You Thought You Hated Windows? Check Out What Bill Gates Had To Say

from the classic dept

This one is getting passed around pretty quickly, but as he retires from Microsoft, we couldn’t resist highlighting this fantastic internal email from Bill Gates complaining about the usability of some Windows features. It’s old — from 2003 — but it’s difficult to read it and not identify with some of the complaints. It reads like thousands of angry ticked off blog posts from folks who run into ridiculous situations with Windows. The only difference, of course, is that this one comes from Bill Gates. Some excerpts (though, you should read the whole thing):

So I went to Windows update. Windows Update decides I need to download a bunch of controls. (Not) just once but multiple times where I get to see weird dialog boxes.

Doesn’t Windows update know some key to talk to Windows?

Then I did the scan. This took quite some time and I was told it was critical for me to download 17megs of stuff.

This is after I was told we were doing delta patches to things but instead just to get 6 things that are labeled in the SCARIEST possible way I had to download 17meg.

So I did the download. That part was fast. Then it wanted to do an install. This took 6 minutes and the machine was so slow I couldn’t use it for anything else during this time.

What the heck is going on during those 6 minutes? That is crazy. This is after the download was finished.

Then it told me to reboot my machine. Why should I do that? I reboot every night — why should I reboot at that time?

So I did the reboot because it INSISTED on it. Of course that meant completely getting rid of all my Outlook state.

So I got back up and running and went to Windows Update again. I forgot why I was in Windows Update at all since all I wanted was to get Moviemaker.

So I went back to and looked at the instructions. I have to click on a folder called WindowsXP. Why should I do that? Windows Update knows I am on Windows XP.


At some point I get told I need to go get Windows Media Series 9 to download.

So I decide I will go do that. This time I get dialogs saying things like “Open” or “Save”. No guidance in the instructions which to do. I have no clue which to do.

The download is fast and the install takes 7 minutes for this thing.

So now I think I am going to have Moviemaker. I go to my add/remove programs place to make sure it is there.

It is not there.

What is there? The following garbage is there. Microsoft Autoupdate Exclusive test package, Microsoft Autoupdate Reboot test package, Microsoft Autoupdate testpackage1. Microsoft AUtoupdate testpackage2, Microsoft Autoupdate Test package3.

Someone decided to trash the one part of Windows that was usable? The file system is no longer usable. The registry is not usable. This program listing was one sane place but now it is all crapped up.

When asked about the email, Gates claims he sends similar notes nearly every day, as that’s his job. If that were the case, though, wouldn’t you have expected Windows to actually get better?

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Companies: microsoft

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Comments on “You Thought You Hated Windows? Check Out What Bill Gates Had To Say”

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Atroon says:


I’m no Gates fan, and I’m certainly not a Microsoft fan…but it sounds plausible enough that he was using beta versions of something; it’s certainly plausible enough that (a la the Steve) he was using his own product and pointing out what needed to be better. Taken out of context, any CEO/Chief Architect/Minor Deity of a corporation could be construed to dislike his or her own products.

Anonymous Coward says:

I'm going to defend this...

I don’t know why I am, but this is awesome. Its like a restaurant owners sampling the food from other chefs. If there are problems, they’ll fix them. I am GLAD someone is doing this, and Gates is the BEST person to do it. After all, what he says should be done (make it so :)). I wish he had done more of this testing for Vista though. I’m betting he didn’t. XP absolutely got better as time went on. Vista is improving as well. No, I’m not a MS fanboy, but at least this tells me someone (the most important someone) does care about quality.

Buzz says:

Vista what?

I get lots of people telling me I need to switch to Windows Vista, but none of them can give me solid, consistent reasoning to do so. I use Ubuntu; my wife uses Windows XP. We’re going to blow past Vista without really noticing. Paying over $100 for an operating system is ridiculous. Granted, I am a computer science major; I can obtain Vista for free from the university, but I don’t want it. I like my hardware running at full capacity. 😉

tryllianx says:


I can see why I happily use windows everyday. I also use Linux – several different builds and I find myself going back to Windows each time. I was a tester for Win2k and WinXP was a system that I wouldn’t touch until I absolutely had to. Mainly because I had gotten comfortable with how it worked and where everything was.

I get real tired of people assuming that any product will be perfect right out of the box and the polar opposites that think that because MS is involved that the system will not be worth anything.

Windows makes the competitors work hard. Microsoft makes good and bad software. It does what it is supposed to and when I stop downloading stupid crap it will work forever.

Enjoy or Dont.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: whatnowmyspacebardoesn'twork!?!?!

