A major problem with Windows is that it takes updates pushed out to the system and automatically installs them, sometimes causing problems because of bugs or kinks that weren’t worked out (or found) inside the patch. A lot of times, this happens against your say-so. Even after turning automatic updates off, Windows will still sometimes automatically apply all of them if a critical one comes through.
Things have gotten even worse with the introduction of Windows 10, unfortunately. You can’t stop Windows 10 from updating the operating system itself — the only thing you can stop is Windows 10 automatically updating device drivers.
And, since Windows really has had a problem with bad bugs in their updates (more on that in a moment), it’s best to do your research on new Windows updates before they hit, and possibly even delay them as long as you can. Follow along below and we’ll show you how.
Automatic updates and their problems
As we mentioned above, automatic updates have caused countless problems. Recently for Windows Insiders, an automatic update was pushed out (RS_EDGE_CASE), which Microsoft was never supposed to push out. It caused a lot of stability problems for thousands of PCs. And while it was an accident, accidents do happen, and there are always consequences that come with them after being installed, such as the aforementioned stability problems.
Back in March, Microsoft pushed build KB 4013429 to its users. It was basically an Internet Explorer update, however, it caused a ton of display rendering problems with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. It put users in an interesting predicament, too. Were they — who used CRM 2011 — to just download the update and face the issues in order to have the latest security patch? Or, were they to roll back to a security update two months old, but with CRM 2011 working and not having these display rendering issues — it’s a frustrating predicament. This here isn’t just a problem with automatic updating, but with bundling patches up, too.
Another problem that automatic updating caused back in June of this year — 16 bad Microsoft Office security patches.
As a final example, there was a driver automatically pushed out to the Surface Pro 4 a few weeks ago, which made Windows Hello functionality (on that device) extremely buggy and hardly usable.
Suffice to say, automatic updates have caused a lot of problems by forcing patches on users that weren’t and aren’t ready for prime time. But, as a side note, it’s not just automatic patches that are the problem, but bundled patches as well (in the case of the earlier mentioned CRM 2011).
So, what can you do about it?
If you’re on Windows 10, there isn’t much you can do to stop automatic updates. With the launch of the new operating system, Microsoft made it pretty clear that they don’t trust their users with updates. That’s unfortunate, however, in a later update, Microsoft began allowing users to “defer” updates (we’ll show you how to do this in a moment). By doing this, you can delay an update from installing an update on your PC for an allotted amount of time. This gives Microsoft time to work out any quirks with the update that could appear after becoming available to consumers.
If you’re still on Windows 7 or even Windows 8.1, you’re in luck. You can easily turn off automatic updating in one of the menus.
Deferring or turning off automatic updates
So, why should you defer or turn off automatic updates? Microsoft doesn’t seem to have pushed out an update that has been debilitating to PCs, but there have been updates that has caused users to go through hours of navigating annoying bugs. The value in deferring or turning off automatic updates would be in saving you countless hours of time in navigating those annoying bugs or spending time reverting to your last backup or state of Windows.
Below, we show you how to turn off automatic updates. And, of course, once you find the proper information on an update — giving you the all clear that it’s OK to install — be sure to head back in and manually install those updates, as you don’t want your system getting too out of date, especially when it comes to security patches.
For Windows 10
In Windows 10, you can only defer updates. In fact, you can only defer feature updates, not security updates. On top of that, it’s actually a work around to defer these updates, as the only way to do this is to turn on the option that says you have a metered connection. To do this, head to Settings > Network & Internet. Under the Wi-Fi tab, click on your Wi-Fi connection, and scroll down to the Metered Connection heading. Click on the slider to turn this On — this defers everything except for security updates.
If you’re on Windows 10 Professional, Enterprise or Education, we can stop the automatic downloading and installing of updates through the Group Policy Editor (unfortunately, most are on Windows 10 Home from the free upgrade Microsoft offered users).
Open your Start menu and search for gpedit.msc. Click it — this opens the Group Policy Editor. Next, you’ll want to go down this folder path: Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update.
