Taking on Microsoft (and Winning)

by Jesse Worley | October 13, 2016

My grandfather is an impressive man. He earned a real estate license at a young age and made a very respectable career with it and dozens of other entrepreneurial ventures. He’s the type who can do complex math in his head in seconds, has an opinion on everything because he’s read everything, and has a personal story that can rival anything in the movies. Heck, he even produced a movie.

He also has Alzheimer’s Disease, and has for long enough that he can’t do almost all of the amazing things he’s spent his life doing any longer. When he began showing signs around a decade ago we were ready for it. His mother had died with the disease after a long and very difficult battle. We are one of the many families in America who know that Alzheimer’s Disease will be with us for a long time. My mom and dad are preparing for it. My wife and I have had talks. Our lifestyles and many of our decisions reflect the reality in which we all live.

When Microsoft’s aggressive Get Windows X campaign altered the fundamental function of its own software in order to trick people into upgrading to Windows 10, one of the many victims was my grandfather. After fixing his computer I took on Microsoft and won $650 for my time, but have not yet compelled Microsoft to recognize the disrespect their misleading program showed for people with Alzheimer’s Disease, nor to recognize how devastating future programs will continue to be for my family and ultimately for me.


Like many successful people in America, my grandfather is an exceptional Pinball, Minesweeper, and Solitaire player. Since as far back as I can remember his routine has been to sit down at his computer, write a contract, check his investments, then play a game. He repeated that cycle successfully enough that I grew up spending summers on his sprawling horse ranch, watching movie stars film sequences in his pastures and learning some of my most important lessons from him and my grandmother. He moved hundreds of thousands of acres of property, built countless homes, and passed the knowledge learned from his father and his businesses to his children. He was the second in our four generations as a home building family.

Today he lives with my grandmother and near my parents. My mother cares for him almost daily and my grandmother cares for him every single minute of every single day of her life. He is still a very impressive man. He can do feats of mathematics in his head. He’s fun to talk to and can tell hilarious stories and as the person I grew up to temperamentally resemble the most within my family, my grandfather clearly had a lot to do with me becoming who I am.

As life changed around him, the routine which made him successful did not. Write a contract, check his investments, play a game. My mother, through tireless devotion and seemingly unlimited energy, fought like hell to keep him doing that as long as possible. Even as I moved around the country for jobs and my wife’s education, Mom dug in and learned to troubleshoot computers and do telephone tech support with me to keep his routine going when I couldn’t be there to do it myself.

My grandfather worked until he couldn’t any longer. My grandmother and mother now run the business, but with Alzheimer’s his routine couldn’t simply change. He may not work today, but it makes him happy to sit in his chair and click on the things he clicked when he worked. At this point in his life he wakes up when he wants to and enjoys the life he and his wife of 60 years spent decades building for themselves with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, then does what instinct has told him to do for most of his adult life. He sits down at his computer, looks over some spreadsheets (which today contain all of his historic high scores for Minesweeper instead of accounts), then spends as many hours as he sees fit playing those games and chasing those high scores. It’s as close as he can get to what he’s been successful at all his life, and it makes him happy to be able to do it every day. It makes us happy to be able to maintain that element of routine for him.

Technical Background

My family recognized my grandfather’s need to have a static presentation to be able to continue using his computer as his disease progressed, so throughout Windows XP, then into Windows 7, as the family IT guy I maintained identical applications, icon placements, and document locations to those he could recall easily from 98/XP even as the applications updated and changed these things by default.

In 2012, when Windows XP was close to end-of-life, I built my grandfather two identical bookshelf-sized machines with separate Windows 7 Professional licenses. These machines used Windows 7’s “Classic Mode” theme, the classic “Quick Launch” added to the toolbar near the Start Menu, had icons for his Pinball (copied from his previous Windows 98 computer), Minesweeper, Solitaire, browser, and other programs, and had his data where he knew to find it. I put a lot of care into building those computers. From the dog wallpapers to the choice of SSD, I built computers that not only worked for him, but took into account the inevitability of failure and the need for a prompt solution for the man we love when it struck. The spare computer sat coldly on his shelf ready to take over when something went wrong.

