Microsoft backs off click-the-X trick in Windows 10 upgrade pitch

Will change the behavior of its 'Get Windows 10' app notification to align with own design rules

Microsoft today said it will revamp the notification of a pending Windows 10 upgrade so that clicking the red "X" -- an action that for decades has been used to dismiss or ignore a dialog box -- will no longer be interpreted as authorizing the process.

With just a month to go before it stops offering a free upgrade to consumers and many businesses running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, Microsoft said it would modify the notice that appears when the company pitches the Windows 10 upgrade.

"If the red-x is selected on this new dialog, it will dismiss the dialog box and we will notify the device again in a few days," Terry Myerson, who heads Microsoft's Windows and devices group, said in a statement.

That's a turn-about from the practice Microsoft adopted three months ago, when it silently flipped the interpretation of an X-click.

Starting in March, Microsoft began pre-scheduling the upgrade as it was delivered through Windows Update as a recommended download. The resulting notice, which was spawned by the "Get Windows 10" (GWX) app, told users that the upgrade had been slated, and when. (GWX is the app that Microsoft has installed -- and re-installed -- on Windows 7 and 8.1 systems for more than a year to process the Windows 10 upgrade.)

But rather than interpret a click on the red "X" in the upper right as "cancel" or "ignore" the notification of the impending upgrade -- as decades of user experience (UX), as well as Microsoft's own design rules mandated -- the company defined the action as authorizing the scheduled upgrade. Before the change, clicking the X dismissed the notice and declined the upgrade.

Not surprisingly, the change riled users, who saw the click-X-and-you-approve tactic as a trick to get them to authorize the upgrade to Windows 10 when they intended to reject it.

Myerson said the X-click flip would roll out within days. "This week we'll launch a new upgrade experience for millions of PCs around the world," he said.

The UX of the GWX notice will also change, according to a screenshot provided by Microsoft. New buttons -- one marked "Choose time," the other "Decline free offer" -- will show on the notification, replacing an easy-to-miss, one-word link embedded in the earlier version that customers had to click to either change the schedule or reject Windows 10. From the screenshot, it also appeared that Microsoft will no longer pre-schedule the upgrade.

As Myerson said, closing the notification dialog by clicking the X is not a permanent rejection: The notice will reappear later, within "a few days," to again query the user.

It was unclear whether clicking the "Decline this offer" button is a lasting rejection, or whether doing that would also instruct the PC to later return the GWX notice to the screen. Microsoft did not immediately reply to that follow-up question.

Although Microsoft has been gradually increasing the pressure on customers to adopt Windows 10 -- the 11-month distribution campaign has taken one unprecedented step after another -- and while some users have complained at every phase, this was the first time that the firm backpedaled. The only other time it did -- in the fall of 2015, when it set the Windows 10 upgrade to download by pre-checking an optional item in Windows Update -- Microsoft said it was a mistake, and corrected the behavior to deliver the new OS only to those who had reserved it through GWX.

It was likely a coincidence that Myerson touted the change just a day after news broke that a California woman had won a $10,000 judgment in small claims court against Microsoft for upgrading her PC last year without her approval. That case was decided in March, and the company dropped its appeal and paid Teri Goldstein $10,000 more than a month ago.

The free Windows 10 upgrade offer will expire July 29. However, Microsoft has declined to say what will happen to GWX after that date. It's conceivable that the app will be retained, and continue promoting Windows 10 on PCs running Windows 7 or 8.1.

windows 10 upgrade notification copy Microsoft

The 'Get Windows 10' app will be revamped this week to display a button that lets Windows 7 and 8.1 users decline the free upgrade. And clicking the 'X' in the upper right will not be interpreted as approving the upgrade, as that action has been defined by Microsoft in the past. 

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