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    Updates causing a reboot

    Again, I’ve simply not experienced this. Now, back in the Windows 2000/XP days, yeah I think we all experienced this. However, for many years now, I’ve not seen this happen.

    I have, many times, left my computer on overnight to come back to it being at the login screen with literally zero intervention. Looking at my update history, I think this happens about twice a month or so.

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      Oh God! I really wish the author would tell us how in the world they achieved this state!

      I have a Windows 10 machine that I use for work and it’s driving me nuts. Despite having disabled every single switch that Google told me to disable, this machine will automatically wake up and reboot to install updates if it’s on sleep.

      Thing is, it doesn’t even work: this is a laptop, that I take with me on the road for my one customer whose stack depends on Windows, so the hard drive is encrypted. It reboots at 3 AM and then I wake up to… the Bitlocker prompt, which is followed, of course, by a good half hour of “hang on”. Should I seriously believe that nobody at Microsoft ever tried to update a computer with an encrypted hard drive?

      It’s driving me nuts because the reason why that machine is on sleep is that it runs a diverse array of rather arcane applications, some of which aren’t exactly top-notch and lack various features like, uh, workspace management. So it takes me like 20 minutes to start up all of them and set things up back the way they were, so it’s easier to just let the laptop sleep.

      On a tangential note: I think this is a hole that Microsoft have dug themselves into.

      20 years ago there was really no question of whether you wanted to upgrade to one of the service packs. At best you’d wait two or three weeks to let early adopters find any of the truly bad, hard drive-wrecking blunders, but after that you’d update.

      Nowadays, when you reboot after an update, you may boot to a more secure system with the latest security patch. Or a full-screen ad for Microsoft Edge that you have no idea how to hide, oh, and it’s set itself to be the default browser (guess who had to drive halfway across town in the middle of the pandemic because their parent had to teach online classes and they didn’t know how to make the ad go away – then drive back again because “they couldn’t find Firefox”). Or a brand-new version of Candy Crush Saga on Windows 10 Pro (I’ve given up wiping it, I now accept it as a fact of life, the way I accepted My Briefcase on Windows 95).

      Of course nobody trusts the updates now, so now it’s a silent, subversive war, in which Microsoft has to find new ways to force updates because the users have been burned so many times they will never update on their own (fool me once etc. etc.) and everyone else tries to figure out ways to dodge them, at least until they can get their work done.

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        I have had similar rage, and eventually wrote a little utility to just solve the problem: https://github.com/wheybags/Win10BSFixer

        Every 10 seconds, it checks if the windows update service is running, and if it is, kills and disables it. Have had zero problems since, and it does allow you to pause the update blocking and manually update when you want to.

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          You are my new favourite programmer now!

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        Very common. Many, many times this has messed up cryptomining for me. I haven’t used windows for mining, or for anything for awhile now, so maybe that has changed in the last year or two.

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          Very common. Many, many times this has messed up cryptomining for me.

          I never thought I’d look on this behaviour as a good thing, until now.

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            It’s still not. The real problem, giant mining firms with hundreds of thousands of GPUs calculating useless hashes 24/7, know how to get around it. It makes literally zero difference whether slylax puts their GPU to use overnight every now and then. Hell, they may even use their desktop as a crypto mining thermostat for all we know, in which case it’d make literally no difference compared to any other form of resistive heating.

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          This was my major gripe. I never felt comfortable leaving the machine on a long running process overnight, even if I had remembered to go to the updates menu and disable updates for 7 days, which is the maximum AFAIR.

          After having switched to Linux with Windows running in a VM for the few things I need, my machine runs faster and lighter, the fans spin less and I get more battery life. And I trust my computer again.

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            The cancer is making its way to Linux, though. Ubuntu snaps have a similar “updates happen by our command and you can delay them a bit but that’s it” philosophy. It is infuriating if you are managing the rule lists for host-level intrusion detection.

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            It even wakes itself up in the middle of night to do some updating and then reboots itself, only to end up in Linux because of the dual-boot. And it’s not exactly easy to convince it not to do that.

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              I think this also depends on whether and how the IT department manages this. It is hard to discover who is responsible for this.

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                This is my personal desktop, so my IT department is me.

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                I own a windows 10 machine that I boot about once a month and it feels like I always have to do an update which requires a reboot. So, at least in my experience, this update/reboot thing is absolutely common.

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                  Updates causing a reboot

                  Again, I’ve simply not experienced this. Now, back in the Windows 2000/XP days, yeah I think we all experienced this. However, for many years now, I’ve not seen this happen.

