How-to: Stop Windows 10 Automatic Updates

Windows Update

Windows 10 automatically installs updates in the background. Which is fine until a rogue update breaks your system. In which case you need to know how to stop Windows 10 automatic updates. Which is not easy as Microsoft absolutely does NOT want you stopping Windows updates.

Most of the time automatic updates should be fine. Bear in mind updates containing security updates are there to keep your device safe from attack. Microsoft has learned over the years that malware, trojans and viruses find their way onto machines via all kinds of program exploits. It’s bad PR if the world’s media reports Windows as a cause of major outages, infections, data loss, productivity loss or actual financial loss. In order to demonstrate ‘best efforts’ in law, and more importantly, prevent its technical support channels getting snowed under with user fault reports, Microsoft wants automatic updates to be, well, automatic. It does not want users able to opt out of updates as they have under previous Windows versions. You can understand it, you don’t have to like it.

Unfortunately unless you are an avid Microsoft watcher, you have almost no idea when updates will arrive or what they contain – security patches, feature updates or both. And you have no control over when a given update will be made available to your machine.

That doesn’t help when major new builds of Windows 10 like the November update have a history of causing problems to a (small) number of users with specific machines or configurations. Even releases of Microsoft’s Patch Tuesdays aren’t perfect. Avoiding an update until you hear it’s fixed might help.

So what can you do?

Go to Settings, Windows Update. This main panel shows progress when checking for updates, downloading and installing. At the bottom is a link to Update Settings. This expands to show Change Active Hours.

Remember to change your update hours in Windows Update to a time of day that suits you, otherwise Windows Update can choke your Internet connection while you work. The only way to stop them completely is to set your Internet connection as metered. Microsoft doesn’t want to be held liable for burning through your data allowance with gigabyte updates.

There is also a setting in Windows Update on the way for deferring updates for seven days which is one way to make time for Microsoft to patch a patch, revise an update or just allow for you to get that Very Important Project done to a deadline before Windows goes banzai with a multi-gigabyte download and several mandatory reboots to install it.

If you find a recent update is causing problems with your software or hardware, you’ll need to know how to roll back to a known safe configuration. We’ll cover this in another post. AJS

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