Word Outta Redmond

Multiple sources are reporting that Microsoft has released a pricetag for upgrading to Windows 10 when the current free upgrade offer expires at the end of July.

The cost? A mere $119.

Color me skeptical.

Not that I doubt that will be the official price. But consider that, as Ars notes, there are currently three times as many Windows 7 systems out there than Windows 10. Does anybody really believe that Microsoft sincerely thinks users who haven’t upgraded at no cost will pay for the privilege?

And remember, it’s greatly to Microsoft’s benefit to convince everybody to upgrade. Not only are there the cost savings for them in reducing their support burden for older OSes, but there’s also a significant income opportunity for them in monetizing the user information they get from Cortana and the OS in general.

So I suspect that Microsoft will find continuing opportunities to reduce or eliminate the upgrade fee after July 29th. For example, “To celebrate the release of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update on July 30th, we’re offering a free upgrade to users of Windows 7 and Windows 8!”

OK, I’m not an advertising copywriter. But I’m sure Microsoft has several of them on staff, fully capable of making the same thing Microsoft has been doing for a year sound fresh and exciting.

Am I changing my recommendation to those of you still running 7 and 8 that you should upgrade before the end of July? No. Microsoft has fooled the experts in the past, and it could happen again. And, realistically, the user experience in Windows 10 is miles ahead of 8. It’s more of a wash compared with Windows 7, but even there once you get to the top of the learning curve, it’s no worse.

And there’s one other thing to consider: If you upgrade to 10 and decide you absolutely can’t stand it, you can still downgrade back to your previous operating system. But that does not invalidate the Windows 10 license you got when you upgraded. So you would still have the option of waiting a year or two, seeing where Microsoft goes with Windows 10, and then re-upgrading when support for 7 and 8 runs out.

One final note. I mentioned the monetization of user data earlier. It’s true that Windows 10 collects a lot of information about what you’re doing. It’s also true that you can’t turn it all off. But you can take a few steps to minimize it.

Number One is Cortana. If you’re trying to cut down on how much Microsoft knows about you, don’t use Cortana. Turn her off.

And while you’re at it, turn off a few other things:
Open the Privacy Settings dialog (the easiest way to find it is to type “privacy” in the search field at the left end of the task bar). Work your way down the left menu and turn off everything you can live without. Everything on the “General” screen–although if you use Microsoft’s Edge browser, you should probably leave the “SmartScreen Filter” on.

Turn off Location, turn off the camera or strictly limit the apps that are allowed to use it, and ditto for the microphone.

“Speech, inking, & typing” is, by and large, Cortana.

Strictly limit the apps that have access to your Account Info, Contacts, Calendar, Call history, Email, and Messaging. Radios and “Other devices” should be under tight control too.

Feedback & diagnostics is an interesting one. You can set Feedback frequency to “Never” to prevent Microsoft from occasionally asking you questions about your “Windows experience”. But you can’t turn off Diagnostic and usage data. If a program crashes, Microsoft will be told about it, and they will collect at least some information about what applications you’re using. The best you can do is select “Basic” to minimize what they get.

Don’t forget to review which apps have permission to run in the background. You probably want the calendar running in the background, but do you really want Edge running, downloading whatever Microsoft thinks you might want to see–or more importantly, whatever Microsoft wants you to see?

And one last thing to check: The privacy implications are somewhat limited, but it’s especially important for those of you who have slow network connections or are charged by the amount you use your connection.

Go to the Windows Update settings, click “Advanced options” and then “Choose how updates are delivered”. Turn OFF “Updates from more than one place”. Yes, that’s right. Microsoft is using every Windows 10 computer that leaves the default settings in place as part of the Windows Update delivery system. How charming.

I’ve heard that it works like bittorrent software, in that there’s no central registry of which computers have what updates available, but even so, do you really want your computer advertising that it hasn’t yet installed the latest security fixes?

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