwards and has monthly limits, and mobile broadband is quite common in some places. However, updates does not download on metered connections if you don't let it. And no, DSL is not the crappiest, people still use ISDN or even dialup.
  • I agree, MS should not be forcing the update on people. Wether or not it is to prepare for the update, its basicially forcing a big 3.5gb update down people's throughts.....MS has never done this before. It should be 'completely' optional. Windows 8.1 handles this update differently than windows 7, it pesters the crap out of you. And especially with the low storage tablets that are out there, it should not be done this way.
  • That is only true if you have automatic updates enabled and you have not set your connection as metered. Under those circumstances, windows, office, etc could be pre-downloading all kinds of large updates on your metered connection all along. It could also be synching OneDrive. Configure your system appropriately if you have these kinds of restrictions.
  • The main issue here is the fact that it downloads Windows 10 even if you have not reserved your copy. The metered connection is only a secondary problem. The article above implies that this download could only occur because of incompetent system administrators. That is absolutely not the case.
  • I have one computer running Windows 7 that is used for WMC. I have the Windows 10 update icon but I did not reserve Windows 10. I did not find any sort of ~BT folder on this computer. Do you have personal experience that Windows 10 is downloaded to your computer even though you did not request it?, or you are one of those who just believe anything the internet is throwing at you.
  • In all of these cases, the user has requested the upgrade.  In zero of these cases, Microsoft has forced a download.  The upgrade simply does not work that way.  It is not possible.  It has to be requested. Oh, and if you would configure your network conneciton property and flag it as a metered connection, Microsoft will not download over that without your permission.  Problem is, most people dont flag their connection as a metered connection.
  • i would like to know what part in the article dont you understand, from an IT standard and on the individual updates are automactic if you allow it. writters of this site WindowsCentral have written articles on how to change that and do updates when you want to. if you worked in a corporate office as an employee cant install anything unless approved by the companies IT department, so regardless wether the files get downloaded or not it will not install without Admin permission not because MS sent it. i believe your purposely being blind to the actual facts, no one and i mean no one can be forced to be updated to Windows 10 and it updates unless you want it to and also as stated many times the system will prompt you to install giving you the option to accept or decline. reading and also having an open mind is needed and not jumping at anything negative about Microsoft
  • Agreed, and I don't think that making fun of people who reported on such a serious breach of trust is an appropriate way of handling it. MS deserves its negative press on this one. I hope it causes them to re-think using deceptive practices like this.
  • There was no breach of trust. Just becuase someone posts something on the internet doesnt make it true. There is zero evidence that W10 was pushed out to any PCs that didn't accept the request to upgrade. That is the case for both consumer versions as well as enterprise versions that allowed end users to request a W10 upgrade because the machines were not locked down properly by the network admins. The whole point of the article above is that this made up issue went viral with help from the main stream media without anyone bothering to fact check it.
  • Its kind of funny that a network admin would let the users be local admins, I can see a few users maybe, but not the rest. Java, Flash, itunes, spotify, pandora and utorrent for everyone!  The real stupid part is letting Windows update download updates over and over, duplicate updates to every machine. I'd hate to see how slow their internet is on the second Tuesday of the month. Maybe these people were running Windows 7 home premium at work and not joining the domain? peer to peer sharing,  lol 
  • I wouldn't be surprised if they fact-checked, actually knew this can and should be controlled at the network level and just took the story and ran with it anyway for a headline.
  • Switzerland has now passed a law that bans the use of Windows 10 in the public sector. They are also thinking about to forbid the import and sales of Windows 10 for everyone because of security and privacy concerns that Microsoft isn't willing to address.
  • Link?  
  • BS
  • Absolutely false.
  • Citation needed
  • The internet is full of people like you who post verificable false information. Go troll somewhere else.
  • Switzerland has also mandated all people wear swiss watches at all times within their borders, and have issued a wide spread ban on the Kinect cause spying. 
  • Well said. This and your other article on criticisms you've got in the past really highlight the difference between good, accurate reporting, and misinformed, sensationalist pieces. Also, I really don't understand why someone would want to avoid windows 10, bit if one wants to, it's fairly simple - and I'm no IT expert!
  • One word:  WSUS
  • This. 
  • Internet is full of "non-stories" about Microsoft especially - I sometimes wonder really if all that is by accident...or not. Keep up the good work Daniel, one of the few rare sound heads around the blogging community.
  • "Why the issue is being raised again now, almost 2 months after the public launch, really makes you question the source" Some entity is running a massive astroturfing campaign, with plenty of useful idiots in tow. I am completely convinced of this now.      
  • Windows Update on my tablet always says that windows 10 failed to install (a few times a day) even though I have not reserved my upgrade.
  • If have the windows 10 upgrading thing installed, why people don't expect it to download Windows 10 if you decice to upgrade it? it's like complaining about the many MBs or even GBs that are downloaded every month because of Office 2013, I mean that's what you are telling Windows to do. you can just uninstall, hide and move on from the windows 10 upgrade advisor whatever is called thing, and stop worrying about it. But if you installed it well, I am sure but it's your fault not uninstalling it. You might say "but it was forced by Microsoft" but Windows 7 and 8 had a way to "let me decide what to do with updates" if you had them automatic and all, well it's what you chose to do. So I don't understand the problem here, it's not like you have set Windows update to never download or install updates or inform you about them and still Windows 10 is being downloaded. This is like Windows Phone, it downloads the updates automatically and you decide when to install. you can tell it to stop doing that, but you can't just complain how evil Microsoft is for offering a free upgrade and giving updates to make it easier for users to download and install. some poeople like to complain but they are not in that group, they would complain if Microsoft does it or if they don't. and then these users shouldn't set Automatic updates on for Windows update or any other software.