Windows Update shenanigans, 2024 version

Updated: March 1, 2024

Sometimes, I look at the past with rose-tinted glasses. I try to convince myself that Windows-related updates used to be better, more reliable once upon a time. But then I remember the GWX nonsense, the slowness with Windows 7 updates, and then some. All of these article lurk and wait for you in me Windows section, if you're inclined to dig into the past. Things were annoying back then quite some.

But the quality was better, right? I think so. Over time, the updates became less robust, and I began to be more and more cautious when applying them. Wait some, always take a full system image, hide certain updates using the "Show or Hide updates" tool (from Microsoft), and only then, let the machine run its patching. Well, in just the past month, I had the misfortune to encounter a bunch of new problems related to updates, and I wanted to share these here. Let's begin.

Search box push

I let one of my systems update. This time, the process took longer than necessary. Usually, it takes very little time, perhaps a minute or three. Now? Some 20 minutes. Almost like going back a decade in time, to the days of slow updates and mechanical disks. I have no idea why. Once the update process completed, though, Windows tried, no scratch that, it added its stupid search box to my taskbar.

Search box

Notice the "passive word" - has been added. No. You added it. Without asking me. And then after adding it, you ask me if I want to keep the change? How about ask me if I want to make the change to begin with? Typical in-yer-face marketing.

But even assuming I wanted to keep it, which I don't, as it clashes with the quicklaunch that I use, there are other problems with this "nudge" to "you may have a Copilot on your desktop one day, LOL". It shows as "top apps" the stuff like Snip & Sketch and Paint. I've never once used them. Ever. The Recent list also includes stuff I've not really used recently, out of order, and it does not look like my menu. All in all, turbo fail.

To make things EVER WORSE, on a different system, I applied the same set of updates. But there, Windows simply added the search box without asking me. Oh wait, let me rephrase that, a search box has been added without my consent. Two identical systems, and yet, not quite. Super fail.

KB5034441

This turdling of an update is intended for Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) and BitLocker, two technologies that I don't use and don't care about. Now, to add insult to injury, the official KB says:

NOTE If your running PC does not have a WinRE recovery partition, you do not need this update.

Since links and content can change, here's a screenshot of it:

WinRE update text

And yet, it was pushed to my system through Windows Update. A system that does not have a recovery partition, nor needs it, nor uses it. BitLocker, nope. The instructions ... Manual resizing. Yes, that's the way. Command-line re-partitioning, that's what people should do, especially the less tech-savvy ones.

Failed

The update failed, of course. But wait, you may ask, didn't you hide this update? Well, interestingly enough, it did not show in the list until after the cumulative update, and so it kind of snuck through. I re-added it to the list of hidden updates, no harm done, but it's still a super-pointless mega-colossal fail.

Copilot

Now, interestingly, if you use a local account, you don't get this pointless "AI" stuff, much like Cortana didn't work without an online account. Great, great, awesome. Couldn't be better. But just to be on the safe side, I went into the Group Policy Editor, and enabled the rule that prevents it from ever running:

Copilot disabled

Side bonus: Skype "AI" stuff

Not strictly related to Windows per se, but it's also Microsoft's product, and I saw an update at about the same time, and this one, too, offers "AI" features. Namely, it has an option to rewrite your messages in different styles using AI. Sounds like a pointless thing, but okay, some people may want this, although there are no shortcuts in life. But it was auto-enabled, without asking me if I wanted to opt myself into the rat race experiment. What about privacy? Where is this "AI" processing done? Nope. Fail.

Skype, AI rewrite

Conclusion

There's more. For instance, I'm seeing some fresh metadata errors from Device Setup Manager in Event Viewer, and these are related to the change in the metadata service URL. Doesn't really affect the functionality of the system, but it's another example of deterioration in quality in Microsoft's consumer products. I'm trying to be very thorough and methodical about this farce, but sometimes, the desire to shift-delete it all is quite strong.

The big problem with most of these shiny new features and options isn't their existence or value, even if it's low. It's the total derision with which the users are treated. Along the lines of, hey peasants, here's some entertainment for you, be grateful you got it. If only the system asked, say like Windows XP had a tour, and you could do it, or skip it, your choice. But no. Nowadays, you must partake in the cult of stupidity.

I believe the aggressive grab for user data will just get worse. This whole "AI" thing is a gold rush fever, and woe the unbeliever who stands in the way of "progress". Perhaps the best thing is not to do any updates altogether, and maintain a solid, hardened baseline. But then, there is, after all, at the end of the day, the aspect of security. Why bother then? Why make your life difficult? All of this ultra-pointless low IQ stuff just reinforces my decision to move away from Windows, a migration that's progressing very nicely, and perhaps even ahead of schedule. Indeed, and that makes me extra determined and happy. See you around, fellow peasants.

Cheers.