How to block the Windows 10 upgrade

Microsoft really, really wants you to use Windows 10 – but you don’t have to. Here is a step by step guide explaining how Windows 7 and 8.1 users can block the Windows 10 upgrade

That blue-and-white notification on your Windows 7 or 8.1 Desktop screams: ‘Don’t miss out on Windows 10!’ It’s like an alarm clock that greets you! Every morning! Full of exclamation marks!

If you ignore it, the pop-up automatically changes its tone. Out with ‘Don’t miss’ and in with the more sinister ‘Microsoft recommends’, which makes it easy to mistake for a compulsory update. But there’s nothing compulsory about Windows 10. In fact the notification is just an advert. You don’t have to click it, and you don’t have to upgrade your operating system (OS). Here we’ll show you how to get rid of the pop-up and carry on with Windows 7 or 8.1 for as long as it’s safe to do so.

Hide the Windows 10 pop-up 

You can hide the upgrade pop-up using the same steps as for any other system tray notification. Click the little triangle on your taskbar, click ‘Customize…’ and then look for GWX (short for ‘Get Windows 10’) in the list. Click its dropdown menu, ‘Hide icon and notifications’ and then click OK. The good news is that the pop-up won’t reappear as soon as you restart your PC, contrary to some reports. The bad news is it will be back as soon as Windows Update runs.block_windows10_upgrading_1

Delete and block the Windows 10 file 

Hiding the Windows 10 notification is really only a step above sticking a bit of paper over the corner of your screen and shouting “la la la!” to make it go away. GWX – actually a program file, GWX.exe – is still on your hard drive, where it was dumped by Windows Update without your permission. You can find the update – codename ‘KB3035583’ – in your Windows Update history. Type update into Start, click Windows Update in the results and then ‘View update history’ on the left. Scroll down to KB3035583 (the search box won’t find it). As you’ll see from the third column, it’s a ‘recommended’ update and not an ‘important’ one. Microsoft wants you to have it, but you don’t need it.

To delete it, click the blue Installed Updates link at the top of the window, find KB3035583, right-click it and then click Uninstall. If you use Windows 7, also uninstall updates KB2952664 and KB3021917; if you’re on Windows 8.1, also uninstall KB3035583 and KB2976978. Nothing we’ve seen or experienced suggests these updates are essential to how your PC runs. Next, block unnecessary downloads. Open Windows Update as above, and this time click ‘Change settings’ on the left. Under ‘Recommended updates’, untick ‘Give me recommended updates…’ and then click OK. You’ll still get ‘important updates’, such as security fixes, automatically.

Use software to block the upgrade

It’s useful to know how to remove GWX manually, but it’s not the most decisive fix. In fact, we discovered it was still running on our Windows 8.1 PC after we’d disabled it in Windows Update. That’s the kind of obnoxious behaviour we’d expect from malware, not from a Windows file. 

For extra firepower against the upgrade, use the free tool GWX Control Panel. This easy-to-use program was made by PC user Josh Mayfield, who deplores the way Microsoft pushes Windows 10 “by hook or by crook”. Click ‘GWX Control Panel’, then save and run the installer. There’s no adware to opt out of. Launch the program as administrator, then accept the user agreement.

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At the top left of the program window you can see whether the Windows 10 pop-up is still running on your PC despite your efforts to obliterate it. We found some comfort at the top right of the program, where no ‘Windows 10 Download folders’ were found. If Microsoft has created a Windows 10 folder on your PC, GWX Control Panel lets you delete it with one click. Get rid of GWX completely the bottom half of the GWX Control Panel window gives you control Windows Update doesn’t. All the buttons are marked with clear descriptions. For example, click ‘Click to Disable ‘Get Windows 10’ App (remove icon)’ to do just that – completely and forever, or at least until you re-enable it using the reverse process.

There are buttons for removing Windows 10 apps, clearing your Windows Update cache and opening a dashboard of update settings (‘Click to Change Windows Update Settings’). You can set your PC to notify you of available updates, but it never downloads or installs them without asking you. If only Microsoft was that respectful.

For more tips on using GWX Control Panel, see this online user guide and this troubleshooting guide. Hack your Registry to block upgrades You can create a new Registry entry to help block attempts by Windows to upgrade to the latest version. This is much riskier than using GWX Control Panel or tweaking Windows Update, but it may appeal to very confident users who’d rather not install more software. Save a system restore point before going anywhere near your Registry, and then open Registry Editor by typing regedit into Start and pressing Enter. Navigate to the folder (‘key’) HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftWindowsWindowsUpdate. Right-click it, create a newDWORD value named DisableOSUpgrade and give it the value ‘1’.

Stay safe in Windows 7 and 8.1

We’ve shown you how to silence the Windows 10 prompt so you can keep using Windows 7 or 8.1. Microsoft will say that’s a bad idea – but it would, wouldn’t it? Here are the facts. Microsoft ended Mainstream support for Windows 7 last year. That means Windows 7 won’t receive any more new features – so the version of the OS you use now is what you’ll always use. But it will still receive security updates until the end of the Extended support period, which is January 2020.

As you’d expect, Windows 8.1 support has much longer to run. Mainstream and Extended support end in 2018 and 2023 respectively. Here’s Microsoft’s timetable of Windows support – it’s an essential bookmark.

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