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Issue #636: September 29 – October 5, 2019

Q: I have a Dell desktop running Windows 10. I leave it running and just hit the sleep button when I’m not using it. It always seems to be up to date, i.e. the various software updates are downloaded and installed and the process is transparent to me. When I check Updates and Security in the Control Panel it always says I’m up to date. However, I have a Dell laptop running Windows 10 and it’s the opposite case. Using the same running/sleep scenario, every time I wake it up (maybe weeks at a time) there is always a stack of updates waiting to be downloaded and installed with various notices like downloading, pending install, pending restart (sometimes more than one restart) and it may take 30-45 minutes to get it fully updated. What can I do to make the update process mimic my desktop machine?

– Dick P.
Destin, Florida

A: Well it may be your intention to use “the same running/sleep scenario,” but your two systems cannot be identically configured, or they would behave the same. One way to confirm this would be to bring up the Windows Setup configuration on both machines, and do a line-by-line comparison of the settings to find the differences. If you do this, I suggest going through the settings for both Windows Update and the Power Settings – including the Advanced settings. Make a note or a screen capture of anything that you change, so that you can change it back later if you get any undesirable results.

The reason that I suggested checking out the Power Settings is because these settings are largely responsible for controlling when Windows goes to sleep. I’ll discuss why that’s important below. Meanwhile, you might notice that the available configuration options on the laptop vary from those on the desktop machine. That’s because a laptop has two available power sources: its plug-in, and its battery. Many of Windows’ power settings can configured separately for each power source, allowing a laptop to perform differently when it’s powered by batteries. For your research, I suggest you concentrate on the laptop’s “Plugged-in” settings, since I doubt you leave it powered on overnight on batteries. As a quick aside, as long as we’re discussing power management in Windows, the aggregation of all the various power settings can be saved as what Microsoft calls a Power Plan. You can construct as many unique Power Plans as you want, and switch between them as needed. In fact, Microsoft has pre-programmed a few that meet the common needs of most users, such as “High Performance” and “Power Saver”.

Now then, it’s important to know that Windows Update does not work while your computer is in Sleep Mode. However, Windows will generally wake-up at a pre-determined time to run Windows Update. The default time for this to occur is at 3:00 AM. My guess is that your laptop is not waking up, and therefore, the updates never take place. I hope now you understand why I’m suggesting all the tinkering in the Power Plans.

In order for the Power Plan to be allowed to wake up the computer, there is a rather obscure setting under the Sleep section of whatever plan you have selected. This setting is called “Allow wake timers” and it is buried in the “Advanced Settings” at the bottom of the list of Sleep options. On a laptop there are separate settings for battery and plugged in. Make sure the Plugged in setting is set to either “Enable” or “Important Wake Timers Only”.

One final note: This whole “wake-up to update” scheme only works if the computer is actually in sleep mode. If it is fully shut-down, or has been hibernated, it is actually in a powered-off state. It is not possible for Windows to wake the computer in this state, so don’t expect it to power itself on to perform any updating.

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