Criticism of Microsoft Windows

Criticism of Microsoft Windows


The various versions of Microsoft's desktop operating system, Windows, have received many criticisms since Microsoft's inception.

Criticisms that apply to several or all versions of Windows

Clock management

Windows expects the real-time clock of the computer to run on local time. Since Windows NT there has been a registry entry RealTimeIsUniversal=1, but this feature was not supported or fully implemented until Vista SP1 (Vista SP2 and Windows 7 have added support for this registry key), so it is not possible to run the real-time clock on Coordinated Universal Time, which may be desirable to, for example, avoid problems with multi-boot environments or disk images and daylight saving time, because Windows changes the real-time clock when switching to or from daylight saving time. However, other operating systems or other instances of Windows cannot know if the real-time clock has been changed already. This setting has been revised under Windows Vista SP2 , Windows 7 (RC) and Windows Server 2008 R2 (Beta). [1][2]

Hiding of filename extensions

By default, the Windows Explorer file manager hides filename extensions for known file types. This can be used to trick users into running malicious programs that they have previously downloaded. If a malware has the name "LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs", for example, its name will be displayed as "LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT" and appears to be a text file. The hiding of a large number of filename extensions can be disabled via menu settings,[3] but some extensions will remain hidden unless the user edits the system registry.[4]

Security concerns

Security vulnerabilities have been discovered to exist in versions of Windows for long periods of time before Microsoft has released the fixes (patches) for users to download and install. Examples include the Windows Virtual DOS Machine (VDM) vulnerability that was unknown by Microsoft for 17 years[5] and a serious networking vulnerability that Microsoft knew about for 200 days before fixing.[6] Windows has been criticised for being the prime target for the highest number of malware threats (over 2 million) compared to other operating systems.[7]

Secret cryptography keys have been discovered to exist in multiple versions of Microsoft Windows ever since Windows 95 OSR2, such as _NSAKEY. These keys can be used to create digital signatures that will be accepted by Windows as valid[citation needed], however Microsoft claims the private key has never been shared with any third party. The chief scientist at an Internet security company believed that these secret cryptography keys can be used by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) to provide a backdoor into computers running Windows.[8][9] However, this is explicitly denied by Microsoft[10], and no evidence for this accusation was ever presented. Microsoft attributes the naming of this key due to a technical review by the NSA pointing out a backup key was required to conform to regulations.[11]

Microsoft Windows has been criticised for its poor security, such as the Win32 shatter attack.[citation needed]

Broken backward compatibility

Backward compatibility in NT-based versions of Microsoft Windows is problematic for some 16-bit and MS-DOS programs, such as games, which can fail to work.[12] Windows 2000 and later versions are NT-based versions of Windows (including Windows XP, which was the first NT-based version of Windows for home users); Windows ME was the last version of Microsoft Windows to support 16-bit MS-DOS software without need of a complete emulator, which allowed these programs to work[13] (although Windows ME removed the real mode MS-DOS[14]). The use of emulators, such as the 3rd party DOSBox, can help users run MSDOS games and programs that cannot be used in newer versions of Windows.[15]

64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows cannot run 16-bit programs[16] for two reasons: support for some 16-bit programs is encumbered by the hardware limitations of the 64-bit x86 CPU (long mode) and 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows don't include the Virtual DOS Machine. 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows stopped supporting OS/2 and POSIX programs.[17] In order to take advantage of 64-bit computing with Windows and be able to run 16-bit programs, Microsoft suggests installing and dual-booting the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows (installed on separate volumes or different hard disks) and booting the 32-bit version to run the 16-bit programs.[18]

Running some older Windows XP programs in Windows 7 using Windows XP mode is only possible on the Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate editions of Windows 7.[19] Windows XP mode is used for running certain legacy Windows XP programs using a virtual machine, but the performance of the Windows XP mode has been criticised.[20]

Starting with Windows Vista, WinHelp is no longer included in Microsoft Windows. In older programs which use WinHelp, an error message will be generated upon accessing the program's help. Microsoft offers the WinHlp32.exe as a separate download; third-party software developers are not allowed to distribute WinHlp32.exe.[21]

Windows Registry

The Windows Registry was introduced in Windows 3.1 to replace the INI files used for storing configuration settings in earlier versions of Windows. The Windows Registry was not heavily used in Windows 3.1 compared to Windows 95 (and later versions of Windows). The Windows Registry creates a single point of failure[citation needed] for the entire Windows operating system.[22] The Microsoft website recommends some fixes are applied by editing the Registry, but warns users about the dangers of doing so. For other criticisms of the Windows Registry, see: Criticisms of the Windows Registry.