                  I have, many times, left my computer on overnight to come back to it being at the login screen with literally zero intervention. Looking at my update history, I think this happens about twice a month or so.

                  Same here. Worse, I’ve lost work because of it more than once. Much more recently than the Win 2000/XP days.

                  About a year ago, when I got a document that I could only handle on Windows for some reason, fired up my not-too-frequently used Windows machine with Outlook on it, and read/started composing a reply. This was a bit earlier than my normal workday, around 4:30 AM. When I walked upstairs around 5:30 to make myself some more coffee and returned to my basement office around 5:50, the machine was sitting there, rebooted. It discarded my in-progress draft response. It didn’t save it to my IMAP drafts folder. It didn’t save it to a local drafts folder. It was just gone.

                  I’ve been using computers long enough to know I shouldn’t walk away from even a laptop without saving, but this age of auto-saved drafts has made me soft.

                  I think this phenomenon is especially bad for systems that don’t get booted and used all the time, which may account for the seemingly outsized perception of the problem by people who primarily use other OSes. If it’s been more than a couple weeks since I booted a VM, I feel like I need to allow an hour for it to update, reboot, update again and settle down post-update before I can really use it.

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                    I think this phenomenon is especially bad for systems that don’t get booted and used all the time, which may account for the seemingly outsized perception of the problem by people who primarily use other OSes.

                    This is exactly the issue with my gaming PC.

                    I’m really cooling off on the idea of a gaming PC as of late because of BS like this. When I finally do arrange a time with friends to play every 2-3 weeks, it’s a dice roll whether W10 will pull some inane crap like this because you actually had the gall to boot it up and use it: “you need to update! You have to wait an unspecified amount of time!”

                    What I really want to know is: what exactly is it doing after it applies updates? It seems like it just sits there for 5-10 minutes “finalizing” settings.

                    The absolute worst: W10 thinking it is okay to upgrade your video driver while you are using it. Most games/apps just crash outright because they aren’t designed to handle this.

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                      I’m really cooling off on the idea of a gaming PC as of late because of BS like this. When I finally do arrange a time with friends to play every 2-3 weeks, it’s a dice roll whether W10 will pull some inane crap like this because you actually had the gall to boot it up and use it: “you need to update! You have to wait an unspecified amount of time!”

                      Same for the XBox 360. It would disable a lot of features (e.g. networking) if you didn’t update (maybe it still does). We were not very regular gamers, so we would often start the XBox after a couple of weeks to call family on Skype with the Kinect camera. Only to disappoint them that they had to wait 30-60 minutes while the XBox fetches some update.

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                        what exactly is it doing after it applies updates? It seems like it just sits there

                        One of the most annoying aspects of Windows updates is that user profile data seems to need migration to the latest schema. For whatever reason, this can’t occur during the system update and is instead ran the next time that user logs in. Which means updating in the middle of the night hardly saves me any time.

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                          If I’d guess, I’d say that user profile stuff is probably encrypted with the user’s password, so it has no way to read the user profile until the user logs in and it has the password. That would make sens to me at least.

                          Not that that’s an excuse. There are definitely solutions here which would move the schema migration time to a less inconvenient time than right as you’re logging in, or ways to make the schema migration process faster. (Or ways to keep the user profile schema stable across most updates.)

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                          I’ve found that like 99% of the time, I can get a game to run on Linux now. I still sometimes reboot into Windows to play a game with friends if it’s a game I haven’t played before, but after that initial session, I usually go back into Linux and spend some time getting it to run in my main set-up. So far, there’s one game we’ve tried to play which I haven’t gotten to run in Linux - and that’s not due to a technical limitation, but because the anti-cheat detects that it’s not on Windows somehow and therefore disables online functionality.

                          In a surprising amount of cases, all it takes is literally just downloading the game on Steam and letting Proton automatically do its thing. Sometimes, I have find an installer on lutris.com, but then it usually works fine once installed.

                          I wish “getting the game to work on my system” wasn’t a thing I had to spend time on. But overall, it’s much nicer to have to do that once per game than to have to boot into Windows and deal with its updates, an environment I’m less used to, losing all my Linux state, etc.

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                      (Disclaimer: I’m a Microsoft employee.)

                      The way to think about this is there are multiple reasons for a BSOD.

                      1. Windows has a bug.
                      2. A driver has a bug. Note drivers are in the same protection domain so can modify almost any system memory.
                      3. Hardware has a bug in that it corrupts memory.

