Multiple Illinois residents have sued Microsoft over its Windows 10 upgrade program. They allege the company’s invasive upgrade practices cost them time, money, and substantial inconvenience by forcing them to deal with various unhelpful Microsoft tech support options, upgrades that were installed without the user understanding that they had an option to avoid it, and in some cases, loss of data or hardware functionality resulting from compatibility issues that Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade wizard failed to detect.
The class-action lawsuit against Microsoft claims more than 100 members collectively seeking $ 5 million in damages excluding cost and interest. It’s not clear, however, if all of the lawsuit’s claims will stand up in court.
On the one hand, the suit documents issues that we’ve covered extensively ourselves, including Microsoft’s attempts to use dark patterns to trick consumers into upgrading to Windows 10, scheduling upgrades and in some cases triggering them without user input, and changing the entire way the stealth installation process was triggered by altering the meaning of the “X” box in the Get Windows 10 application.
Elsewhere, the suit delves into more questionable complaints. The suit claims “Allegedly the Windows 10 installer genie checks the consumer’s computer for compatibility; it does not, however, check the condition of the PC and whether or not the hard drive can withstand the stress of the Windows 10 installation.”
It follows that up with the claim that “Many consumers have had their hard drive fail because of the Windows 10 installation.” I suspect this is, at best, sloppy wording from non-technical people. A failed Windows 10 could certainly create conditions in which the system would no longer boot, but it’s highly unlikely to fundamentally damage a hard drive. The fact that one named plaintiff sought help from GeekSquad does nothing to assuage my concern that the individuals in question suffered more damage at the hands of incompetent IT companies than was actually inflicted by the OS installation process. I have never known nor heard of a hard drive physically failing because the Windows 10 installation process was stressful.
Microsoft’s response, according to Zdnet, won’t exactly persuade anyone with a strong opinion on how the company handled its “Get Windows 10” rollout.
“If a customer who upgraded during the one-year program needed help with the upgrade experience, we had numerous options including free customer support and 31 days to roll back to their old operating system. We believe the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit,” Microsoft said.
True, to a point — but given the way Microsoft kept changing the GWX.exe application and offering versions that made opting out less and less clear, it may not have a leg to stand on with this particular defense. It also doesn’t resolve the issue of data loss or a non-functioning OS caused by a failed upgrade process. Given that Microsoft executives have acknowledged that the final stages of the campaign pushed the boundary of acceptable behavior and resulted in an application genuinely behaving like malware, this suit, and others like it, might actually go somewhere. Then again, $ 5 million is basically a rounding error on Microsoft’s quarterly sales, and settling the case wouldn’t cost the company very much.