In 2015 Microsoft rolled out their Get Windows X initiative. For Windows 7 computers this appears as a taskbar icon all of the time, and occasionally pops up with a basic “yes” or “no” update prompt to users. Microsoft did not, and still has not, allowed a user to disabled these popups from within the popup. To turn them off a user has to take deliberate steps elsewhere or run a 3rd-Party app. For well over 6 months Microsoft did not make any method of disabling them available short of turning off updates before the Get Windows X patch was installed. It is not hyperbole to suggest that the Get Windows X application was and still is intentionally designed to be first impossible, and later difficult to remove. Microsoft could include a “leave me alone” button at any time to remove the popup, but continues to choose not to do so almost a year into the program.

Just as with Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows 7, it has always been my intention to update my grandfather’s computers to Windows 10 well before the official end-of-life date. For Windows 7 that is 2020. Between now and 2020 there will be countless widgets written specifically to help me customize the newly-designed display in Windows 10 to more perfectly mimic what my grandfather is capable of using. Like millions of others, my grandfather with Alzheimer’s Disease is not a good candidate for early adoption of Windows 10.

My grandfather knows better than to say “yes” to things that randomly pop up on his screen, so we had absolutely no problem explaining to him that Windows 10 wasn’t something we needed, and that when it came up he just needed to say no. He did so successfully for more than 6 months while Microsoft bothered him with the same pop-up over and over and over again, and would have continued to do so if Microsoft hadn’t gone out of their way to trick him.

Microsoft’s Bad Decision

In May of 2016 my mother called and told me that my grandparents were in a funk, and had been for a couple of weeks. She’d discovered his computer had updated to Windows 10, and that he wasn’t spending any time in his office. Minesweeper and Solitaire wanted money and he didn’t know how to work anything else. He was irritable and confused, as the routine he’d followed his entire life had changed abruptly. The mood of the house, and thus the mood of our family, changed with it.

But we were ready for it!

My mother quickly plugged in his spare computer to stabilize the situation and I sent her installation instructions for a non-Microsoft product called Never10. This 3rd-party product did what Microsoft intentionally refused to do, disabling the Get Windows X notification in the taskbar and ending the stream of popups my grandfather had previously successfully navigated. Never10 was very much needed too, because Microsoft had just gone way over the line in their attempt to trick their entire user base into upgrading!

In May of 2016, Microsoft modified the design and function of their Get Windows X popup. Instead of presenting the standard “yes” or “no” that Microsoft had spent months training users to dismiss, Microsoft replaced the buttons with “install now” or “install later.” For users not paying attention, those with bad eyesight, those with Alzheimer’s Disease, or even those of us intentionally conditioned to click the “no” button, we inadvertently opted in for an update!

Sadly, it gets worse. In 1995 Microsoft brought us the ubiquitous “X” button, which since its inception 21 years ago has remained uniform across millions of software titles to perform one action and one action only – close the window. In the redesigned Get Windows X program Microsoft altered the “X” button not to perform its sole 2-decade-long duty, but instead to assume you meant “update later,” so scheduled the update then closed the window. For users who might even have caught that Microsoft was trying to trick us with the altered buttons, clicking the “X” button to choose neither “now” nor “later” underhandedly scheduled the update for overnight, when we were likely to be in bed.

To say “no” to the redesigned panel a user had to take very deliberate action. A small, half-buried link in the message, beneath the “now” and “later” buttons would bring a user to the update scheduler, where a savvy user could refuse. My grandfather had no chance against this kind of trickery, nor did potentially thousands or more people who may not have an IT grandson or spare computer and might still be suffering today.

