Monday, July 20, 2015

How to remove the Windows 10 GWX upgrade nonsense

How to remove the Windows 10 GWX upgrade nonsense

Updated: June 3, 2015
The story goes as follows. Several days ago, on one of my Windows 7 boxes, I did some updates. Cool beans, Then, a couple of days later, I suddenly noticed a Windows 10 like icon in my system tray. Turns out, this one belongs to a process called GWX.exe, and it is a part of Windows update KB3035583, which is deceptively labeled as an important one and preselected, intended to give Windows 7 and 8.X users an option to freely upgrade to Windows 10. Well, so far so good.
But then, I decided I was not interested. However, removing this thing off proved to be a very difficult task. I could not disable the scheduled tasks that reactivates the process every few hours, and you need special permissions to edit the folder containing the gwx.exe binary. In other words, all of a sudden, my perfectly reasonable Windows 7 has been altered without my consent, and now I did not have freedom to do what I want. This annoyed me so much that I started writing a tutorial on how to get rid of this piece of shit. Follow me.

Symptoms you will see

So first, there's the system tray icon, its associated right-click set of actions and the crappy prompt that tells you how great Windows 10 is. I don't mind Microsoft trying to offer their product, but if I decide I DO NOT WANT IT, then there must be a way to disable it, otherwise, it's no different than any spyware popup really.
Right click
Main promo window
If you try to disable the scheduled tasks, under refreshgwxconfig-B, then you will realize that you do not have the right permissions to do that, even if you're an administrator. Again, almost malware-like behavior, since it restricts your freedom.
Cannot delete scheduled task
Likewise, if you try to change the GWX folder, which resides under Windows\System32, then, once more, you will realize that you don't the right permissions to tinker, as Microsoft decided they don't want you to be able to stop this offering.
Cannot rename folder
And the end result is very simple. It does not matter if Windows 10 free upgrade is good or not. It does not matter if Microsoft has benevolent intentions. The moment you push me into a corner, you corporate pieces of crap, I will fight back with all I can, and you have just turned a loyal owner - and a shareholder - into an enemy. You have made me into a detractor. You have obliterated all and any chance of me ever wanting to even consider upgrading my Windows 7/8 boxes to the new version. You morons.
Now, we will have a tutorial explaining how you can disable this diarrhea, and get back control over your system. Then we will go into a few more reasons why Windows 10 has just become an undesired piece of software. Thank you, Microsoft, that's a delectable move on your end. To business, then.

Solution, step 1: Take ownership of the GWX folder

What you need to do is take ownership of the GWX folder. Right-click, Properties. Then, go to the Security tab, click Advanced. Under the Owner, click on Edit. Select your account rather than whatever crap Microsoft has preselected. Make sure you tick the box that says subfolders and whatnot. Apply the change. Ignore the warnings and prompts.
Take ownership

Solution, step 2: Change folder permissions

Once again, for the relevant folder, we need to sort out the permissions. On the right tab, click Edit. Then, select your user. Change the permissions to Full Control, and apply. Then, rename the GWX folder to something like GWX.old. And just in case, inside this folder, you may also want to consider renaming the four executable files. Just use any which extension to cripple their executability. Problem solved.
GWX folder
Edit permissions
Renamed executables

Just in case, delete scheduled tasks

Now, here is how you do this. We will need to fire up the registry editor, navigate to the correct hive and delete several entries from the task scheduler cache and tree. So let's do this then. This is the path you want to open:
Here, you will now need to carefully go through all the available entries. The GWX ones will be assigned random hash values, so you will have to look in the right pane and identify the correct ones. They should have the string GWX under Path. There should be around six of them. For each, right-click on the entry in the left pane and export. This is a sort of backup, in case something goes wrong. Then, delete the entry.
Delete tasks
Now, open the task scheduler. It should complain about missing tasks. This is a good first step. Verify that the scheduler tasks corresponding to refreshgwxconfig-B are indeed gone from your system.
Deleted tasks error
In the registry, navigate to a slightly different path - almost identical to the above:
In this hive, search for the Setup entry, which should have gwx and GWXTriggers under it. Export both these entries, and then delete them. Launch the task scheduler, and it should run clean, pristine and without any errors.
Delete tree

