As I work the various topic areas at TenForums.com, I can’t help but notice an occasional undertone of outright paranoia, plus occasional distrust and hostility toward Microsoft (MS). Because I spend at least an hour or two a day there, at least six days a week, I see it all the time. Kari and I sometimes refer to some of these folks half-jokingly as “the tin-foil hat brigade.” With many thanks for his acerbic wit and the uncanny accuracy of his many parodies and riff, I use Weird Al Yankovic as the spokesmodel for this phenomenon, with tongue firmly in cheek. The following item on the Drivers & Hardware forum caught my eye this morning (the snippet I reproduce is in a giant font, so I took a screen cap of that segment):
This modest rant comes from otherwise sound advice on how to troubleshoot a PC that can’t get past POST when rebooting.
Why I Ask “Does MS Deserve Your Paranoia?”
As Joseph Heller so tellingly observed in his classic WWII novel Catch-22, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” To diehard members of the tin-foil hat brigade, I cheerfully concede this unassailable fact. To everyone else I raise this counter-question: “Why on Earth would MS want to ‘kill your PC’ by any means?” Sure, MS will install drivers through Windows Update by default, unless you explicitly instruct it otherwise. You can set a policy to tell Windows 10 to install all updates, except for device drivers, among various other settings supported, in fact.
But Microsoft installs drivers in an attempt to improve system reliability and stability. It’s not trying to kill your PC by any stretch of the imagination. For many users, a driver is something they may not even know exists. Automatic coverage by default is Microsoft’s attempt to take care of them in reasonable fashion, rather than an outright effort at sabotage. For those who know how to take care of their own device drivers, the company makes it easy to over-ride this default, and handle drivers on one’s own. Warning: this produces the mysterious and sometimes dreaded message in red on the Advanced options page for Windows Update settings that reads “*Some settings are managed by your organization.” But that’s OK, too.
One encounters MS paranoia mostly in relation to telemetry stuff in the forums (and elsewhere on the Internet). If anything, drivers deserve a bit more caution and concern because they can affect your PC’s usability, or block access to certain (mostly older) devices. Worst case, a bum driver can turn your system into an expensive and inanimate paperweight. That said, I see no malicious intent on Microsoft’s part to do bad things to its customers or users anywhere in this picture. Is quality control for updates a possible cause of issues? Sure thing! Does MS sometimes push the wrong drivers at users? You bet! But best practice before applying updates is to make an image backup. Then, if anything goes wrong, you can always roll back to where you started before the update was applied. Next, you might want to read my TenForums thread “Stop Windows 10 Updates Properly and Completely” while you figure out how to clean up the current mess.
But is this cause for paranoia? I don’t think so. I like to save it for the important stuff myself, like the TaxMan, Freddy Krueger, and Jason from “Friday the 13th.” ‘Nuff said . . .
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.