Windows makes the competitors work hard.

And exactly who are the competitors to Windows? MacIntosh? Until very recently, Mac users couldn’t run Windows apps.

The are two problems with MS and Windows:
1) MS has no direct competitor
2) Windows has no direct competitor.

Linus isn’t even on the radar for desktop use, and Macs – well, they’re nice usable systems, but if you want PC apps, you got to buy yourself a very high end machine.

Jason says:

Re: Re: whatnowmyspacebardoesn'twork!?!?!

Yeah, well PC users still can’t use Mac apps! Who’s really missing out there?

“Linus isn’t even on the radar for desktop use” – seriously, if my mom (who’s now retired, who never got over the transition from WordPerfect to Word, who now calls me with more questions about her camera than about her computer) can use Linus[sic], then so can you (PCLinuxOS)

ehrichweiss says:

Re: whatnowmyspacebardoesn'twork!?!?!

And you “use” Windows/Linux for what purpose again? There’s a big difference in saying you switched back to Windows from Linux because something wouldn’t convert your LookOut(oops, Outlook) mail to Thunderbird or what-have-you, and switching because you found the security in Linux to be lacking for your web or email servers; I’ll make a damn good guess and bet you’re not in that second group. I’m not saying you don’t have a valid reason but with you comment about how everything has to be “comfortable” for you, you really aren’t giving us anything new.

eleete (user link) says:


“When asked about the email, Gates claims he sends similar notes nearly every day, as that’s his job.” Not only is that not his job, but imagine how many other productive people meet the same frustration and it Does actually prevent them from doing their jobs. I’m surprised at how many come out in defense of this in the posts. Another broken system and people offer a pile of excuses. Wonder why it’s still broke? Well long live linux, because when people write to them, they respond with improved code, the escalation in users and downloads proves that.

Khaled says:

Strange post

I’d hate to be a Microsoft defender, but this is ridiculous.

Isn’t it extremely obvious that this isn’t “Bill Gates complaining about the usability of some Windows features” but rather putting himself in the shoes of an average PC user who doesn’t know anything about anything, and just showing his developers the kind of trouble an average user might have to go through updating windows.

“This time I get dialogs saying things like ‘Open’ or ‘Save’… I have no clue which to do.”
This is obviously not Bill Gates talking, but pretending to be a average user.

I’m not sure what the point here is. Are you suggesting Bill Gates was genuinely complaining about Windows? All I see is a company chief trying to put himself in the shoes of an average customer, and if anything, I think it’s a very good strategy.

Terence Ifan Bland says:

Face it... XP is the last greatest desktop OS from MS

Let’s face it. It’s reminiscent of PC-DOS 7, Netware 4.11, WordPerfect 5.1 (DOS version of course), IBM Selectronic typewriters, OS/2 Warp!, AOL x.0, dialup, and similiar technologies. These were good products and finally, near perfected products. Simply, things are about change and you (WinTel desktops) about to be left behind. And no, it won’t necessarily be Linux paving the way. Sorry Penguin nuts!

XP (and MS Office), I think, as a desktop OS has gone as far it can go and now, new ways of communication and working will leave the desktop in the dust– a niche product.

Kimberly Clarke says:

Re: Face it... XP is the last greatest desktop OS from MS

Your right. I reamember all those programs, too! Growing up with a computer, starting with a 8088 , and resisting the Move to Apple, I played with a OSX torrent on my computer last week and was real impressed.

Next week, I get paid, and Apple is getting a new customer.

Sorry Microsoft. It’s been a great run (since DOS 4.1) but it’s time to go. Didn’t Jim Allchien say they lost their way?

Jeff B. says:

Get a Mac Bill. You are retired now, you don’t have to use the corporate crap anymore! I’ve been in the business since 1979, and after using everything from a PDP11, VAX, TRS-80, Apple II, PC, Amiga, Sun Workstations, etc. the choice for a machine that is well integrated, and based on a time tested OS is obvious.

Get a Mac.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re:

The Amiga was *it* for me because I did video production, which it was obviously perfect for, and the preemptive multitasking was incredible. Too bad that C= had to screw everything up in bankruptcy and every successor to the throne was/is instrumental in making it even more irrelevant. I wish they’d just open source the entire OS and let the developers at AROS have at it since we could use another OS with a real inter-process communication language(ARexx) but vamped up to meet today’s standards.

Now I don’t do video production any longer and I lean more toward Linux but I still use IRIX and even XP, on my laptop.