I don’t know whether he pressed “later” intending “no” or “X” intending “close,” but Microsoft changing the behavior of their software to trick people isn’t the same as people saying “yes.” Nobody doubts that my grandfather pressed one of the buttons, but even Microsoft agrees that they didn’t make that panel usable for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease. My grandfather’s computer was updated to Windows 10 along with millions of others through Microsoft-introduced malware. I didn’t get any say in the matter, my grandfather couldn’t tell us what happened, and we had to stumble upon it and fix their subterfuge at our expense. That’s just wrong.

With the backup computer running and protected against Microsoft’s malware, my mother mailed the updated computer to me later that week for repair. I received it and hooked it up to my network, then kicked off a roll-back. The process failed overnight, and the following day the option was no longer present in Windows 10. That was fine though, I’ve always been a “wipe and reload” tech. It’s the only way to get it right the first time most of the time, and even if the rollback had worked I might have done it anyway.

I rebuilt the computer back to grandpa’s specs. With no CD drive it was a minor pain. I opted to create a bootable Windows 7 USB drive first, but It didn’t have the necessary SATA drivers, so I then spent another half an hour tracking down the motherboard drivers and figuring out the load process again. I’d last touched the machines a while ago, so even with notes it took some time. Not a lot of time, but some time.

I brought the computer with me on my next trip to see my family, where it now sits on my grandfather’s shelf awaiting its next calling. I took an image of it this time because I learned my lesson. I also added the time I spent on the road to my invoice.

After a lovely afternoon with my grandparents and mother, as I was leaving my grandmother stopped me.

“How much do we owe you?

“Nothing,” I replied. “I’m going to make Microsoft to pay for it.”

Getting Even Step 1: Get Their Attention

In July 2016 I wrote Microsoft an arbitration letter demanding $650 for hours spent supporting my grandfather’s custom Windows 7 computer. I had recently read of Teri Goldstein’s successful $10,000 win in California Small Claims court and planned to take Microsoft to Justice Court in Texas (our name for Small Claims) to do the same. I didn’t really want money from them, and while I very probably could have charged more for my time or simply asked for a lot more, my motivation behind asking for $650 was to generate some sort of proof when Microsoft finally admitted they’d made a mistake pushing Get Windows X so underhandedly. I’d calculated 13 hours of work including my time on the road, so simply assigned a $50/hour price to it and started researching how to sue Microsoft for that.

In the research phase I came across this really funny nugget in the Windows 10 EULA:

10.c. Small claims court option. Instead of mailing a Notice of Dispute, and if you meet the court’s requirements, you may sue us in small claims court in your county of residence (or if a business your principal place of business) or our principal place of business–King County, Washington USA if your dispute is with Microsoft. We hope you’ll mail a Notice of Dispute and give us 60 days to try to work it out, but you don’t have to before going to small claims court.


My original dispute letter to Microsoft

First note that any USA-based Windows 10 user whose state has small claims court can make Microsoft fly someone to them if the sneaky update required their time or money to fix it. If an unexpected overnight Get Windows X update required 2 hours of a user’s time to roll back, they can legitimately demand $100 plus filing fees in their small claims court, and in most cases win automatically if Microsoft doesn’t send anyone. If the person runs a business, stream, or any other profitable enterprise on the impacted computer, Microsoft can be compelled to compensate the downtime or loss for much larger amounts. If they do send someone to court, that person will have to convince a judge that changing the Get Windows X buttons wasn’t intended to trick people to win. Yeah right.

Second, buried in miles of legalese, indemnity for everything possible, applicability constraints, usability limitations, and all manner of other forceful language was this lone “hope.” Microsoft wants to “work it out.” That’s hilarious. They’re like a bad ex. Why not though? It’s not like they’ll have a chance in small claims court defending the update, so I upped my difficulty level and decided to win in my pajamas. Sure, let’s work it out baby!


Officially official

I visited Microsoft’s arbitration page and downloaded their Notice of Dispute form, which I populated with as many details as possible. I explained my grandfather’s disease and how Microsoft’s aggressive and misleading updates had caused problems in my family, that the roll-back wasn’t available, and that it was more reasonable to ask Microsoft to pay than to bill my grandfather.

