Dis­cover how to use Win­dows Up­date, and wrest back con­trol of the up­date process from Win­dows 10


Up­dat­ing Win­dows is an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant part of your day-to-day main­te­nance, but many peo­ple put off the up­dat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence—if they can. This isn’t lazi­ness—Mi­cro­soft has quite the rep­u­ta­tion for re­leas­ing patches be­fore they are ready for gen­eral con­sump­tion, and there are hor­ror sto­ries of Win­dows in­stal­la­tions fall­ing over (turn to pages 34– 35 for trou­bleshoot­ing help).

De­spite this, in most cir­cum­stances it pays to en­sure you’re at least up to date with the lat­est se­cu­rity hot­fixes, so opt­ing out of up­dates al­to­gether—even where pos­si­ble—isn’t prac­ti­cal. Let’s see what you can do about en­sur­ing the Win­dows Up­date process works with you and not against you.


When Mi­cro­soft re­leased Win­dows 10, it took con­trol away from the end user run­ning Win­dows 10 Home, and now forces up­dates to be in­stalled as soon as they are avail­able and down­loaded. At this point, Win­dows tells you that up­dates are pend­ing, and prompts you to restart your PC.

It’s con­fig­ured to force a re­boot to in­stall up­dates out­side your “ac­tive hours”—in other words, when you’re not typ­i­cally us­ing your PC, which is 5pm–8am by de­fault (click “Change ac­tive hours” from the main Win­dows Up­date set­tings screen to change them). It means you can’t de­lay an up­date in­def­i­nitely sim­ply by re­fus­ing to shut down or restart, but you can de­fer it slightly: Click “Sched­ule the restart” next to the “Restart now” but­ton, flick the switch to “On,” and you can choose to push back the restart by up to seven days. It’s fine as a last re­sort, but can you re­ally go for seven days with­out need­ing to restart or shut down your PC?

You’ll have an eas­ier time if you use Win­dows 10 Pro: Go to “Set­tings > Up­date & Se­cu­rity > Win­dows Up­date,” and click “Ad­vanced Op­tions.” The “Pause Up­dates” switch al­lows you to pause up­dates for up to 35 days—handy if you hear of an up­date caus­ing prob­lems, and want to put it off.

A bet­ter way to pre­vent up­dates from get­ting on your sys­tem be­fore they’re ready is to scroll down to “Choose when up­dates are in­stalled.” You can de­lay fea­ture up­dates by around four months af­ter their re­lease by switch­ing from the “Semi-An­nual (Tar­geted)” chan­nel to “Semi-An­nual” via the drop-down menu. You can de­fer this for up to an ad­di­tional 365 days via the “Fea­ture Up­date De­fer” drop-down menu. It’s also pos­si­ble to de­fer qual­ity up­dates—patches and se­cu­rity hot­fixes—for up to 30 days via an­other drop-down menu. That way, you

can avoid ex­pos­ing your PC to an up­date that’s later pulled for sta­bil­ity rea­sons.

What if you’re run­ning Win­dows 10 Home? The step-by-step guide be­low re­veals a tech­nique for man­u­ally dis­abling Win­dows Up­date that works for the lat­est April 2018 Up­date. Note, you should still pe­ri­od­i­cally check for up­dates—launch the tool and re-en­able the ser­vice to do so, then dis­able it again af­ter use.


If you’re still us­ing Win­dows 7 or 8.1, you re­main in full con­trol of the process. Open “Con­trol Panel > Win­dows Up­date,” where you’ll see a screen telling you how many up­dates are wait­ing to be in­stalled. Click “Check for up­dates” to re­fresh this search at any time. Up­dates are di­vided into two types: im­por­tant and op­tional. You’re shown how many of each are avail­able—click the rel­e­vant hy­per­link to view and se­lect which ones to in­stall us­ing the check boxes. For more in­for­ma­tion about a spe­cific up­date, se­lect it for a sum­mary, then click “More in­for­ma­tion” for a full de­scrip­tion on­line.

You’ll also see a sta­tus about whether the up­date has been down­loaded or not, and whether it’s ready to be in­stalled on your PC. This sta­tus ties into how you’ve con­fig­ured Win­dow Up­date. Click “OK” to re­turn to the main screen, then click “Change set­tings” to con­trol when and what up­dates are de­ployed to your com­puter.

By de­fault, up­dates are in­stalled au­to­mat­i­cally ei­ther at a set time or when you next re­boot, but if you want to pause be­fore in­stalling them, we rec­om­mend choos­ing “Down­load up­dates but let me choose whether to in­stall them.” You can also re­view avail­able up­dates be­fore down­load­ing them, or switch the fea­ture off en­tirely—we don’t rec­om­mended do­ing this, how­ever, since both Win­dows 7 and 8.1 are still sup­ported by se­cu­rity hot­fixes, so should be kept up to date.

You’ll also see a box al­low­ing you to opt out of au­to­mat­i­cally re­ceiv­ing “rec­om­mended” up­dates along­side crit­i­cal ones. Uncheck­ing this box means rec­om­mended up­dates like the .NET Frame­work Tool are moved to the “Op­tional” cat­e­gory, where they’re ital­i­cized to make them stand out (see the “Op­tional up­dates” box­out op­po­site).

“At this point, Win­dows will tell you that up­dates are pend­ing, and prompt you to restart your PC.”

Win­dows 10 Home users can post­pone the in­evitable forced restart by up to seven days only.

Win­dows 7 and 8.1 users en­joy com­plete con­trol over how and when up­dates are de­liv­ered.

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