Microsoft quietly made its optional Windows 10 update for Windows 7 and 8.1 users into a “recommended” update, and your system may automatically upgrade to the new operating system depending on your Windows Update settings.
The news should not come as a surprise – Microsoft detailed exactly this in an October 2015 blog, where the company stated that we would see the change this year and explained that existing Windows 7 and 8.1 users who have Windows Update set to download recommended updates will see their system begin the installation process automatically.
"Early next year, we expect to be re-categorizing Windows 10 as a 'Recommended Update.' Depending upon your Windows Update settings, this may cause the upgrade process to automatically initiate on your device," stated the Microsoft blog. "Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue."
The good news is that the Windows 10 installation will not finalize without first prompting the user. However, some home users may want to double check what they are clicking when the notification pops up to avoid an unintentional operating system upgrade. Home users can disable recommended updates in the Windows Update settings, and Enterprise IT administrators can disable the upgrade using Group Policy settings or by using the DisableUpgrade registrykey. In a worst-case scenario where your PC is updated to the new OS but you don't want it, the process can be rolled back for up to 31 days after the upgrade.
The change from “optional” to “recommended” may come off as an aggressive move from Microsoft, with the perceived pressure of upgrading to Windows 10 coming from the company’s mission to update one billion devices to the new OS this year -- an ambitious goal that some contest may make the company eventually force users into an unwanted OS upgrade.
However, there isn't a gun to any Windows 7 and 8.1 users’ heads. You can easily avoid it by changing your Windows update settings (turning off recommended updates), manually excluding the update, or in a worst case scenario where the process has already begun, simply declining the transition when prompted or reverting back to your previous OS within 30 days.
Microsoft explained that the switch was in an effort to "to help our customers, who previously reserved their upgrade, schedule a time for their upgrade to take place." Windows 10 did not become mandatory, and the end days of Windows 7 and 8.1 are not upon us. Yet.