I US Postal mailed their form letter to the address specified, with a $6 return receipt so I knew exactly when to start their 60 days. Joshua signed for my letter on July 11th and we were off!

On July 12 I received an email from Microsoft Customer Support from Escalation Analyst Saket A. expressing regret that I was having “an issue with Windows 10 upgrade” and asking my availability for a follow-up phone call. We made a date. The bad ex connection started feeling too real.

Getting Even Step 2: Win The Argument

Note that Microsoft didn’t reach out with anyone from their arbitration team. I got a technical escalation agent. Joshua or whomever received my letter interpreted it to mean I needed more help with Windows 10, so they sent me to tech support even though I’d mailed in an official Notice of Dispute CO Arbitration.

I corrected Saket’s misunderstanding with three further paragraphs of explanation via email, detailing the needs of families with Alzheimer’s Disease and once again explaining the problem Get Windows X had caused for us. He took no notice as we dialed in the time and scheduled an official telephone call.

Saket called me over three hours late on January 18th and still didn’t have any idea who or what we were talking about. He characterized the problem as being with my father and put the blame on “getting frequent prompts,” not knowing “whether to accept it or deny it,” and even blamed him for not being capable, suggesting he “actually found it very difficult to use.”

Getting to know you...

Telephone conversation with Saket A. of Microsoft Global Escalation Services. July 18th, 2016

Saket (MS): “Hello Jesse, my name is Saket and I’m calling from Microsoft Global Escalations. How are you doing?”

Me: “I’m well, how are you?”

Saket (MS): “I’m doing alright, thank you. I’m calling you in regards to your ticket number <###> and that is in relation with the Windows 10 upgrade on your father’s computer. You mentioned in your email your father had been getting frequent prompts to get his PC upgraded to Windows 10, he did not know whether to accept it or deny it and got upgraded to Windows 10, and he finds, actually found it difficult, very difficult to use the product. And there were a lot of inconvenience because of that. So yeah, just wanted to further discuss with you about this.”

Me: “Sure! While I appreciate your description of it, you’ve left a number of things out. First and foremost it’s not my father, he is my grandfather.”

Saket (MS): “Oh, okay.”

Me: “Secondly, he’s 80 years old, he’s an elderly fellow, and he has a disease called Alzheimer’s Disease which makes him mentally incapable of learning many new things. I don’t want to paint him as invalid, he’s a very smart man who has a lot of capabilities to do a great many things, but one of the difficulties in his life is learning things that he has been doing one way all his life. It’s difficult for him to change.”

I had a 4-finger plan, and Saket’s early mistakes and clear inattention indicated him as a poor choice of representative for Microsoft to defend against it. To be fair, taking advantage of the elderly through tricky malware tactics would be pretty tough to defend for even the most stalwart exec. I almost wish they’d sent a challenge.

Finger 1: First, I’d establish that Microsoft is aware that they’re going to be supporting Windows 7 until 2020. It’s a non-trivial fact in this matter, because the first thing any Microsoft lawyer is going to say is “we tried to trick you for your own protection, otherwise you won’t get patches!” Saket’s answer is “I’m really sorry it prompted way too many times.”

Finger 1: Why the Rush?

Telephone conversation with Saket A. of Microsoft Global Escalation Services. July 18th, 2016

Me: “Your corporation – Microsoft Corporation – has made it clear that you will be supporting Windows 7, which is the last  iteration of Windows that supported the classic games that I’m referring to. Your organization has made it clear that you will be supporting that operating system until 2020, is that correct?”

Saket (MS):  “For Windows 7? I guess, yeah, should be close to 2020. Let me have a look.”

Me: “Now if you’re going to be supporting Windows 7 until 2020 and I have an elderly grandfather who needs to stay on Windows 7 because his unfortunate handicap – that being Alzheimer’s Disease – has made it impossible for him to really make a move to Windows 10 now, shouldn’t you at least let us be able to make a conscious decision not to upgrade to Windows 10?”

