Yesterday, we discussed how Microsoft now downloads Windows 10 to local devices whether users have chosen to do so or not. Here, we’ll walk you through the process of reclaiming that space. The surest way to tell if you’ve been affected by the stealth download is to navigate to your C:/Windows directory. Once there, you’ll want to configure Explorer to show hidden files and folders.
In Windows 7, you do this by clicking on “Tools,” then “Folder Options,” and finally “Show Hidden Files and Folders,” as shown below. In Windows 8/8.1, click on the View tab and then select the “Hidden items” check box.
Once this is done, check your Windows directory for a directory named $WINDOWS.~BT. The icon may be translucent, since the folder is normally hidden, so check carefully. You can delete this folder if you wish, but doing so won’t actually prevent Microsoft from downloading the setup program again. Once the OS has decided that you’re going to install Windows 10, it’s downright pushy about having the data locally. The only solution, according to various sources, is to actually remove a specific Windows Update: KB3035583.
KB3035583 is described by Microsoft as installing “the Get Windows 10 app, which helps users understand their Windows 10 upgrade options and device readiness.” It can be uninstalled by navigating to Windows Update from within the Control Panel, choosing “Programs and Features,” and then selecting the “View Installed Updates” option. Remove this update and then delete the folder, and you’ll reclaim your lost disk space.
KB 3035583 can then be blocked from installing again by hiding the update from within the Windows Update setting in Control Panel.
An uncertain situation
There are facets to this situation that aren’t fully understood as yet. My own Windows Update history shows that I installed KB3035583 on the 26th of July, as shown below.
Despite this, there’s no sign that my system ever downloaded Windows 10, and I have no record of failed W10 installations (another reported commonality) in my own Windows Update history. In some cases, this MS update clearly triggers a download process, but in others, it does not seem to do so. I personally run Windows 7 Professional, but IE11 and Windows Update have both been incessantly nagging me to upgrade.
One potential reason for this is that I keep Windows set to “Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them.” It’s possible that this setting keeps Windows 10 from downloading whether you’ve installed KB 3035583 or not.
Why we cover topics like this
Several readers have asked why we continue to cover topics like this and implied that ET (or myself) have a bias against Windows 10. I won’t deny that I disagree with Microsoft’s new approach to privacy controls, patch disclosure, and software updates, but that’s not why we’ve continued covering these topics. Whether you agree or disagree that some of Microsoft’s new policies are problematic, the fact is, they represent a marked change from the status quo.
A 6GB OS download isn’t a big deal if you have a 500GB drive, but if you’re running an older Windows installation on a 128-256GB SSD, that can wind up being a significant chunk of space. More to the point, however, it’s something Microsoft hasn’t previously done. The thinking, in this case, is obvious — by downloading Windows 10 behind-the-scenes, Microsoft guarantees a faster upgrade process for end users.
The problem, once again, isn’t that Microsoft is evil. The problem is that Microsoft either failed to consider the needs of its users or dismissed them as unimportant. We’ve already heard from people who went over their metered bandwidth for the month because of background Windows 10 downloads. One of our staff had an HTPC surprise-upgrade itself to Windows 10 while he was on vacation. These are problems that Microsoft could address with a simple checkbox asking users if they’d like to download Windows 10 now so they can start the upgrade process immediately when they choose to do so.