                      The reason that people disagree over stability is because (2) & (3) are much more likely than (1), so crashes can plague particular configurations while leaving others completely unaffected. It’s very hard for mortals to pinpoint a driver or hardware bug, so all all users see is the result, not the cause.

                      The part that always frustrates me a little is people who overclock devices, causing hardware errors, and blame the result on Windows. It’s not that Windows is worse than any other kernel, it’s that the people who overclock hardware all seem to run Windows.

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                        My impression is that the Windows kernel is really top notch these days (as opposed, to say, the drivers, display manager, etc, etc).

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                          I agree. The one thing I think Windows must improve is in its modularity and letting the user chose which applications and services to be installed.

                          There are too many services and features I’d like to be able to remove (Or better, chose not to install). There was a talking about Windows Mini Kernel, I want that. I want efficiency.

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                            Have you tried Windows Embedded? Server Core? WinPE?

                            The guts of Windows is fairly modular and composable. The issue is that each of those services are providing something, so removing them will affect applications or scenarios in ways that may not be obvious. The monolithic nature of Windows is really a result of trying to ensure that programs work, and work the same way, on each machine.

                            Personally I do a lot of command line development, so I thought Server Core would be an interesting option. Here’s what happened:

                            1. The Visual Studio installer is an Electron application, so it failed because a DirectX DLL wasn’t present;
                            2. I put the relevant DLL there, and the installer launched with a lot of rendering glitches since it’s a pure-GDI non-composited environment, but I got things to install;
                            3. Programs using common controls don’t render correctly, which isn’t a big deal for servers, but makes certain things like GFlags to be nigh incomprehensible;
                            4. …but the end result was the programs I was writing behave differently where appcompat shims and services aren’t running. In a lot of ways I don’t miss them, but the consequence is I can’t run my program in this environment and assume it works the same way in a real environment, so it wasn’t useful for development work.
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                              It sounds like a mess. Maybe I should take back my words :-).

                              One of the issues ow Windows is the luggage it carries. It is time you put all pre historic compatibility under a VM and be done with it.

                              Moreover, I het what you say and still I’d be happy to have user choices to what to install. Windows is bloated. 30 GB for OS is too much. The RAM consumption is too much. Performance are getting better and hopefully one day we’ll a File System as fast as Linux and the margin will be negligible.

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                              I’d love to pay for a gaming build of Windows that only includes necessary components and presumes that I’m competent enough to steward maintenance of my own machine.

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                                If you want a gaming build of Windows, you can buy that. It even comes bundled with a computer optimised for running it.

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                            I worked as a repair tech in a computer shop for about three years; this was over ten years ago so most of my experience is with XP, Vista, and 7. In this time I saw a lot of BSODs.

                            In my experience the overwhelming majority of BSODs are caused by faulty hardware or driver bugs. For example the Dutch version of AT&&T (KPN) handed out these Realtek wireless dongles for a while, but after some update in XP they caused frequent BSODs. I’m going to guess this was Realtek’s fault and not Microsoft’s, and it just happened to work prior to this update (they never released an update to fix this. They also never made Vista/7 drivers). Plenty of customers were quick to blame Microsoft for this though, in some cases even after I explained all of this to them they still blamed Microsoft.

                            By far the most common problem though was just faulty memory. By my rough estimate it caused at least half of all problems, if not more, during this time. The rest were a combination of other hardware faults (mainboard, hard drive, etc.) or bad (often third-party) drivers.

                            No doubt BSODs happen due to Windows bugs, but it’s a lot less often than some people think. The biggest issue was actually the lack of tooling. Windows leaves small “minidump” core dumps, but actually reading them and getting an error isn’t easy. I actually wrote a Python script to read them all and list all reasons in a Tkinter window, and this usually gave you a pretty good idea what the problem was.

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                              Even if i despise Windows nowadays, i agree with you and BSOD stability isn’t a problem nowadays anmore. There are a lot of problems, but kernel stability ain’t one

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                                I think it is fair that windows maintains some criticism. A micro kernel would not suffer a systemic failure from a buggy audio driver for instance. Linux is also another insane system where driver code for dozens of architectures are effectively maintained on a budget but i rarely see any crashes on my commodity development box that corporate procured. My dell laptops running win7 and win10 have all crashed frequently.