Saket (MS): “Yeah. I mean the only thing, I totally understand your concern, Jesse, and I’m really sorry it prompted way too many times.”

Finger 2: Next, I’d make sure Saket and I are very clearly talking about the same May 2016 version of Get Windows X. Not only does he know which patch I’m talking about, he knows all about the fine print. Unfortunately he also runs off a cliff, admitting of the fine print that “a lot of people would not be knowing at that point in time,” and “on the main screen you may not be seeing that option to decline that one.”

Finger 2: Microsoft Has Sneaky Patches

Telephone conversation with Saket A. of Microsoft Global Escalation Services. July 18th, 2016

Me: “We did everything we could to tell your organization ‘no,’ but we know for a fact and you know for a fact that you put an upgrade out there at one point that was sneaky. It didn’t give you the chance to say ‘no,’ it said ‘upgrade now’ or ‘upgrade tonight,’ and if you hit the X button it automatically scheduled the update. Do you know which update I’m referring to?”

Saket (MS): “Those updates, you know, the prerequisites that you’re talking about, I mean…”

Me: “No no no no no, I’m not talking about prerequisites. There is a Microsoft patch which pops up a notification to the user, which gives the user an option of upgrading to Windows 10, and the three options the user is given…”

Saket (MS): “Oh yes, that’s called ‘Get Windows 10,’ yes.”

Me: “GWX, yes. And the three options the user is given, you agree, are ‘upgrade right now,’ ‘upgrade tonight,’ or if you hit the X button it scheduled the update without telling you? Do you agree that’s how it operated?”

Saket (MS): “Actually there were further settings to it, but a lot of people would not be knowing at that point in time, but that has been changed now.”

Me: “It was not changed in time. You do agree, however, that it was not changed at the point which my grandfather’s computer was upgraded?”

Saket: “Yeah, I mean in front of, on the main screen you may not be seeing that option to decline that one but there were further settings to it where you could have actually declined the upgrade.”

Finger 3: Almost irrelevant since Saket had already indicated his awareness of the difficulty of Get Windows X for “a lot of people,” I’d get Saket to agree that the patch was especially tricky for my grandfather. This is especially important to me, because far beyond simply being shady to pump adoptions, I wanted Microsoft to recognize that they’re also hurting real people.

Finger 3: Microsoft Was Tricky

Telephone conversation with Saket A. of Microsoft Global Escalation Services. July 18th, 2016

Me: “You’re telling me that there was no attempt at subterfuge there?”

Saket (MS): “A lot of things have already been changed at that point in time. There was definitely an option, but when you talk about in your grandfather’s perspective or something, how exactly we should have, should be handling, I can understand it might a little difficult for him for sure because we may not be getting those options immediately or in front to actually decline or something.”

Finger 4: Finally, having ensured that we’re in agreement about the patch, its intended impact, and its actual impact, I’d put Microsoft on the record by making them pay for my time to fix that exact problem. The amount would be irrelevant. If they offered a quarter of what I asked I’d accept it. Any payment is admission that the May 2016 Get Windows X patch had messed up the life of a man I love with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Finger 4: Pay Me

Telephone conversation with Saket A. of Microsoft Global Escalation Services. July 18th, 2016

Me: “So let me put this in no uncertain terms: when the Windows 10 upgrade cratered my grandparent’s household and my mother called me, from that point, somebody has to be charged for my time. Do you think it is more reasonable for my grandfather with Alzheimer’s Disease, who is the victim of your poorly-designed upgrade, to write me a check for my time, or do you think that you should write me a check for that time?”

Saket (MS): “Oh. I’m not really sure, but when exactly you started getting these prompts, you know…”

Me: “Let me make this an easy decision then. I believe that you should pay.”

