Microsoft is installing Office Web apps on some computers without permission

Joe White

Posts: 18   +0
Staff
Facepalm: Microsoft appears to be experimenting with the idea of automatically installing Progressive Web App (PWA) versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint without user permission, using the new Edge browser in Windows 10. That in itself wouldn't be so bad, after all, getting some form of free Office can be useful to most users. However, according to reports, the experiment is not limited to Windows Insider testers, and in the worst of cases, Windows will reboot your machine to apply these "updates" without your consent.

Microsoft Office PWAs are web-based versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint which can be accessed via a web browser like Edge or Chrome. Typically, if users want to use one of Office PWAs, they need to manually install them and the apps are then added to the Windows Start Menu, where they can be easily accessed.

However, Windows Latest points out that Microsoft appears to be experimenting with a different approach. Over the weekend, a number of Windows users found that the Office Web apps installed on their Windows 10 machines without first seeking permission. “We noticed that PWAs were installed on our devices on October 11 and Microsoft automatically created dedicated entries for Excel, Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint in the Start Menu,” Windows Latest explains.

Based on the information available so far, the feature appears to be part of a Microsoft Edge experiment (the newer Chromium version, which is pretty good).

Now, what has caught the attention of many, is that these Office PWA auto-installations are not just happening to Insider users, who give consent to such experiments. Instead, many reports are popping up of regular Windows 10 users who have seen these shortcuts added to their Start menu without permission. Some are calling it a light version of bloatware or free Microsoft ads on your PC -- even though Google tends to do the same on Chromebooks to promote Google Docs.

The progressive web apps don't take any space on your drive and getting some form of free Office tools on your computer could be genuinely useful, particularly to beginner users who may notice the difference on light use. Between this, and the alternative of bloated Office trials that come with a 30-day expiration, we could even argue we like this approach. With that said, just like Google Docs which is also free, Office Online can always be accessed without much fuss using a web browser.

We wonder if Microsoft could do better by simply delivering this as a light feature, and not forcing PC reboots unannounced. In this regard, Apple has mastered macOS software updates by rebooting your machine but without losing any work in the process. On macOS you boot back to the exact place you were (regardless of save state) while Windows will usually welcome you to an empty desktop.

As a side note, uninstalling Office PWAs is easy to accomplish: launch the Control Panel and navigate to Programs & Features, or from the Settings app launch Apps & Features. There, you can remove the PWAs for Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint for good.

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 3,720   +3,616
As far as I know, doesn't Microsoft retain the right to install certain content simply because you all (we all) signed the EULA?
 
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Bullwinkle M

Posts: 378   +279
As far as I know, doesn't Microsoft retain the right to install certain content simply because you all (we all) signed the EULA?
Under the EULA, Microsoft is not liable for anything they do to you

They can have backdoors in the O.S.
Prevent you from securing your copy of Windows
Make you vulnerable to Ransomware

And you agreed to this madness?

Click YES to continue....
 

ColdSoup

Posts: 97   +193
As far as I know, doesn't Microsoft retain the right to install certain content simply because you all (we all) signed the EULA?
They do. Section six of the Eula specifically gives Microsoft the right to install any updates for the OS or install apps of their choosing. It is very clear MS has the right to install software and apps without your prior notice as you have already given consent by accepting the Eula.
 

Bullwinkle M

Posts: 378   +279
Criminal hackers like people who uses software with no latest security patches, such as windows 7
Too Funny

I use XP Online without any Microsoft Updates and a Full Admin Account, but hackers can't wreck this box!

It has been malware free for more than 6 years now and it hasn't even had a bluescreen of death in over 10 years

No ransomware that can wreck this box either

It's perfectly safe for a real security expert (Like Me)
 
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Literally today while using my laptop the chrome crashed and showed some low memory errors (have 12GB ram). I restarted and lo and behold some startup type screen came up asking me for setting up some stuff. Was really anxious that someone might have reset my PC but luckily when I finished the setup all my stuff was there.
 

Damocles

Posts: 40   +36
You can fix most update issues in the Group Policy settings.
Only if you're running "pro", I understand, which all my three machines have. I don't think that facility is available for the home versions but I await any correction on that. None of mine have had a single update (by way of the Group Policy Editor) ever since an "update" messed with my graphics, leaving me with some kind of generic driver, with only three choices of resolution, none of which matched the native resolution of my monitors! After a lot of fiddling and time-wasting, I managed to roll things back to the way they were. I suppose it's a bit naughty, not having ANY updates (especially as security is involved on some) but I really can't be having the aggravation that some folk seem to have that I read about many times in newsletters. I have also removed just about every piece of crapware that I am able to and reduced most of the fancy colours and animations that sap resources. Often tempted to give a distro of Linux a whirl. Have tried Mint off a live CD, and quite liked it.
 

nismo91

Posts: 1,070   +118
Once office 365 stops working right after updating it. had to spend hours troubleshooting it without any luck until I manually deleted some files courtesy of the MS website.

can't be surprised what they're doing to "non-office" customer.
 

zamroni111

Posts: 145   +110
Too Funny

I use XP Online without any Microsoft Updates and a Full Admin Account, but hackers can't wreck this box!

It has been malware free for more than 6 years now and it hasn't even had a bluescreen of death in over 10 years

No ransomware that can wreck this box either

It's perfectly safe for a real security expert (Like Me)
Many hack victims don't realize that their computers is already hacked, e.g. millions of botnet computers
 

PenguinJoe

Posts: 13   +8
TechSpot Elite
Yeah I found these sitting on my system even though I have the stand alone Office 2019 Pro installed. Worst of all they are linked to Edge (I don't use edge). Other software vendors that do this are flagged by my AV as Potentially Unwanted Programs. This wasn't.
 
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lazer

Posts: 360   +106
I pretty much dumped M$lop long ago except on one computer that runs win7. Use LibreOffice and Open Office and other free products to accomplish the same for less time, less money and less HEAD ACHES....
 

duckofdeath

Posts: 48   +34
I pretty much dumped M$lop long ago except on one computer that runs win7. Use LibreOffice and Open Office and other free products to accomplish the same for less time, less money and less HEAD ACHES....
I really tried my best switching to LibreOffice a few years ago. It's just not doable if you collaborate with anyone not using the same app. The open source alternatives are extremely hit or miss with the rendering/presentation accuracy.
 

zamroni111

Posts: 145   +110
That is VERY true, but they are not security experts are they?

BIG difference!
In 2002, an admin in my campus said similar thing in admin mailing list.
Not long after, many senior admins ridiculed him for doing that.
FYI, those senior admins were hardcore Linux and FreeBSD users who diligently install latest security patch in their servers.
 

Bullwinkle M

Posts: 378   +279
In 2002, an admin in my campus said similar thing in admin mailing list.
Not long after, many senior admins ridiculed him for doing that.
FYI, those senior admins were hardcore Linux and FreeBSD users who diligently install latest security patch in their servers.
What happened in 2002 is not relevant to what is going on in 2020

I have been hacked and forced to re-install repeatedly from 2007 until 2014 as I continually perfected the mitigations used against every type of attack vector

Since 2014, I have continued to study malware of all types and the vectors used to infect my box, yet have NEVER had this box damaged by any malware, of any type, by any vector since 2014

The point you so eloquently miss, is that I WELCOME EVERY ATTEMPT to wreck this XP box and force me to find a new mitigation approach

If you have such a magical zero day exploit that can wreck my XP machine, I WELCOME IT, and can always use a new zero day

So.....Come at me bro!