Just in case, check Windows Updates

To make sure you have not been probed without your consent, launch the Windows Update tool and check if you have accidentally reserved a copy. If you haven't, then you will see a big bloody frigging banner telling you about Windows 10. Talk about aggressive ads. If you have, I will have to research what happens come July 29. Sorry, but I don't have a quick answer.
Check reservation
For now, I recommend you disable automatic updates, if you have them, and set your system to notify you, or maybe even use manual updates. You should do this for at least until after Windows 10 has been released, make sure you double and triple check EVERY single offered update, be they security, critical, important, or recommended. Also make sure you use imaging software so that you can easily roll back if needed.
The thing is, Microsoft could just have kept that banner there. No, it had to go full retard by offering a whole framework, and make it locked from users just to stoke the flames of hatred. That's how it is. Stupidity.

Other options

We fought a similar kind of problem with Windows Defender in Windows 8.1, but there, I showed you a different kind of solution. Instead of playing with permissions, we just booted into a live Linux session and edited permissions that way. Consider it, too.

Why not uninstall the update?

So why not indeed remove the update. Well, because 1) it requires a reboot, and why should you reboot when not necessary 2) the update will then come back, even if you hide it, yup 3) this way you have full control; the update is there as far as Microsoft is concerned, but you have the power now. You are the pimp master.

Why Windows 10 is not an option?

It is not a bad system. It is better than Windows 8, and it does bring the menu back, which is an important productivity step. But even the recent builds, and I've tested them all, do not fully solve the issue of the generic search when you turn Cortana off. If you want to work smart and sensible, you have to use Classic Shell, but at the moment, it does not search well through the Metro crap applications, like the entirely new Settings menu, so you can pin that one to the taskbar, but overall, we need some extra love from the Classic Shell team.
You keep getting random generic Bing advertising, news shit, and the image of the day, all of which cater to the lowest common denominator, some random hillbilly somewhere with the IQ of a potato that has been mangled by a combine harvester and left to rot in the sun for a bit too long. Just look at that crap below. Look at it! Take your shitty moronic news and shove them where it shineth not.
Nonsense ads

How this could have been avoided?

Very simple. Microsoft could just have added a little button that says: do not offer this in the future, or maybe even, postpone for 30 days or something. Give the user a feeling that they count, that their desires count. This way, they simply alienate power users, people who do not want to upgrade their boxes, and people who value their freedom. All in all, this is a classic case of marketing wanking that could have been so easily avoided. One simple little button so that Microsoft does not come across as morons peddling idiocracy. One simple little button that gives users a choice. That's all.

Final step

A big hearty salute to corporate morons out there:
Screw you


This thing pissed me off so much that the only reason why this isn't just a swearword rant is because I genuinely want to help people, so I am trying to stay coherent. Windows 10 is not angel tears, and it's definitely not heading in the right direction. And this promotional crap is making things worse. Not letting users even disable a scheduled task? Are you trying to best malware writers at their game? You retards.
Don't get me wrong. Microsoft is a very capable company, and they have a strong future ahead of them, especially in the enterprise sector and the cloud business. I even own a tiny handful of their stocks, which makes me entitled as any other shareholder, so if you feel like sidelining my fine criticism, think again. But this is a bloody red line. The moment you start tinkering with my freedom, there's gonna be Thor's rage hammering down on you.
I hope this article helps you gain your peace and quiet back, and that you can go back to enjoying Windows 7 (or maybe 8) the way sane people should. And once Microsoft decides to get off the monkey jerkfest tree that Apple and Google are so fond of, then we can go back to discussing things in normal tones. You want morons for your users? Fine, you will get morons. You want smart people on your side, make sure you give them the respect and dignity they deserve. One-size-fits-all fascism does not cut it. I'm not playing the moronity game. If and when my awesome four-digit IQ deteriorates enough for me to consider Bing news, or any other mainstream feces, even remotely interesting, I will bow down to this idiocracy gangbang. Till then, you will have to give me a bloody button that reads choice.
Windows 10? I considered it briefly, now I don't wanna. Just because. There's choice for you. Put that in some presentation there under Lesson Learned or Constructive Feedback from Happy Customers. It's no longer technology. It's emotions now. Bye bye.
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