We ended the call with Saket promising to discuss the case with his management, and scheduled a follow-up call for July 25th. In the meantime I wrote him an email expressing my disappointment in his being hours late for our call and not understanding at all what we were supposed to discuss. I typed up some of the same transcripts on this page, laying out how Saket and I were in agreement that Windows 7 would be supported until 2020 so there was no reason for such an early adoption, how we’d come to discuss the sneaky Get Windows X patch, had agreed that it didn’t present a reasonable way to say “no,” and finally what I wanted for my time. I awaited his call firmly satisfied that I’d won the argument.

Getting Even Step 3: Get Proof

Saket was on time for call #2, and the verdict was good. Somehow through the Escalation Services department, not the arbitration department, not a lawyer, not small claims court, Microsoft agreed that Get Windows 10 had been sneaky enough to require payment for my time to fix!

They wouldn’t make it easy to get proof, initially offering a $500 Visa card and $150 in coupons to the Microsoft online store. I sort of politely declined their offer and pushed for a check, which much to my surprise Saket gave up without much of a fight.

Will You Accept Funny Money?

Telephone conversation with Saket A. of Microsoft Global Escalation Services. July 25th, 2016

Saket (MS): “As per our discussion last week, you wanted Microsoft to pay you $650 for the time you spent to resolve the issue at all. Just wanted to discuss with you about it. We have agreed upon giving you, reimbursing you the amount, as a part of goodwill gesture I would say. The total amount we would be sending you a Visa prepaid card of $500 and it would be a $150 gift coupon that you could use at Microsoft’s online store.”

Me: “So I asked you for $650 in cash reimbursement or invoice payment reimbursement for my time, and what you’re willing to do is a $500 prepaid gift card?”

Saket (MS): “Yeah, that’ll be a Visa prepaid card that can be used at any store to purchase anything, so that’ll be of $500. And there would be one gift coupon of $150 that you can use at Microsoft’s online store.”

Me: “How was that division of funds come upon? Why would the prepaid gift card not be the full $650? Moreover, why not a check for $650? Why does it have to be in the form of a gift card and a coupon? Moreover let me just go ahead and simply say the $150 Microsoft coupon is right out. I don’t intend to use that. I can’t do business with your company right now. So I reject that offer. I asked initially for $650, I would like a check for $650 preferably.”

Saket (MS): “Okay, we can do a $650 check, but to let you know, I would like to set expectations here that it may take like 25 to 30 days in total because I would be sending a request to the billing team and this will take some time. But yes, we can do that! We can send you a check of $650.”

Me: “I’m comfortable with that, send me a check for $650 please.”

check-redact25 to 30 days passed without a check in my mailbox. 35 days passed and I grew concerned and emailed Saket. If at day 60 I wasn’t paid I might have to call a technical foul on their EULA and advance to court. 40 days passed and I wondered if the management in Microsoft Global Escalation had changed their mind about the check or if someone up the ladder had caught wind and called foul.

43 days after agreeing to write me a check, Microsoft delivered! I gave them 60 days to, as the Windows 10 EULA asked nicely, “work it out,” and to their credit they only needed 57 of them to do so. The amount is, of course, largely symbolic. The meaning is that damage caused by the tricky Get Windows X patch is Microsoft’s fault, and they know it.

Getting Even Step 4: Do The Right Thing

Beginning with the second correspondence with Saket, an email on July 13th, I adopted an additional set of requests to go along with my demand for $650 in payment for my time.

I also believe that you should immediately discontinue forceful Windows 10 updates and a make a significant contribution to the Alzheimer’s Association in recognition of your failure to respect people with this debilitating and widespread disease. Regardless of the outcome of this arbitration or any other action, I will publicly continue to press Microsoft to recognize its failure in respecting individuals and families facing this challenge and for Microsoft’s intentional efforts toward making life for such people more difficult.

Maybe a little harsh, I know. Paul Allen has been a hero in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease and I know Microsoft is involved in a hundred different levels in the fight beyond slinging money. I also know that since Microsoft was running this through their technical escalation department, nobody who mattered was going to notice my measly $650. Asking for a donation gave it a chance to get in front of somebody who mattered, and to make them realize that it’s sadly hypocritical to be both involved in groundbreaking research and pushing malware that hurts real families fighting the disease.

