Microsoft Downloads Windows 10 Without Asking

John Lister's picture

Microsoft has confirmed it has downloaded Windows 10 to some Windows 7 and 8.1 computers without express permission. The download comes through the Windows Update process and takes up space, but doesn't install the new system unless the user chooses to do so manually.

The issue came to light when some users noticed that their hard drives had less free space than expected, then dug down into hidden files and folders to discover data related to Windows 10. In theory the Windows 10 installation file should only be 3GB, but some users have reported a 6GB file.

The situation has been the source of much confusion. Originally it appeared the file had only been put on computers of those who opted to reserve an upgrade of Windows 10. Now it's been confirmed Windows 10 has also been put on PCs where the user has Windows Update automatic updates enabled.

Download Provides "Smoother Upgrade Experience"

In what appears to be a standard statement to the media, Microsoft said "For those who have chosen to reserve their upgrade of Windows 10 and those that have Windows Update automatic updates enabled, we may help customers prepare their devices for Windows 10 by downloading the files necessary for future installation ... This results in a smoother upgrade experience and ensures the customer's device has the latest software." (Source:

In principle such a policy isn't unusual with software: both updates to Windows and to several browsers work this way, with the idea being to download the update in the background, but let the user install it at a convenient time, such as when restarting a PC.

The problem is that this is virtually unheard of in the case of an entire new operating system that involves such a huge file, particularly with many people still on slow connections or with monthly data use limits from their Internet provider. While it makes sense to update an existing application or system in this way, it feels somewhat presumptuous when it comes to changing from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10.

Windows Disk Cleanup Removes Install File

There are a couple of ways to respond if you are certain you don't want to get Windows 10 any time soon.

One way is to disable the option for "Install updates automatically" through the Windows Update (Windows 7) or Change PC Settings (Windows 8.1) settings menus, and instead set it to "Download updates but let me choose whether to install them". The big downside is that you will then need to manually approve any updates, which could delay getting the latest bug and security fixes.

Another option is to run the Windows Disk Cleanup tool which removes any unnecessary files including the Windows 10 installation file, thus freeing up the disk space; Infopackets already has a guide which explains this process. You can then forcefully remove certain Windows Updates to prevent Windows 10 from ever attempting downloading onto your system again.

What's Your Opinion?

Is it reasonable for Microsoft to download files this way to make life easier for people who may upgrade? Was it wrong to do so with such a large file and without getting express permission first? Do you see this as a bad choice by Microsoft or is it more a case of poor communication about what it is doing?

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Dennis Faas's picture

My mother has a Windows 7 media PC I built her a few years back, which only has a 40GB hard drive. She was complaining it was exceedingly slow, so I looked at it just last night and found that she only has 2GB of free space on the C drive. She rarely ever uses this system except to watch movies - so where did all the free space go? I'm willing to bet it's downloaded Windows 10, but I yet to verify that. If that's the case I think this silent update is pretty sneaky and not so convenient.

Navy vet's picture

Isn't this what "reserve your copy" is all about?

Dennis Faas's picture

"Reserving" Windows 10 means you had to click on the "get windows 10" app and accept the reservation. The difference here is that Windows 10 downloads to the system without reserving if you have set Windows Updates to download and install updates automatically. So, there is no "consent" in the second scenario. That said, it should really only be a headache for anyone that doesn't have a lot of free space on their C drive, or is hell-bent on having nothing to do with Windows 10.

doliceco's picture

Permission to do this is probably somewhere in Microsoft's EULA for earlier versions of Windows that are installed on computers. However, this sets a precident for unscrupulous software companies to include a statement (or something to the effect of "that they are permitted to download anything they want into anyone's computer at will". Such a statement could be included in obscure legal language anywhere in their own EULAs, hardly any of which anyone ever reads in their entirety.

Setting such a precident will allow a huge number of companies interested in hacking into people's computers to do anything they want to do with them. This kind of action should be prohibited by law, and it's an open door to trouble.

I'm also pretty sure that (hidden somewhere in Windows 10) there is software that allows "certain entities" that have secret agreements with MS, to automatically defeat any and all anti-virus, anti-malware and/or anti-intrusion programs and security alerts that many of us have installed, that these "entities" have found to be problematic in their constant surveillance of everyone's systems. Opinions???

