July 6, 2015
Samsung has been interfering with the automatic Windows Update process by using a .exe file to disable it. The executable "could result in consumer groups red-flagging Samsung products because this practice puts users at risk," suggested Rob Enderle, principal at the Enderle Group. The action "will work against Microsoft's efforts to create an acceptably safe Windows user environment."
Samsung has been disabling Windows updates by means of an executable file, Disable_Winduwsupdate.exe, that is part of its SW Update software.
The issue came to light on Tuesday, when Microsoft MVP Patrick Barker published a blog post about his discovery when helping a user who was having problems.
It seemed that Windows Update kept getting disabled randomly, but after using auditpol.exe and registry security auditing, Barker figured out that Disable_Windowsupdate.exe was the culprit.
The executable creates a scheduled task that runs at every logon to ensure that Windows Update is disabled, Barker said.
Its digital certificate is signed by Samsung.
Samsung reportedly said it created the executable to prevent driver updating problems with accessories such as USB 3.0 ports.
That could be a legitimate reason, said Eric Smith, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.
"Windows will have an update for a driver, and the OEM will have updates for that driver, and users may not know which the right one is," he told the E-Commerce Times. "but I think if that was the issue, Samsung would be able to work with Microsoft behind the scenes."
It appears to be almost impossible to get rid of the executable.
Uninstalling SW Update manually does not stop its action, and the Samsung folder will remain in \ProgramData.
Samsung reportedly contended that it was providing users with the option to choose if and when they wanted to update the Windows software in their products.
That is possible, because some OEMs are concerned about the impact of Windows 10 on their customers, Smith said.
With Windows 10, Microsoft's going to force updates, and users will have to restart their computers very shortly after the updates are installed, he pointed out. Further, Microsoft will decide when the updates are sent out.
"There's concern in certain markets that if you've got intermittent or dial-up service, or you're running it off a mobile hotspot where you're paying by the gigabyte, having Windows 10 on PCs could result in high Internet bills to pay for updates users might not otherwise install," Smith noted.
"It could be that Samsung's experimenting with this executable as a way of managing the experience," he speculated.
Still, the effort was "ham-handed," he acknowledged.
Anger at Samsung
Most responders to Barker's post had it in for Samsung.
"Good to know," wrote Roman Patent. "I will be advising all of our customers to stay well away from Samsung's PC products."
However, the SW Update file downloaded by Thai Nguyen doesn't have the executable, and "it looked like the software has just recently been developed as in version 1.0, so they might have thought about something when they were doing this."
Samsung did not respond to our request to comment for this story.
What's at Stake
The executable "could result in consumer groups red-flagging Samsung products because this practice puts users at risk," suggested Rob Enderle, principal at the Enderle Group.
Further, the action might be a violation of Microsoft's OEM license and "will work against Microsoft's efforts to create an acceptably safe Windows user environment," he told the E-Commerce Times. Microsoft is "likely not at all happy that Samsung has done this."
Executives from the two companies reportedly are discussing the issue.