Jake says:

Is it just me or does Microsoft seem to be about where they were in the second half of the 90s, credibility-wise? Most of the complaints I’ve heard about Vista -chiefly an over-emphasis on a fancy new front-end at the expense of the underlying code, which is so buggy and bloated that one wonders if the QA testers were on strike- also applied to Windows 95. I hope for Microsoft’s sake that this isn’t going to form a pattern, because PC manufacturers have a lot more OS options than they did back then -Ubuntu and the distro used by the Eee PC whose name escapes me are both at least as idiot-proof as anything MS have come up with- and at some point Adobe and the other big names in commercial third party software are going to realise there’s a substantial market for a Linux port of their top sellers.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a reason Vista is crap.

I believe M$ intentionally made Vista crap. It’s a big money making scandal. Right now every time a PC is sold M$ sales two OS licenses. First Vista that comes with the PC, and than another copy of XP after people get sick of Vista. In addition they plan to release Windows 7 in the next 2-3 years where people who first paid for Vista, and than bought XP again will once again pull out their pocket books and buy Windows 7, because after using XP for 8 years they will be ready to try something new. (Of course if they where smart they would just invest into a mac or get UBuntu which is completely free, heck when you request a CD you don’t even have to pay SHIPPING!)

Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: There is a reason Vista is crap.

My daughter decided it was time to wipe her hard drive. She is making the computer dual book Ubuntu/WindowsXP. The Ubuntu 8.04 install went perfectly. It took several tries to get WindowsXP fully installed. Ubuntu trumped windows!!

A few months ago, I was window shopping at Best Buy, and I asked (for the hell of it) if I could buy a computer without Windows VISTA. Their response was that I could not buy a computer without Windows VISTA. One should be able to buy a computer without the operating system.

Its unfortunate that Microsoft, like many large companies, has lost its way. Hopefully LINUX will continue to rise and dethrone Microsoft.

ConceptJunkie (profile) says:

Re: Re: There is a reason Vista is crap.

Their response was that I could not buy a computer without Windows VISTA.

This is what we, in a sane world, would call a monopoly. Your opitons for buying a non-Mac without that steaming turd of an OS are extremely limited. It’s the only reason Microsoft can brag about Windows sales: they are forcing it on you whether you want it or not.

But it’s obvious that the government doesn’t care, so Microsoft’s inevitable decline will drag the whole PC industry down with it. At this point, they are more of a spoiler than anything else, trying to damage as much as possible in a vain attempt to maintain their unfair market position.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: There is a reason Vista is crap.

“It’s the only reason Microsoft can brag about Windows sales: they are forcing it on you whether you want it or not.”

Indeed. My first action when I bought my new laptop was to install Linux on it (Mandriva). However, Microsoft still got a Vista licence payment for it because I wasn’t allowed to buy a Linux/OS-free version. Free money.

Oh, and to all the people saying “Linux isn’t a popular/real desktop OS”, this is the problem. It’s impossible to get real usage figures for Linux desktops because most computers get counted as Windows desktops at the point of sale. There are no solid figures for the numbers of people who wipe Windows off completely, or those who dual boot. The total number of Linux desktop users may be much higher than you think.

Nasch says:

Re: Re: Re: There is a reason Vista is crap.

Your opitons for buying a non-Mac without that steaming turd of an OS are extremely limited.

And your options for buying a Mac without an OS are… what? Absolutely nonexistent, if I’m not mistaken. That’s just as wrong, isn’t it? I’m not saying you’re inconsistent, you just didn’t mention Apple at all.

Sailor Ripley says:

Re: Re: Re:2 There is a reason Vista is crap.

disclaimer: obviously I’m not a M$ fanboi, but I’m not an Apple/Mac fanboi either, I have all PCs running windows XP, Linux or both at home.

I do think there is a difference between the two: with Apple, I don’t see so much of an issue with Apple hardware being accompanied by Apple software/OS, just like I wouldn’t utter 1 word about the fact that the XBox comes with M$ OS/software on it.
It’s their hardware so I don’t see an issue with them pre-installing (even if they don’t give you the option to get it without) their OS/software. Just like I wouldn’t argue if HP/Compaq/… would sell computers with their own OS/software on it (without providing the option to buy it without).
It would suck I had to pay for the OS/software when/if I plan on not using it and installing something different myself, but I wouldn’t bitch about it.

However, the situation of hardware company X (HP, Dell,…) or retailer (Best Buy, Circuit City,…) that is not part of Microsoft, not offering me the option to purchase their hardware without somebody else’s OS/software on it I do object to (unless they give the OS/software for free)

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