In each call or email beyond that correspondence the same request was pressed alongside my personal demand for payment. A donation in any amount to the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org) or any of Microsoft’s choosing seemed like a good way to make sure it went up the ladder. I didn’t press it so hard as to threaten getting paid myself (see Getting Even Step 3: Get Proof), but would have really liked to see Microsoft do the right thing in spite of themselves on that one. Ultimately they failed, so I’m left wondering if, even after paying me, anyone of merit has even noticed what’s transpired so far.


Telephone conversation with Saket A. of Microsoft Global Escalation Services. July 18th, 2016

Saket: “And…”

Me: “I would distinctly like Microsoft to make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association because I assure you while I am probably the only one who’s willing to take you to court over this, you have damaged a lot of families with Alzheimer’s and you should make restitution, at least, in the sense of maybe making some more sense of this disease.”



Telephone conversation with Saket A. of Microsoft Global Escalation Services. July 25th, 2016

Me: “There’s one final issue, the final thing I’d asked for is for Microsoft to make a donation to the Alzheimer’s charity, family organization or research organization of your choice. What is the disposition of that request?”

Saket (MS): “Well, Microsoft has been doing charity and I cannot actually say anything. I can only agree with this request of yours of sending a check, so Microsoft, whether they should be doing the charity or not, I cannot actually comment on that. I mean Microsoft, though, has been doing the charities in all, so…”

Me: “Yeah.”

Saket (MS): “I’m not sure. I can only agree on this one, sending you a check of $650.”

Me: “Huh. Well, that’s going to go a long way toward making me happier about it, but I don’t know that it’s going to close the issue.”

Really, No.

Telephone conversation with Bedanta B. of Microsoft Global Escalation Services. September 7th, 2016, who called to close the case

Me: “This was disrespectful of you to push a GWX tool out there that had a fine print built into it. Moreso than a donation to an Alzheimer’s group, I would like your organization to recognize that. That tool was disingenuous.”

Bedanta (MS): “I’m sorry sir, I cannot tell you about the donation. We have already provided you with a check of $650 as a good gesture from Microsoft.”

Me: “That’s fine, that’s what your agent, Saket, had originally said so I understood that to be your position on the matter.”


Microsoft’s $650 was ultimately donated to alz.org

Microsoft hasn’t tried another sneaky Get Windows X update push since May 2016, but also hasn’t sworn off the practice. Since Alzheimer’s is hereditary, that means my family might be dealing with this kind of aggressive push for unnecessary updates from Microsoft or another company soon again, and if unchecked this time is something that I can only hope to have a family member available to manage for me when my time comes.

Between now and then, if Microsoft is unwilling to publicly abandon the practice, I have little choice but to call attention to it, and ultimately to push for legislation that criminalizes their behavior. I shouldn’t have to do that to force people to do the right thing, but here we are. Also, since Microsoft has paid me for my hours – and in doing so admitted fault already – but still hasn’t addressed the distress caused by their aggressive tactics in any other way, it makes me wonder how slam-dunk a case from my grandfather/grandmother or anyone else in their position might ultimately be. I don’t want their money though. I never did. We’d just give it away anyway, which is what I asked Microsoft to do so as to save us all the time.

I want Microsoft to help us make sure that my mother doesn’t go through what my grandfather is going through now, and to promise that if we don’t find a solution in her lifetime that I won’t have to fight Microsoft to help keep her happy in her old age.

I want Microsoft to promise me that if we don’t find a solution by the time I grow old, I won’t have to worry about them blowing up the technology I or someone else builds to keep me happy in my old age to promote adoption numbers.

Since Microsoft refused to make a donation to charity, I gave the $650 they paid me to alz.org instead of keeping it. I know it won’t go nearly as far as more help from Microsoft would, but it’s some positive out of everything. It also makes me wish I’d asked for a lot more. I won’t make that mistake again.

