Chris, a friend of mine, often argued that revision was an unnecessary step for a disciplined writer. I have to disagree, because if I had submitted the rough draft of this post, it probably would have piqued the interest of homeland security. I am trying to get more followers, but not ones who work at the Pentagon.
The first draft was a vitriolic, bubbling cauldron of snake venom mixed with battery acid, which I planned to pour through Microsoft’s smug smirk and right down their throat. As I mentioned in my last post, however, Cortana might have already shared my rough draft with the powers that be.
If you can believe it, this is tame version.
In no uncertain terms am I disgusted by Microsoft. The only thing malfunctioning worse than their moral compass is the latest failure they are trying to cram down our throats, Windows 10. But as I said above, I also love them. You’ll see why. Without further ado, here is the epic tail of my experience with Windows 10. It begins with a prologue.
— — —
A naive young man with a freshly assembled PC – courtesy of Dan, another close friend – I loved Windows 7. After having to endure Windows Vista, a horrible operating system in its own right, Windows 7 came as a breath of fresh air. It actually worked! With a pitch perfect operating system and a well built computer, my dream of being a PC gamer had come true. About a month or two later, Windows solicited a fateful offer I simply could not refuse:
Would you like to upgrade to Windows 10, for free?
The popup in the bottom right corner of my screen promised it would not only blow Windows 7 out of the water, but also bear no resemblance to Windows 8, the latest failed experiment in the Microsoft canon. Hot dog, I thought. This is too good to be true! And I was absolutely right. It was too good to be true.
I got an impulsive shotgun wedding with Windows 10, an operating system I had never so much as met for coffee, and my waking nightmare began. Our honeymoon phase lasted about two month, during which I brushed off any issues I ran across as “quirks,” ones that would certainly be fixed with updates. One of these “quirks,” however, was so glaring it could not be ignored: my audio drivers.
Windows 10 could not make heads or tails out of the sound card inside of my custom PC. I tried updating my drivers, reinstalling my drivers and switching to the basic audio drivers which came with Windows 10. On their website, Microsoft had a lot of suggestions and none of them resolved the issue. If I wanted to switch from my headset to my speakers, I had to restart the computer and pray that resolved the issue. Frequently, it did not.
This might seem like small potatoes, but as anybody who has gone through a divorce will probably tell you, if something your spouse does bothers you at the onset, it will only get worse with time. After just two months, I wanted to divorce myself from Windows 10. I tried to call customer service (always an Indian gentleman of varying fluency and knowledge) but they were no help. I posted my question to Microsoft’s forum and a moderator gave a canned response linking me to the same page of useless suggestions I had already gone through.
It was time to go back to my soulmate, Windows 7.
But we had a problem: apparently my hard discs had been formatted in such a way I could not reinstall Windows 7. No problem, I can just reformat them, right? Wrong. When reformatting did not fix the issue, I turned apprehensively to the “delete” option. Delete everything, operating system included, from my hard disc? That’s a very large gamble.
I got on the phone with India, by which I mean customer service, who to reiterate, was always in India. So, I chatted with India and he assured me that after deleting all of the partitions on my hard disc, I would be left with a blank canvas on which to paint Windows 7. I deleted, hit the install button and received an error message to the effect of, “your hard disc still isn’t compatible, lol!😉 ”
Very distraught, I relayed this information to India, who suggested I bring my computer into a Microsoft store for “paid services.” I had some harsh words for him, but the gist was, “you’ll be fixing my computer for free.” I must have been very persuasive, because India emailed me a ticket and told me to locate my nearest Microsoft store, which was thirty minutes away and in the dead center of the Westfarms Mall.
Imagine, if you will, a man carrying a computer that is almost thirty pounds and two cubic feet – my baby is a big, beautiful woman – through a Macy’s department store, down an escalator and into the Microsoft store, where I then waited in line for five minutes. By the time I set my cinder block of a computer down on the counter, my clothes had soaked through with sweat and, through pants, I explained my situation and produced my printout ticket.
The friendly, fluent English speaker on the other side of the counter assured me they would have Windows 7 installed within a week and I was on my merry way. Five days later I received a confirmation email and raced down to the Westfarms Mall. The same amiable techie gave me my PC and a Windows 7 disc, which I lugged back to my car.
It would take almost a full year to realize that, in this brief interaction, Microsoft had sealed my fate.
— — —
Life was good. My computer ran beautifully again and I could game, type and watch pornography in peace. But on the horizon, storm clouds swirled, merging together into a torrential downpour of hurt and troubleshooting just waiting to greet me. It began with the familiar “Upgrade to Windows 10, for free!” popup. Reflexively, I closed it.
Over time the popup began to mutate. It got bigger and more insistent with each iteration. It began to take up the whole screen. For a whole week or two, there was no “X” in the top right corner and instead of suggesting, the popup menacingly stated, “Schedule Your Free Upgrade,” as if I had no choice in the matter. Bewildered, I went into task manager and forcibly ended the task.
The “X” box quickly reappeared in the top right corner of the popup which had become an uninvited, but tolerated guest in my house. There was, however, a catch.
I could either click “yes” to start my scheduled upgrade, or click the “X,” which would still lead to a full download and installation of Windows 10. It sounds crazy and illegal, right? No company would have the audacity to do something so blatantly misleading, right? Well, ever the innovator, Microsoft went there.
I cannot substantiate what happened next, but I swear to you, dear readers, that Microsoft deliberately sabotaged my PC.
