Windows Tip

Don Asks About A Problem With Windows Updates
In good faith it has been my practice to allow Widows Updates to be downloaded and installed. However, afterwards, I find that my default e-mail program (Outlook Express) has been changed (to MS Office Outlook which my ISP does not recognize). Luckily I have found out how to rectify this. I did e-mail MS about this, but they obviously didn't want to know judging from the polite, but meaningless fudge I got in reply. Why does MS change my e-mail program like this, and - more importantly - how can I stop it in future?

Don, you've asked a question that is one of our biggest pet peeves with Windows Update! Why Microsoft insists on foisting Outlook on those of us who prefer to use Outlook Express is beyond our comprehension. If another software company pulled a shenanigan like this, they'd be accused of hijacking. And, if it weren't so easy to switch back to Outlook Express, it would be "email program hijacking" for sure. And, it's more of an inconvenience than a major problem, but still, it wastes your time, our time, and anyone else's time who prefers to use Outlook Express instead Outlook. Why Microsoft doesn't end this practice we can't even guess. Maybe they figure that once people see Outlook they'll dump Outlook Express. But they're wrong. We're familiar with both and for most home users, Outlook just doesn't make sense. It's bulky, it has so many "features" users get lost in the configuration of it, it's not user-friendly, and unless a user has particular need to interface their email with MS Office, we can't think of any advantages it has for the average user.  Did you know there are entire books written on how to use Outlook? We don't want to have to read a book to learn how to use an email program. We don't need sixteen zillion features. We just need a reliable email program with features enough to serve our needs. So this constant push by Microsoft to foist Outlook on all Outlook Express users, only serves to annoy people. It annoys us, it annoys you, and it annoys many others too!

One thing that's important to note is that it's not the general Windows updates that are causing the problem with Outlook being set as the default email program with each update, it's the "Office Updates" which are often included with Windows updates that are the culprit. Until Microsoft concedes to the demands of Outlook Express users and leaves us Outlook Express users to ourselves so we can piddle around with what Microsoft must think is an inferior email client, we recommend that you adjust your Automatic Updates as follows:

1. Open Control Panel (Start --->Control Panel)
2. Click Automatic Updates
3. Uncheck Automatic Updates and tick "Notify me but don't automatically download or install them."

This will at least get your Windows updates for you and let you choose when to install them. You'll also be able to select any Office Updates and choose not to install them at that time and install them later. If they're not "critical" updates - you might want to defer downloading them, until you have the time to mess around with changing your email programs around :-). We recommend that you install all critical updates immediately however.

At least with you in control of which updates get downloaded and installed, you'll be on the lookout for the mysterious change in default email programs should any Office updates be included in the update package. If you continue to leave your updates on "Automatic" there will be mornings you'll wake up and realize that your default email program has been switched to Outlook and you'll have to stop what you're doing and correct it.

Speaking of correcting - the easiest way to return your default email program to Outlook Express is to open, ironically, Internet Explorer, click on "Tools" then "Internet Options". Then click the "Programs" tab at the top. Next to "E-mail" you'll see it's be reset to "Microsoft Outlook". Use the drop-down arrow to select Outlook Express, click "Apply" then "OK".

Another annoyance is that when Microsoft Office Updates are installed and Outlook Express is banished from its default email program status, the icon for Outlook Express - on your desktop or Quick Launch tool bar, is mysteriously replaced with an Outlook icon. This really irks me, and if you have Quick Launch shortcut icon to Outlook Express (or one on your desktop) it probably irks you too. I keep an extra Outlook Express icon handy in a folder on my desktop. Apparently Windows Updates doesn't know this one is there and leaves it alone. That way when the Outlook Express icon is replaced by the Outlook icon in the Microsoft Updates coup, I can simply delete the Outlook icon and drag my Outlook Express icon into the Quick Launch toolbar and choose "Copy Here" from the context menu.

So, by now you're thinking (and you're right) we've utterly failed to answer your questions which were: "Why does Microsoft do this?" "How do you stop Updates from changing your email program?" and "How can you keep this from happening in the future?"  Ummm to be honest with you, we don't know. It's been going on for a long time and lately it's gotten worse. We've given some ways to make sure at least you're aware that it will happen without waking up to it, and perhaps when you're aware of it you can choose a better time to reset your email program. In our case, when we wake up to hundreds of emails and want to answer as many as possible before we really get started on the day, it's just very inconvenient at that time to have to reset our email program to the email program we prefer. We don't need Microsoft to keep reminding us that they think MS Outlook is what we should use. We don't agree. We use Outlook Express, we like it, and we don't want to change.

Although we couldn't answer your "whys" we felt your question needed to be published to allow us to ramble on about this naughty feature of Windows updates. Not really. But your question does point out a flaw in the Windows updates that needs to be addressed by Microsoft. There's no way in the world they should be changing someone's default email program without their informed consent and agreement. If they want to push Outlook down everyone's throat, at least they should have the courtesy to "ASK" before the change is made. Maybe a little dialog box like this:

 "Outlook is much better than your dumb Outlook Express email program (even though we make both of them). You need to get on the stick and use Outlook!! Are you a nutcase or what boy? Would you like us to make our superior, wonderful, bloated, email program Outlook your default? Hmm, or do you want to continue to be a doofus and use Outlook Express? It's your choice, Bozo. What will it be? Click Yes to make the wonderful, fantastic, magnificent Outlook your default email client right now (and make us happy and we'll leave you alone forever) or click "No" to continue to use your stupid, old Outlook Express so you will appear to be a complete dunce to the rest of the computer savvy world (and we'll keep bugging you every week until you come to your senses.)".

You're right. Microsoft does not make good fudge.

We hope since this didn't answer your questions, at least you found it "illuminating".

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