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                                  I think some of the stability that you see on Linux is that the drivers are upstreamed, and so face the same discipline as the rest of the kernel, whereas Windows drivers are often vendor-supplied, and potentially very dodgy. You can easily crash Linux with out-of-kernel-tree drivers, but there are only a few of those that are in common use.

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                                    Much of the audio stack in Windows runs in userspace. You can often fix audio driver crashes by restarting the relevant services. The troubleshooting wizard does this for you.

                                    Linux and Windows are both moving to more device drivers in userspace. CUSE on Linux, for example, and Windows also has a framework for userspace USB drivers. Most GPU drivers are almost entirely userspace, for performance reasons: the devices support SR-IOV or similar and allow the kernel to just map a virtual context directly into the userspace address space, so you don’t need a system call to communicate with the device.

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                                    On the one hand it’s a bit unfair to blame current windows for earlier disgressions but it is what it is.

                                    Regarding your point 3) - I’ve had it SO often that a machine in the 98-XP days would crash on Windows and run for a week on Linux, so I don’t really buy that point. Hardware defects in my experience are quite reproducible “every time I start a game -> graphics card”, every time it runs for longer than a day -> RAM, etc.pp. Nothing of “it crashes randomly every odd day” has ever been a hardware defect for me (except maybe ram, and that is sooo rare).

                                    I don’t think I have claimed Windows is unstable since I’ve been using 7 or 10 (and 2000 and XP were okish). But 98 (non-SE), Me, Vista, 95a and 95b were hot garbage.

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                                    Updates causing a reboot

                                    When this happens though, it’s not only a reboot. It’s then waiting forever for the updates to install. It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve seen my partner’s laptop sit there for an hour “installing updates”.

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                                      This article doesn’t even mention the issue that I and most people face most frequently and is the cornerstone as why I perceive Windows to be unstable in the last few years: that “new” or “reworked” features end up buggy or just broken. Particularly anything involving the UWP ecosystem which is increasingly hard to avoid with every update.

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                                        You basically can’t add Appx packages to a system or image’s provisioned set without being an OEM, even if the Appx packages are installable for free from the Microsoft Store. (Sideloading Appx packages requires providing your own certificate.)

                                        Also, Sysprep wants a system to have only provisioned Appx packages present.

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                                        My partner’s computer starting BSODing (reliably within 5-10 minutes of boot, every boot) after an automated, non-revertible upgrade a few months back. She had a perfectly fine computer for about a year. Then she woke up one day and didn’t have one any more. That’s pretty much the Windows experience.

                                        We screwed around with drivers, system resets/restores/recovery/refreshes/(??? there’s so many options like these now) for a full-on week, but racing a new install to only upgrade some things but not others before trying to disable its automatic updates permanently is the opposite of what I want to have sprung on me randomly one day.

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                                          Yeah, I’ve also had that a few times (only once on my own machine). It’s perfectly stable and fine for a few months until it decides to brick itself on an update. I think I could restore from a save point half of the time and the other half simply had to reinstall.

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                                            It’s good fun, hey? We were unable to get it working without a hardware change. Swapping the graphics cards in our Windows PCs did the trick; both NVIDIA RTXs, both ultimately on the same Windows version. Different motherboards and other bits and pieces. Her configuration simply became a cursed one as of some Windows version, but not with my slightly different card.

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                                          If this was as prevalent as the Linux community makes out, we would hear Windows users shouting about it at least some of the time?

                                          Ever heard of operant conditioning? I have better things to do than complain about Windows issues I’m already used to. I think the BSOD has happened at least a few times in the last few years (most likely due to driver bugs), but I’m already so used to it from that it doesn’t register.

                                          Similarly with updates, even if you have it configured so that it only updates when you tell it to, if I do install one it will reboot overnight without asking me first. I’m wary of leaving it on overnight for fear that I’ve installed an update earlier and didn’t reboot it yet.

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                                            It’s not that Windows is unstable, it’s that Windows is revolting.

                                            Example: After a Windows update, I could no longer use my Antlion ModMic. I suspect someone broke powered 3.5mm microphone support and nobody noticed. None of the usual fixes worked, up to and including a reinstall, and nobody had any good support docs on this. The internet was useless for help: endless pages of autogenerated blogspam hiding anything potentially useful. Got something kinda working by installing a virtual audio device and a bunch of VST plugins.

                                            (Audio continued to work fine under Linux.)