Service Pack problems

Microsoft releases Service Packs (abbreviated to SP and its version number) to fix many known problems with Windows, using a single installable package. Problems can arise when a user installs a Service Pack for Windows, such as breaking programs,[23]. It is recommended that users back up and be prepared to roll back changes if there are any problems after installing a Service Pack.[citation needed] Microsoft offers a Service Pack blocking tool to temporarily prevent the installation of a Service Pack. This tool is available to users who wish to avoid known problems which are caused by installing a Service Pack.[24][25]

Digital rights management

Right after the release of Windows Vista, Peter Gutmann heavily criticised the digital rights management (DRM) that had been included in Microsoft Windows to place restrictions on certain types of multimedia playback in an analysis he released in which which he states that[26]:

  • The DRM could inadvertently disable functionality.
  • A "hardware functionality scan" requirement could potentially shut out open source hardware.
  • The hardware architecture made unified drivers impossible.
  • Some drivers were buggy.
  • If one driver was found to be leaking content, Microsoft could remotely shut that driver down for all computers that used it, leading to denial of service (DoS attack) problems.
  • The DRM decreased system reliability and increased hardware costs.
  • Software makers had to license unnecessary third-party intellectual property, increasing the costs for their drivers.
  • The DRM consumed too much CPU and device resources.

The analysis drew responses from Microsoft[27], where Microsoft states some of the criticized DRM features were already present in Windows XP, and thus proven not to be a problem for customers, and that these features would only be activated when required by the content being played. Other responses came from George Ou of ZDNet[28] [29] and Ed Bott of ZDNet[30]. Ed Bott also published a three-part rebuttal[31] [32] [33] of Peter Gutmanns claims in which he details a number of factual errors in the analysis as well as points out how Peter Gutmann relied on questionable sources (personal blog postings, friends' anecdotal evidence, Google searches) for his analysis paper and never tested his theories himself.

Windows 7 includes the same DRM.[34][35]

Integration of Internet Explorer into Windows

Starting with Internet Explorer 4, Internet Explorer integrated into the Windows Shell and with its inclusion in Windows 98 cannot be removed without damaging Windows or affecting other programs which depend on Internet Explorer's files. The integration of Internet Explorer in Windows has been criticised because security vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer also create security vulnerabilities in Windows[citation needed], even if the user does not use Internet Explorer as their default web browser[citation needed].

This lead to the United States v. Microsoft court case, which was eventually settled out of court.

In January 2009, the European Commission started to investigate Microsoft's bundling of Internet Explorer into Windows; the Commission stated:[36]

Microsoft's tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.

Criticisms that apply only to a specific version of Windows

See also

External links


  1. ^ Microsoft (2007-07-02). "The BIOS Real Time Clock is set back one hour after you deploy a Windows XP image or Windows Vista image to a computer". Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  2. ^ Kuhn, Markus (2001-07-02). "IBM PC Real Time Clock should run in UT". Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  3. ^ Granneman, Scott (2008). "Configuring Windows To Show Extensions". Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  4. ^ "CERT Incident Note IN-2000-07: Exploitation of Hidden File Extensions". 2000-07-27. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  5. ^ "Microsoft confirms 17-year-old Windows bug". 21 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "200 days to fix a broken Windows". 13 February 2004. 
  7. ^ "Malware beyond Vista and XP". 4 August 2009. 
  8. ^ "NSA key to Windows an open question". 3 September 1999. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  9. ^ "How NSA access was built into Windows". 4 September 1999. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  10. ^ "Microsoft Says Speculation About Security and NSA Is "Inaccurate and Unfounded"" (Press release). Microsoft Corp.. 1999-09-03. Retrieved 2006-11-09. 
  11. ^ "There is no "Back Door" in Windows". 3 September 1999. Archived from the original on 2000-05-20. 
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  20. ^ "Hands on: Windows XP Mode works -- but is it worth the trouble?". Reuters. 2009-05-12. 
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Programs that are known to experience a loss of functionality when they run on a Windows XP Service Pack 2-based computer". Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  24. ^ "Don't let XP Service Pack 3 hose your system". Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  25. ^ "Windows Service Pack Blocker Tool Kit". Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  26. ^ "A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  27. ^ "Windows Vista Content Protection - Twenty Questions (and Answers)". Microsoft. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  28. ^ Ou, George. "Does DRM really limit Vista?". ZDNet.;siu-container. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  29. ^ Ou, George. "Claim that Vista DRM causes full CPU load and global warming debunked!". ZDNet.;siu-container. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  30. ^ Bott, Ed. "Busting the FUD about Vista's DRM". ZDNet.;siu-container. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  31. ^ Bott, Ed. "Everything you've read about Vista DRM is wrong (Part 1)". Everything you've read about Vista DRM is wrong. ZDNet.;siu-container. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  32. ^ Bott, Ed. "Everything you've read about Vista DRM is wrong (Part 2)". Everything you've read about Vista DRM is wrong. ZDNet.;siu-container. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  33. ^ Bott, Ed. "Everything you've read about Vista DRM is wrong (Part 3)". Everything you've read about Vista DRM is wrong. ZDNet.;siu-container. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  34. ^ "Draconian DRM Revealed In Windows 7". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  35. ^ "Oh, the humanity: Windows 7's draconian DRM?". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  36. ^ "Microsoft is accused by EU again". BBC News. Saturday, 17 January 2009. Retrieved 2011-7-14. 

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