Tech

Microsoft Has A Software Quality Problem

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Earlier this week, Microsoft released the Windows 10 October 2018 Update to the public. After months of testing with Insiders, the company finally started rolling it out to the general public, giving them a taste of all the new features. Except…there is a major issue: the update is deleting some users’ personal files, with no apparent way of recovering the missing files.

More than 48 hours after users started reporting the issue, Microsoft pulled the October 2018 Update while it investigates the issue. And that highlights a fundamental problem with Microsoft’s testing process for Windows.

You see, Microsoft mainly relies on the Windows Insider program for fixing bugs on the Windows software. As Microsoft develops new updates like the October 2018 Update, it rolls out new features over weeks and months, which is then tested by Insiders. Most of the widespread problems with these new features and updates are usually noticed by Windows Insiders and later fixed by Microsoft before a major update is released to the public.

And then there are issues that only affect some users, leaving them buried under all the other feedback and bug reports within Feedback Hub, the app used by Windows 10 users and Insiders to report bugs and suggestions to Redmond. That’s exactly what happened with the data deletion issue. Some Windows Insiders have reported this issue as early as 3 months ago, as noted by Rafael Rivera on Twitter. If you simply open up Feedback Hub and search for “documents deleted” you will see multiple reports from Insiders where their files were automatically deleted after they installed the update.

Because these issues aren’t widespread, most of these reports from Insiders had low levels of upvotes, ranging from 3-10. That means Microsoft likely never even noticed these reports from Insiders, which is why is the only thing that can explain how such a major issue made it to the public release — all of that simply because of how the Insider program’s bug reporting system actually works.

Important issues like these are often buried under thousands of other general feedback like “Make File Explorer look more modern” or “Add Acrylic to File Explorer”. Although these are valid feedback, they often prevent actual issues from being noticed by Microsoft, and that is a fundamental problem with the entire Insider program system. Things get even worse considering the fact that Microsoft has cut down on independent testing a few years ago, relying mostly on Insiders for testing its software.

Microsoft’s Windows Insider team will probably find a way to explain itself here, but it’s more than apparent: the Feedback Hub simply isn’t capable of dealing with issues from millions of users, especially when the app is mostly used by fans to provide feedback — mainly fueled by their love for the OS. Critical issues are not only buried under borderline-fictional things like users asking for Acrylic on File Explorer, but they are also often buried so deep down that Microsoft’s systems never even pick them up, leading to disasters like this.

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