Tech by VICE

Here's How To Stop Those 'Get Windows 10' Popups

Microsoft’s nagware comes across as a little desperate.

by Jon Christian
Dec 19 2015, 7:00pm

Image: Microsoft.

If you still use an older version of Windows, you've probably become accustomed to a popup message that periodically shills a free download of Windows 10, Microsoft's most recent operating system. The problem, for many users, is that the ad just won't give up.

"Microsoft recommends upgrading to Windows 10," it reads, dolefully, no matter how many times you reflexively close it. There is no option to make it go away.

If you haven't switched to Windows 10 yet, you're in good company. According to web traffic analysis service StatCounter, an overwhelming 48 percent of desktop web users are still using Windows 7, with Windows 8.1 commanding just 12 percent and Windows 10 in third place with slightly more than 11 percent.

Those weak rates of adoption are likely why Microsoft is pushing the upgrade so hard. In fact, the company rolled out a controversial feature this past summer that downloads the upgrade files before a user even decides to install; Ars Technica reported in October that some users were reporting that their systems were even initializing the Windows 10 installation without their consent.

In all, the popups seem like the sort of high-pressure tactic you'd expect to see on a shady corner of the internet, not as a default feature in a major operating system.

If you want to keep using an older version of Windows without the harping pop-ups, there are a couple options, though none are perfect.

You can uninstall the Windows Update that includes the nagging reminder, KB3035583, by following these instructions. Windows tends to re-download the patch, though, so this tactic becomes a cat-and-mouse game each time the popup re-appears (you can, as some users pointed out, turn off automatic updates entirely—but opting out of automatic, potentially critical security updates seems like a drastic solution to popup ads.)

The easiest method, though, is to download GWX Control Panel, a program by developer Josh Mayfield that can remove the "Get Windows 10" popups, prevent your computer from surreptitiously downloading installation files, and remove files that Windows has already downloaded (it also, charmingly, let's you re-instate the nagware, if you are so moved.)

I downloaded GWX Control Panel in Windows 7, installed it asked it to remove the nagging reminders, and the upgrade button immediately disappeared from my system tray—though not before launching a final, last-ditch popup.

"Microsoft's got brilliant people and they make brilliant products, but this intentional strong-arming of their more-or-less defenseless customer base is a personal disappointment for me as a developer who used to consider them a model for how software should be done," Mayfield told Motherboard. "It's like learning your dad was secretly a mobster; it changes how you look at things."

In one way, Microsoft might tacitly support Mayfield's efforts: discussion sections on contain many references to his removal tool. Back in October, for example, Microsoft Community user LawLimaB posted a link to the tool titled "Disable Windows 10 NAGware." It has never been removed.