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Uninstalling Microsoft

What happened to 'thank you please call again'?


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People try out new software all the time. For a number of reasons. They don't always decide to use the new software right away but their impression of the software vendor will determine whether they'll ever be back to that vendor again.

One of the most important things when preparing software for potential customers is both minimising the 'install process' and providing a clean, swift, and efficient way to 'uninstall' the software later if this be the user's choice.

Well functioning uninstall routines are considered conscionable practice today, something all software users appreciate. A software title that runs amok on one's system, is unsafe and unbearable and offers no way to 'revert' or 'uninstall', is an ethical and professional embarrassment for the industry and universally shunned by the programming community at large.

It's. Just. Not. Done.

But how is it to 'uninstall' Microsoft? Can it be done? Microsoft 'uninstalls' are notorious for not being complete, for leaving flotsam and jetsam around one's hard drive, for forcing upgrades to products the customer doesn't really want yet. It's what pundits have christened 'heroin economics' (for obvious reasons). It's despicable.

Asking Microsoft for help uninstalling Microsoft is worse than asking your pusher for help getting into rehab.

The EFF Alert!

And now the EFF remind us in their Surveillance Self-Defence initiative that Microsoft software is just not to be used under any circumstances. Perhaps things will change with time; perhaps not. But if the EFF tell us we must avoid Microsoft products for our own safety then what else are we to do?

Things might improve later. For those who really and truly admire and prefer the Microsoft user interfaces this might be good news and a good enough reason to switch back at a later date. It's certainly not impossible even if it's ludicrously improbable.

So what does a Windows user have to know and to do in order to get free of Microsoft software products and the well documented associated (and very real) dangers? Shouldn't it be best to speak with the people at Microsoft themselves?

And what are the chief concerns involved in such an exodus?

  • Mail messages. Here we're talking about a universal 'McIlroy' standard where only plain text is used from computer to computer and yet Microsoft - store your plain text messages in binary format? How do you get your messages out?

  • MS Word and MS Office. These programs use proprietary formats. Why are they proprietary? Because Microsoft are trying as hard as they can to stop you from leaving their platform. There are open source variants on these formats (which might or might not be in violation of the DMCA). How are you supposed to get all your documents out?

  • Ordinary plain text files. Yes ordinary text files. Microsoft are namely unique in the world of 'plain text files' in that they use two characters to represent each single 'newline' character. How are these files to be converted?

  • Keystroke loggers, rootkits, trojans, viruses, worms, assorted malware. Are you planning on going to eBay to sell your old jalopy Windows box so you can afford to get a new one? Such as a Mac? In these financially tough times one needs to take advantage of all opportunities. (And the sudden surge in eBay profits shows a lot of people have realised this just as Apple's surge shows something.)

    But don't you have to make sure that computer is 'clean' - virus free? And for that matter: don't you have to make sure that smelly thing doesn't have any sensitive information? If it had malware on it - and all Windows boxes do - then odds are good there are hidden caches of personal information you don't want to end up in the wrong hands.

    How do you make sure your Microsoft computer is both clean and incapable of compromising or threatening you?

And so forth. So what are Microsoft going to do for you? After all your years of devoted use - costing you thousands upon thousands - and after listening to Bill Gates' incessant promises (lies) about how his software will someday be safe - what are the people at Microsoft going to do to help you leave their platform - at least for now?

And it need not be because of the EFF you have to uninstall Microsoft. Your job might require it. And you (poor fool) might actually prefer Microsoft and want to return to them someday.

So what will Microsoft do for you?

Can you offer an emigration scheme for Windows users who now feel, especially with the recent EFF warnings about avoiding Microsoft products entirely, they must leave the platform? Do you have any general guidelines for backing up data, etc? Thank you.

I'm confused.

This is my concern. How might I migrate a machine with many years build-up of data to an alternative platform?

I'm frustrated!

I would expect migration documentation for moving from Vendor A to Vendor B to be supplied by Vendor B as they will be investing in testing migrations to their own platform.

You mention recent EFF warnings. I've had a look at www.eff.org but can't find any specific press releases concerning Microsoft in this manner. Could you please share links so we can better understand exactly what the Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning about?

Cheers
John Breakwell (MSFT)

Well Vendor B is easy as long as you have open formats. It's getting from Vendor A in this case - Microsoft - that presents the big problem. Of course this is only a very small part of a huge issue. But yes, for means of clarification: Vendor B is our friend. This works. We're not asking how to migrate to a platform - we're asking how to migrate from a platform. The original post distinctly says 'emigration' and for good reason. It also uses the word 'leave'. I think the original post was very clear.

I'm afraid I don't understand the difference. If you are 'emigrating' from one vendor's platform then you must also be 'emigrating' to another vendor's platform. Isn't the new platform going to guide and possiblty [sic] constrain how you bring in data from the old one?

This is really a question aimed at 3rd party solution providers with experience in Vendor A's and Vendor B's products.

Cheers
John Breakwell (MSFT)

Thanks for responding. I hear what you say about migration documentation; it is in the interest of vendor B to ease the process of migration and not in the slightest in the interest of vendor A. That aside though, it seems a responsible approach for any vendor to offer guidelines in performing platform-agnostic backups of data, simply in the interests of customer data longevity in the face of changing data formats. Do Microsoft have such data backup guidelines?