Going Public

On September 7th I reached out to a few publications with a brief synopsis of my story, and only one – Gavin Clarke of theregister.co.uk took interest. We spoke a week later by phone for a bit and exchanged a few emails, then on September 27 Gavin published the first account of the matter. It spread to a few sources from there, but no one contacted me for more information or to verify any details, and my attempts to convince anyone to follow up have gone unanswered.

On October 3 I received an email from Teri Goldstein, the travel agent from California who sued Microsoft and won $10,000 in small claims court, and we spoke by phone soon after. Her story was remarkably similar to mine, and her drive is exactly the same as mine for her own personal reasons. She’s even written an e-book about it. Teri and I both believe that legislation which criminalizes software companies that use aggressive or misleading tactics to trick their own users into dangerous updates is necessary. While we might take separate approaches toward accomplishing that shared goal in California and Texas, we know that this fight would be significantly easier with Microsoft reps at the table as opposed to sticking their fingers in their ears and writing checks against their ethical shortcomings.

The Next Step(s)

While the legitimacy of the normal Get Windows X function – an annoying, obtrusive, year-old popup that Microsoft demands individual users take time-consuming measures to disable – is debatable, there is no question that the change to Get Windows X in May 2016 was intentionally deceptive and caused both financial and emotional damage to a very large group of people and businesses. The manner in which Get Windows X was used – to trick a broad group of people into updating to Microsoft’s latest platform – must be challenged so that Microsoft or any company considering copying its unethical behavior in the future will instead allow users to better dictate the software platform on their device(s). I’m not saying that we shouldn’t update, simply that we shouldn’t be tricked into updating very early in a window that extends at least four years into a wide open future. Some middle ground a good distance away from “malware” would be nice.

Just as I was inspired by Teri Goldstein to hold Microsoft accountable in my own way, I wrote this to hopefully compel others to discover their own methods of doing the same. Anyone who had to spend hours fixing a broken or unintended install for themselves or family should be demanding at least $50 per hour just as I did, or anyone who had to pay a professional should be sending in copies of invoices expecting full reimbursement. If recent history holds steady they might just write you a check! If American history stands they’re going to force a showdown soon enough though.

Eventually there will have to be lawsuits, big and small, as is the way in these United States of America. Microsoft executives have a financial obligation to their shareholders that disallows them from simply coming out and saying “yeah, we didn’t think that one through.” Who it is that brings that suit, wins that ruling, and finally allows Microsoft execs to sigh and admit they messed up is still unknown, and how much money Microsoft has to eventually lose before we finally reach that threshold where a lawmaker takes notice and crafts legislation is still to be determined. I’m of the opinion that there should be a better way, but realist enough to know that there won’t be. Eventually someone is going to have to take these few little wins that have already been compiled against Microsoft and use them to build something bigger. Alternatively, a lot of individuals could get creative, turn the Windows 10 EULA against them, and pile a bunch of little numbers into a big enough sum to promote change. My intent was to prove it can be done. Mission accomplished. Now go make them pay you too.

If they do you’ll be perfectly right in keeping their money and using it in any way you see fit. Buy a second laptop to start learning Linux. Mint is great coming from Windows! Pay down debt. Buy tacos. If you’re reading this far though, and more importantly if you’re inspired to make Microsoft pay you for those hours it took you to fix your surprise-updated computer but haven’t already, please allow me to impose one last request on you.

Take their money and give it to Alzheimer’s Disease research. With all prevailing research pointing toward the need to maintain patterns and habits to help those suffering from it, if Microsoft isn’t going to wake up and realize that lobbing intentionally-tricky updates at people who don’t need and can’t use them actively damages not only the lives of the Alzheimer’s sufferer, but those of their whole family, then let’s cure the disease on Microsoft’s dime so their tactics and those of companies that will follow their reckless example aren’t as damaging.

Among the many options are alz.org or curealz.org or alzfdn.org.