                                            Eventually, I caved and bought a USB audio device (RODE AI-1), which would only work as input or output, not both. Finally found a support post that said Windows autoconfigures each device with different sample rates, and if you set a common sample rate things start working again. Now running my headset and mic through it and am at peace. But that was nearly $200 worth of audio equipment that only became necessary because Windows shat the bed one day.

                                            Not to mention the mysterious crap that gets installed with random updates (King-tier shovelware “games”, “Xbox Game Center”, Skype, Spotify), advertising in my start menu, Cortana, making it harder and harder to not have a Microsoft account (the trick is to not connect to Ethernet or WiFi during install), the faux-friendliness of user messages (that say less with more words), etc…

                                            I would be deeply ashamed if I had worked on user-facing parts of Windows.

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                                              I’ve used exclusively Linux at home since the late 90s, but exclusively Windows at work since 2006, so I think I have a reasonable basis for comparison. I don’t consider Windows unstable anymore; I think in terms of actual stability, Windows caught up somewhere around Windows 7. At least, I have never seen a BSOD since XP, and I don’t consider bad update policies strictly a stability issue. Maybe part of this is that I don’t run a lot of third party software or use weird hardware that requires third-party drivers?

                                              The main thing that really bothers me about Windows these days, to be honest, is bad filesystem performance. Honestly, git on Windows is unbearable – maybe tolerable if you only use it interactively from the command line or however VS Code uses it, but it makes Magit nigh-unusable. My Windows machines all feel slow compared to comparably specced Linux machines, and I feel like it’s mostly due to filesystem issues.

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                                                Windows short-term stability is okay, but long-term stability is not. I manage a “cluster” of 12 windows 10 machines used for production and my experience was that i had to manually set up the machines by hand after every functional upgrade as windows lost or reset crucial settings or uninstalled unsigned drivers. we also have other computers in the company we are afraid of updating as they have to run for long times and we tried once and window update just rebooted the machine in the middle of a process.

                                                I cannot speak for personal computing, but Windows 10 isn’t suited for production use

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                                                  This is sad, even though the writer asked about opinions from many he destroys peoples opinions with his own very small sample size.

                                                  For me, I can’t rely on a Windows machine for doing long running or performance tasks due to many reasons. Every once in a while I discover I’ve shot myself in my feet again because I used Windows for a job. That’s what I call unstable. I don’t think this has improved the last years, but I don’t have hard numbers.

                                                  I don’t have this problem, ever, with any Linux distribution I’ve tried.

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                                                    This is sad, even though the writer asked about opinions from many he destroys peoples opinions with his own very small sample size.

                                                    If you read the title, you’ll notice it’s just his thoughts, his opinions. Why does he need a larger sample size? He’s not trying to do a thorough study.

                                                    I don’t have this problem, ever, with any Linux distribution I’ve tried.

                                                    That’s wonderful! I’m glad you’ve found a happy place. You should also write an article, about your personal experience.

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                                                    I think the “unstable Windows” comes from the Win95 era (or more precisely WinME). I really liked those versions (at the time they were released), because they were really something new and they had this “high tech” vibe, but they were NOT stable (especially WinME), sometimes a crash in one app resulted in a crash in another app, and when a program crashed, it was more safe to save all work and restart the system, just to be safe(r).

                                                    But when I’ve switched to Windows 2000 (the NT line of kernels), things were completely different. Things did BSOD but it was rather due to the faulty driver/hardware. I still needed to occasionally reinstall it, because it maybe didn’t crash, but after some time it started to slow down with everything. That only improved in subsequent versions up to Win10, which I don’t find unstable at all. I find it frustrating to the level of having a problem with using it ;), but it’s stable (that might be the reason why I don’t see it as unstable; because I only use it in work to specific purposes, it’s not my daily OS).

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                                                      I was on the NT train briefly to escape the constant crashes from 98. That ended one day when Windows 2000 decided, completely out of the blue, to completely corrupt my system partition for no reason.

                                                      I’m glad for it, though. Getting into Linux at the time was very painful compared to today. I might not have made the effort if Windows worked.

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                                                      I have a computer which I run Plex on, it is impossible for it to auto-login and recover from a sudden boot. Even when it auto-logins, it gets the blue screen telling “Finish setting up your PC” and one has to manually click “skip” button 2-3 times. Repeat this multiple times every month. I’ve tried just about everything but it usually always tries to get my consent for some personalized ad and location sharing policies.

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                                                        I don’t think it’s fair to call Windows “unstable”. Call it something else, but “unstable” is not what it is. (This is coming from someone who spends most of their off-time in Linux and OpenBSD).