Doccus's picture

Sheesh.. Tender tootsies, much? Boy some folks like to complain about EVERYTHING.. Windows update has been downloading updates just forever, and as long as it doesn't install them (or Win 10) without permission, what's the big deal, suddenly? and if an extra 3 gigs of space is such a problem, then you got bigger problems than Microsoft, buddy! Time, NOW, for a new HD!

pdriddell_4818's picture

Seriously, yes!
The problem is best described by peterandevelyn Wed 09/16/2015 - 12:48 post.
It cost him 60 bucks. Not chump change for something he never requested.

Doccus's picture

OK,.. I see your (and his) point. I assume then that he's using a tablet with Wifi, which I never considered, because I don't use one. And OK, I can see beiong pissed about that. Quite a few updates in the past have been pretty large, but never totalling 3 gig. If Microsoft is doing this without notice or any option to prevent it, simply because he's using the "home" version`, then I agree he's due reimbursement, actually.. in this case.. Since there's likely quite a few people affected, this sounds like a classic cause for class action suit.

pdriddell_4818's picture

6 Gig
But hey their (MS) right to download is the default setting when you buy the device or load the OS. Read all EULAs as if you were a lawyer at $350/hr.

pdriddell_4818's picture

If Microsoft downloaded the OS without your knowledge then is this included in their number for worldwide acceptance of Win 10. If so then the numbers are badly skewed and we really don't know how many users are accepting the new software. I didn't like what I saw in the Win 10 EULA and so chose to delete the preloaded files without incident.
On my own time and on a non production machine I will test Win 10 and see if the benefits outway the EULA.
I watch with get interest what other users experience, so please share with us here.


peterandevelyn_5419's picture

My problem concerns my Verizon Jet Pack which provides me a hotspot in this fairly remote area. I purchased 3GB of data for $60 and that very day my Jet Pack used all 3GB. I knew something was wrong because I hardly got to use the data and discovered it was all gone. I now know what happened as Microsoft downloaded the 3GB for Win 10 without my knowledge and it cost me $60.
Do I have any recourse to Microsoft for obtaining reimbursement? My cost for them to download their data without my permission or knowledge was $60.
Appreciate your advice.
Thank you,
Peter Hanrahan

pdriddell_4818's picture

Dude,you're basically screwed, it's Microsoft.
You got caught by their EULA which says 'If you use the Windows Update service in the software, updates or downloads to the Windows Update service will be required for proper functioning of the service, from time to time, and will be downloaded and installed without further notice to you' Read the without further notice to you. Unless you intentionally turned off checking for updates automatically, the default at installation time, they got you.
These guys are slick and slimy at the same time. IMHO

RButts_5424's picture

The 6G file is the 32/64bit version...

lind.brian's picture

How better to produce those inflated download statistics by shoving the download down your throat whether you wanted it not. They are definitely "in the cloud" and figure we are a bunch of dummies.

pdriddell_4818's picture

Most of us are a bunch of dummies. We don't read and therefore give up basic rights.
Microsoft is miles ahead of the bulk of the population. Then again maybe most people are so busy with everyday life they just don't care.(probably more to the truth)

anniew's picture

Wow, this was one of the best tips ever! I've been meaning to change the laptop to "ask" before downloading. Just checked with this disk cleanup method and regained 9 GB of space. I had no idea MS would download W 10 without even "reserving" it! I read somewhere that updates KB....3885 and KB....2664 should be avoided. They are on my list of updates, however (again, downloaded without my knowing it) and I'm wondering if I should try to remove them, as they are related to the W 10 download.

Thanks so much for all the info, Dennis!

mykey's picture

I have always turned off "automatic updates" as far back as WinXP and the Win10 upgrade files were still down loaded to my pc which is running Win7, without my knowledge or consent(I have not "reserved" my upgrade yet).
I do not believe MS is being very transparent about this whole Win10 upgrade process.
I guess because the files are in a hidden folder MS figures that most people would never know.
As a previous comment suggests, the surreptitious placing of these install files on peoples pc's is a good way of inflating the number of Win10 install files down loaded.
I wonder what else MS is hiding this Win10 upgrade process?