“I’m telling you Dan,” I said, panicked, into the phone. We were in a Skype call I could not carry out on my computer. Ever since the latest Windows Update, my computer would go into a deep, black screened slumber I could not awaken it from. “I did a virus scan in safe mode, tried system restore and nothing is working!”
“That’s so weird, I have Windows 7, too and this has never happened before.”
“Do you have automatic updates on,” I asked.
“Pfft, of course I don’t.”
We deliberated and eventually, at his suggestion, I went into the Systems window and found the problem: my copy of Windows 7 had somehow been deauthenticated. Dan suggested that maybe a clean install of Windows could fix all my woes and so I got ready to begin the familiar process of inserting a disc, restarting and navigating my way to “custom install.”
It was déjà vu all over again.
Just like last time, my hard disc was not formatted properly. I suspect that, in the eyes of Microsoft, there is no such thing as properly formatted. Like before, I tried reformatting, to no avail. I looked to the “Delete” button and had a premonition. The ominous little button gave me the feeling that, whatever happened next, I would not get out of this unscathed.
Frazzled, I called up India, who had become harder to reach in the interim between my last PC debacle and now. Now, there was an endless, automated loop on Microsoft’s customer service line. A soothing, robotic voice took me by the hand, led me through a string of useless options, then thanked me for choosing Microsoft and hung up. This happened three times before I learned the trick.
The secret to defeating this trap of a system was to remain silent until Mr. Roboto got so confused he patched me through to India. With a human being on the other end of the line, I explained my situation and received advice that chilled my blood.
“Sir, what you are going to do now is that you will be deleting all of the partitions on your hard disc.”
I swallowed hard. “Are you sure – absolutely positive – this won’t screw up my computer? Because it’s happened before and -”
“No, sir. You will delete all of the partitions and this will leave the computer with one, un formatted drive, on which you will be able to install your Windows 7.”
“Okay, here goes.”
My gut screamed and plead with me not to trust this hard to understand gentleman. It reminded me I had been here and done this before and I ignored it. I deleted the partitions, hit install and was met with the same laughing, satanic error message of old. Unlike the last time, I immediately went into a quiet, resigned rage.
“You just broke my computer,” I told him.
Very distraught, he asked what that meant. I explained. “Oh, what this means is that the Windows disc you have used is corrupted, sir. You will need to get onto your other computer and download Windows 7 to a disc or flash drive and then reinstall from this.”
I suppose all developing nations assume Americans are rich enough to own multiple of everything. I also suppose we have earned the reputation.
“I don’t have a second computer.”
“Oh….well, we could also mail you a new copy of Windows 7, but we will then need to charge you the retail price of” – I hung up.
Eventually, flying blind and aimlessly tinkering, I managed to get myself onto the internet and download Windows 7 to a USB drive. I was proud, I was excited and I was ready to fix a computer that had been down for three days at this point. I got the operating system up to speed and immediately slammed head on into a brick wall: where was my product key?
I checked the folder the techie from the Microsoft store had given me and it had an OEM number and a serial number, but no product key! Not to worry, I had run across an article online suggesting a software that could recover your product key from the registry of your computer…
Oh yeah, I thought with soul crushing bitterness. Defeat welled up in me like tears. India had me delete everything off of my PC, registry included. Whatever product key I used to have, its gone now.
After the amount of woe they had already put me through, the only logical next step was to get India back into the mix. I endured the requisite five minutes of Mr. Roboto repeating, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that. Please, tell me how I can help you,” into the line. You can help me by shutting up. This time, India was no gentleman. He was surly, impatient and totally unintelligible.
We went back and forth, hemming, hawing and basically arguing. It turns out that Microsoft customer support exists solely for two purposes: delivering bad news and suggesting you buy something. It didn’t matter I had a Windows 7 disc issued by the Microsoft store and no numbers, OEM or serial, would fix my problem. I had to buy a new product key.
I hung up again.
We were now on day four, going on five, and I just wanted my computer back. My blog was withering on the vine, I was jonesing for Overwatch and the process of applying to jobs had come to a grinding halt. The lowest price for a Windows 7 key was about twenty five dollars off of a (legal?) site called Kinguin.com. Some of my fellow PC gamers might recognize the name; they offer suspiciously good deals on digital goods.
“Just upgrade to Windows 10,” Chris insisted.
He looked me dead in the eyes as I ranted and raved about how I hated Microsoft. Hated them for taking Windows 7 away from me, hated how they had tried to trick me into upgrading and for having the worst customer service to ever exist. I was having a tantrum.
His response was calm and sensible. “Dude, you gotta get over that. If you upgrade, you can fix your problems. I did and it’s good. They probably fixed whatever happened the first time you tried it.”
Hanging my shoulders and checking my ego at the door, I went home and began the download of Windows 10. Later the same night I installed it.
The audio drivers still don’t work. Apparently, it is a Herculean effort for Windows 10 to switch between speakers and headphones. Frankly, where do I get off, wanting to use headphones and speakers?
But I forgive you, Microsoft. Stepping back, I see the brilliance – the beauty – of the whole thing. You are truly a master of your wicked craft. I was ready to staunchly defend my computer til the bitter end. I would have gone so far as installing Linux – yes, you heard me right, Linux. But you beat me into submission.
You bested your most stubborn opponent. If you can defeat me, I have no doubt the other rebels will fall soon enough. We were living on borrowed time anyways; in your Terms of Service, you only promised to support Windows 7 until 2020. In my case, more like until 2016.
It was always going to be your way or the highway and though you are a tormentor, I can respect the grace and precision with which you drive the nails in. Of all the traits that exist, I think I admire tenacity most and you, Microsoft are truly, unabashedly, persistent. I tip you my hat.