The warnings come as part of their new SSD (Surveillance Self-Defense) initiative. The appropriate comments are made here:

https://ssd.eff.org/your-computer/protect/malware

I haven't seen such data backup guidelines but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Maybe one of my colleagues has an insight into this area.

Personally, I don't agree that a vendor needs to provide such information - not because of the nature of the documentation (although that is a factor) but more due to the number of companies out there able to generate revenue from producing the guidelines themselves (partners, publishers, etc). That is, you should be able to find migration guidelines from a number of reputable sources.

I don't think it is appropriate for me to comment on the EFF recommendations themselves - there are better people at Microsoft than me to handle such things. I would, though, question how up-to-date the content is. The undated web page contains a broken link to a safety study written in October 2004, itself referred to by the EFF as a 'recent report'. Also there is no reference to Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008, leading me to place the EFF recommendations in late 2005, some time after the Mac Tiger OS came out. By all means consider the options for your platform of choice but ensure you have the latest data to base your decisions on.

Cheers
John Breakwell (MSFT)

Just as Microsoft offers information (at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/migrating-ent.aspx) on migrating to Windows Server from Mainframe, Midrange, UNIX, and Linux systems, your vendor may offer similar support for migrating to another platform.

M3 Sweatt (MSFT)

I think you're intentionally sidestepping the question. We're not talking about the new platform - we're talking about the OLD platform. We've pointed this out several times. The issues are not about getting user data on new platforms. Most of these platforms are rather easy to work with - once the data is in an 'open format'. The issues are about getting user data off *your* platform. Where most of the time the data is *not* in an open format.

Every organization's needs are different, and I would refer you to your vendor for specific support and recommendations in migration strategies. As an example, I noted that Microsoft offers customers migration information at the site I noted above; some cross-platform support and interop information is available at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/compare/unix/unix-it-resources.mspx.

M3 Sweatt (MSFT)

*You* are our vendor. *You* are. We're therefore referring to *you*. And let the record show what answers we've got - essentially no answers at all.

Your link compares Windows to Unix. That's not what we asked for and you know it.

I think it's fair to say at this point you people at Microsoft are not going to lift a finger to help anyone emigrate from Windows. This has been a runaround for too long. What an unconscionable scandal.

That would be like asking Ford to help you trade for a Chevy. Give me one good reason why it is at all in any company's best (or even casual) interest to help you leave for a competitor. Why would ANY company invest time and money in making it easier for them to lose business.

What is unconscionable is your expectation that Microsoft somehow owes you the time, money, and effort required to ensure that you are no longer their customer.

True, Microsoft *is* your vendor, but as soon as you talk about migrating to someone else, *they* are now your vendor, and it's *their* responsibility to help you transition... *if* they want your business, that is. Companies compete for your business, not to give it away.

MelGrubb (MSFT?)

So in other words not a single one of you has a direct answer to the question. Not a single one of you knows jack or is willing to offer any help. That's thanks for years upon years of buying your products for tens of thousands of dollars and being your steadfast customers. That's your way of saying 'thanks for your custom'.

As if it's our fault the EFF condemn your products as unsafe. And we haven't exactly heard any comments on that, have we? Despite the fact you've all been given the links a month ago. Microsoft's true colours.

I'm sorry that you're not satisfied with the responses. As this is a third-party customer support community, many Microsoft employees try to provide answers to customers with questions about our products and services, and point customers to resources that may help them resolve issues.

If you have specific questions, I suggest that you contact your Microsoft partner/reseller, or visit the Microsoft Help and Support home page to get further assistance.

M3 Sweatt (MSFT)

And Then the Bomb Dropped!

Three months later (July 2009) Kris Self of Island Computer Consulting in Florida, on her way to the Get Satisfaction site for the first time in search of a way to make Microsoft's mail client stable, found the above thread and tagged this gem onto the end.

I have many clients that are moving to the Mac platform. With the exceptions of a few unimportant data elements in Quicken, the transition is effortless. While I know that this is the right decision for my clients, it is killing my business. When a user switches to a Mac, they do not need my services. When they use a PC, I see them on a regular basis. Also the MS products on the Mac are so solid.

It may be time to reevaluate your databases. Everything is moving to cross platform compatibility.

Caveat Windows User!

Caveat Windows user. Good advice? Get off Windows now. Buy a new box and store the old one for the time being. Get safe first. You can come back to the infected Windows box when you've been able to relax a bit. Use a USB thumb to transfer data from your old box to your new one as is needed. But under absolutely no circumstances ever connect that Windows box to the Internet again.

ActiveBullshit™ and ActiveSidestep™ are trademarks exclusive to Microsoft Corruption because nobody else would dare look so bad or stoop so low.

See Also
Get Satisfaction: Help from Microsoft in leaving Microsoft
Industry Watch: EFF: 'Avoid Microsoft Products Where Possible'
AOL/NCSA Online Safety Study MSFT Conveniently Can't Find (FTP)

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