Microsoft Telemetry Hits Windows 7/8.1

Back when Microsoft was cramming Windows 10 down everyone’s virtual throat, force-installing it onto their PC if the updates were allowed to install automatically, I went to great lengths to insure I didn’t end up with Microsoft’s spyware-infested O/S on my hardware. I quickly identified the updates associated with the Windows 10 Nagware and disabled it by hiding it in the updates. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.

There were many reasons why I didn’t want the free upgrade to Windows 10, but one of them was the telemetry architecture, where the O/S would report back to Microsoft such things as websites you visited, search words you used, software installed on your PC, etc. All things which I believe are an invasion of privacy. I’m not going to get into everything involved with the Windows 10 telemetry. You can easily Google it for more details. However, I will give a warning for Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 users.

When I first identified and disabled the updates for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 that put the Windows 10 nagware on your PC, I hid the updates so they wouldn’t show up again. But, unlike all previous hidden updates, these unhid themselves! I had never seen a hidden update do that before. But here it was happening each time new updates were available. Almost immediately the updates went from being optional to being “important”, so they would get installed automatically if you had your settings configured to do so. I did not.

But an interesting thing happened when I started hiding and disabling these updates. Both my Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 machines could no longer get updates reliably. The Windows 7 machines (at the time I had three) couldn’t get any new updates at all. They would just sit there at the Windows update screen searching until I shut it down. Once I let all three machines run for an entire day, but they never timed out from searching for updates. The Windows 8.1 machine was sketchy, at best, trying to get updates.

It was if Microsoft was denying me any updates because I had disabled their “important” updates. I was angry. I was furious. But I held out until the Windows 10 free upgrade period ended without giving in and I was proud of myself. Magically updates started working again! However, I let my guard down. Some of the updates that appeared after the Windows 10 free upgrade trial ended were designed to remove unwanted files from the upgrade period. I allowed these to run just in case there were any remnants or anything I missed. However, back in November I was preparing to move again and I missed something very important that virtually undoes all the work I did.

I didn’t notice this until a month or so ago when I booted my Windows 7 PC and it was so bogged down that nothing would run. I managed to get the Task Manager open and run my Resource Monitor. My 8 CPUs and my Hard Drive were pegged!!! When I looked to see what process was responsible my jaw dropped! I don’t remember the exact name, but it had the elements of Windows 7 Telemetry in the name and I immediately looked it up on Google from another PC. What I saw made me say out loud, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!!!” Microsoft has surreptitiously installed their Windows 10 Telemetry on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users who were uninformed and installed certain updates.

My PC was virtually unresponsive for more than 10 minutes while this spyware did its thing. And since then I have noted that Windows 7 takes longer to boot to the login screen. When it does get there, if I sign in immediately, my PC is pretty unresponsive for quite some time, meaning I have to wait to really use it. Don’t make  the same mistakes I did. Manually install your Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 updates (I was doing this), but check to see what the updates actually do. Google the KBxxxxxx numbers to see what others are saying about these updates, because Microsoft doesn’t always give the details on their site. Sometimes they just give a generic useless description that doesn’t tell you what the update actually contains.

As for my Windows 8.1 machine, in the wake of this as well as my decision to quit PC gaming for the foreseeable future, I went ahead and flattened my 12 core and put Windows 10 on it. I mean, what’s the difference at this point, right? It’s now a dedicated video editing PC. Not much to see here…keep moving along, Microsoft!

About Chris Savage

Electronics Engineer, Hacker, Programmer, host of Savage///Circuits TV, reviewer of Test Equipment and Musician.
This entry was posted in Rants, Software, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *