Many of you may be aware that Microsoft came under fire not too long ago for violating its own guidelines for what the little x in the top right hand corner of a dialog box or window should do, close the window and cancel any process associated with that window. Instead, they decided that in a last ditch effort to force people to upgrade to Windows 10, clicking the x on the notification that your Windows 10 update was ready (after it had downloaded itself onto your computer without your permission or by disguising itself as a different update) would essentially be you consenting to the update. I could link a bunch of articles about this, but it would probably be easier for you to just google “Is Windows 10 malware?” and you can see for yourself. After the outcry, Microsoft said they would adjust their update policy, but that’s not what this post is about. This is about Windows 10 intentionally harming peoples computers who dual boot with a Linux distribution.
As you may have guessed, I was one of those users. This past Sunday I had decided to play video games for a little while to relax. Gaming is the only reason that I keep Windows around on my laptop. I know I could probably get most games that I play to run pretty well on my Linux distribution using Wine, but I don’t want to spend my time that I could be gaming managing different Wine prefixes or worrying that the latest game update will break the installation. When I play games I want them to just work. So if it’s a game that’s not available natively for Linux, it’s just easier to play it on Windows. So, while I was playing my game, Windows downloaded an update in the background. A major update. Its so called “anniversary” update. When I was done, I shut down the computer because I was heading to bed, and didn’t think too much about it when Windows began its asinine update process of doing something related to updating before it could shut down.
Once it finally shut down, I packed my laptop away and went to bed. The next morning I got to work, pulled out my laptop so that I could have both my desktop and laptop to work with during the day (comes in handy when one or the other is running some computationally intense software). After hitting the power button on my laptop, the Lenovo logo popped up on the screen followed by a grub command line. No menu to select whether to load a particular Linux kernel or switch over to the Windows boot manager. Just a grub command line. I rebooted and hit F12 when the Lenovo logo popped up, and the only option there was to boot into Windows, so I did and let it finish its major update. Then, I popped in a live USB for my Linux distribution so that I could see a bit more about just what had happened and maybe try to recover from there. It was then that I discovered that the Windows update had deleted the entire contents of my /boot and /sys partitions. All of it. Not a single file left.
Since I was at work, I couldn’t let the issue distract me too much, and instead just utilized my desktop to work. I have finally been able to get everything back in order, and luckily I was able to backup all of my data from within the live session, so all in all, things could have been much worse. However, I believe that this places Windows 10 firmly in the category of malware. It is software which by default spies on you and sends the information back to Microsoft. After this latest Windows 10 update, I had to go through all of the setup stuff again and I noticed that even if you turn off everything that reports back to Microsoft, selecting off for the “Send full diagnostic and usage data to Microsoft?” specifically tells you that by turning it to off, only basic data will be sent. So, no matter what people may tell you, even setting things so that you keep your data private, Microsoft will still get some data from your computer.
In addition to spying on you, by default it downloads and applies updates to your computer. As time goes on, Microsoft is getting more and more forceful about pushing updates to computers and they tell you less and less about what the updates are supposed to fix. Often times they will be called something like “Cumulative Update for Windows 10”. The fact that you can’t easily figure out just what that update is doing to your system is something that malware would do.
Lastly, with this “anniversary” update, their software is now causing damage to peoples’ computers who happen to dual boot a Linux distribution. Maybe this damage is unintentional, but given Microsoft’s recent history, that’s getting harder to believe. I know they have been working on having bash inside of Windows, what they are calling Ubuntu on Windows. While many are excited about this, to me it seems like they are simply trying to give users fewer reasons to install a Linux distribution. “If all the tools that you use and know are available natively in Windows now, why both with a complicated dual boot system.” As if the only advantages of using a Linux distribution over Windows was bash. Sure, bash is great and very powerful, but my Linux distribution uses significantly less RAM while sitting idle that Windows. Many of the utilities I use on a day to day basis for work were developed natively for Linux systems, so they just work, and do so incredibly well. My user interface is completely customizable so that I can tune it to improve my work flow and productivity. And, no matter how much Windows says it has improved security, I feel quite safe that my Linux distribution is and will always be more secure.
So, Windows 10 is now malware. If anything, I see Microsoft moving further and further in that direction as their revenue falls off due to the expanding mobile market. Microsoft will increase their spying, give users fewer options to control their data, and write ever more draconian end user agreements. I will be actively pursing options to make gaming completely viable on my Linux distribution, and when that happens, I will be purging Windows 10 from my computer, and never using it again.
What are your thoughts on the direction Microsoft is taking Windows 10? Was your system harmed by the latest update? Do you think Windows 10 is malware? Let me know in the comments below!