Make sure you highlight the Windows Update folder. Once you do, you should see a list of policy contents in the right-side pane. Look for the Configure Automatic Updates policy and double-click it.
This’ll bring up the policy options menu for this specific policy. Once that’s open, check the Enabled radio button to enable the policy. And, finally, under the Configure Automatic Updating drop down box, select the Notify for download and notify for install option. Click the Apply button and then OK.
Now, Windows Update inside Windows 10 will stop updates from downloading and install automatically. Instead, you’ll be notified of an update, giving you plenty of time to do research on the update ID (more on that later). If you want to install an update, head into Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. Select the Download button to download your update.
Unfortunately, inside Windows 10, there is no picking and choosing as to what updates are installed.
For Windows 8.1
Head into Settings > Change PC Settings. Scroll down to Update & Recovery. Once in that menu, click on the Choose how updates get installed under the Windows Update tab. Under the Important Updates tab, click on the Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them option. Once done, click on apply.
For Windows 7
Head into Control Panel > System & Security and click on the Windows Update link. Once open, click on the Change settings link. Here, go ahead and select the Download updates but let me choose whether to install them option.
How to research patches
Researching patches is, unfortunately, a bit of a finicky process. Windows Updates have a KB ID associated with them, so you may see a update ready to download in Windows Update labeled as, say, KB4022168. You can search the information Microsoft has on this update by pasting this URL into your address bar: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/. Right after that last forward slash, you’ll want to enter the number ID of your update. So, the URL would look like this in your browser: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/4022168. Press enter, and it’ll take you to all the information Microsoft has on that update.
Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t have a whole lot of information to divulge on updates. They usually give you some of the most basic and general information they can. In some cases, you might get some good information on a patch, but most of the time, you’re going to come up empty handed.
Instead, do a Google search of the full patch ID — KB4022168. This should bring up any recent news from third-party outlets on the update. Read multiple sources on the update, and if you see that the update isn’t causing any major problems with systems, you’re in the clear to install without any issues. Of course, that decision is still up to you, the user, as you may see that the update includes some feature that you don’t like or want on your system.
But, if you’re primarily worried about updates breaking things, and those multiple sources (really, any tech news source will do) you read show no indication of problems, it’s safe to download and install. By getting information from third-party news sources — www.computerworld.com, www.windowscentral.com and www.symantec.com are all regular and reliable sources for this information — you’re also getting an idea of what Microsoft is installing on your PC, as they can be pretty elusive when it comes to providing details of what they’re installing from the Windows Update panel.
Additionally, you can look up patches already installed on your PC. To do this (in Windows 10), head into Settings > Update & Security. Under the Windows Update tab, click on the link that says View installed update history. This will show you a complete history of updates installed on your Windows 10 system with time stamps.
While Windows updates do go through a level of Quality Assurance (QA) testing, updates aren’t always perfect and can create problems, as we outlined earlier. That said, we can’t stress how important it is to have a backup of your PC in the event that things go bad.
You can follow our guide to create your very own backup strategy. The premise is that we show you how to create a backup of your PC and diversify it, creating a little redundancy. In essence, you’ll have one, two or three backups of your PC, sitting on different external media (or even in the Cloud) that you can quickly access and restore from. It’s a guide everyone should follow, since you never know what can happen to your PC.
As a second line of defense, you can go ahead and create a System Image of your Windows 10 state. This System Image will allow you to restore to the state that Windows 10 was in when you created said System Image. You can follow our guide on that here.
Create a backup, folks. It could save you a lot of time if something unexpected — like a bad bug in an update — were to hit your computer.
For Windows 10 users, following the steps above should help you understand how you can become more educated on patches for Windows 10. And while there’s nothing you can really do to stop a patch from automatically installing, at least understanding what Microsoft is pushing to your system gives you a leg up.
And for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, follows the steps above will help you stay educated on Microsoft patches and help you make an informed decision on whether or not to download or apply them. This can potentially save you a ton of time trying to revert a bad patch.
If you have any comments or questions, be sure to leave a comment in the comments section below!