Latest Microsoft EULA hype overblown?

— 6:03 AM on August 9, 2002

Microsoft's latest EULA, enclosed in Windows 2000 SP3, has caused some heated discussion lately, but a little digging may reveal that there's no cause for alarm. The controversy centers on the following EULA text:

"You acknowledge and agree that Microsoft may automatically check the version of the OS Product and/or its components that you are utilizing and may provide upgrades or fixes to the OS Product that will be automatically downloaded to your computer."
The emphasis on "downloaded" is mine, and while some have assumed that Microsoft is playing word games, I'm not so sure this is the case.

This article over at Windows Informant suggests that this text clearly describes Microsoft's auto-update feature, and after a quick check of my own, I'd have to agree with them. The options that both Windows 2000 and Windows XP's automatic update features read like this:

  • Notify me before downloading any updates and notify me before installing them on my computer.
  • Download the updates automatically and notify me when they are ready to be installed.
  • Automatically download the updates, and install them on the schedule that I specify.
Microsoft clearly differentiates between downloading and installing updates, which suggests that the upgrades and fixes described in the EULA will be downloaded automatically, but only installed with specific user consent. Just taking up space on your hard drive with an upgrade download is a whole lot less intrustive than actually installing that upgrade.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to bash Microsoft, but this doesn't look like one to me.

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