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Issue #669: May 17-23, 2020

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Q: I use Windows 10 and almost every time I shut down it says wait for updates. Is there a way to turn this automatic off and do it when I’m ready? Sometimes it happens when I turn it on too.

– Joanne B.
Niceville, Florida

A: Great topic, Joanne!  If there’s one thing that users of Windows 10 need to learn to take control of, it’s updates.  Over the last year or so Microsoft has repeatedly dropped the ball in this arena, causing no end of headaches for literally millions, if not billions of users.  Taming Windows Update on your PC may not completely solve these issues, but it can help to minimize their impact on you.

Microsoft doesn’t push out updates often enough that your system would be affected “almost every time” you boot or shut down.  However, I’m going to take your statement at face value, and work from the assumption that’s not just hyperbole.  That being the case, you should check to be sure that there isn’t an update that’s repeatedly failing to install, then rescheduling itself for another attempt. 

Microsoft follows a simple schedule for releasing most updates.  The second Tuesday of each month is commonly called Patch Tuesday, and it’s when security-related updates are released for Windows, server products, Office, and so on.  Other patches not related to security issues release on the fourth Tuesday of each month.  For extremely critical updates to fix particularly pernicious bugs, patches are released outside this schedule, generally as soon as they become available.

Most, but not all patches require the system to be rebooted to be fully installed.  When this happens, it’s because the update involves one or more files that are in use by the operating system while it is running.  These files are locked, and cannot be accessed until released.  There is a brief time during startup and shutdown when these files are not locked, and Windows allows Update to schedule files for replacement during this period.  So, when you shut down or reboot, Windows takes advantage of it to complete the installation of these critical files.

Probably the easiest way to avoid seeing that message is to schedule updates to occur in the middle of the night, and then leave your computer up and running on days when patches are scheduled.  If the system needs to reboot after an update, it will do so, and will be ready to go when you need it again.

To begin to do any of this, click the Windows Start button, then Settings (the gear icon).  Click on “Update and Security” to bring up Windows Update. The status of the last update will be displayed at the top of this Window, so if there is a stuck update, you will see it right here.  If that happens, you can try to install it manually, bearing in mind that if the update failed, that might mean you need to be logged in with Administrator credentials for the update to succeed. 

To take control of when updates occur, click on “Change active hours.”  Select a daily period during which Windows will not attempt to update and restart your device.  This allows you to use the device all day without worrying that it will bother you with a pending reboot.  Windows will then perform any required updates outside these hours, when you’re presumably not using the computer.

If you would rather suspend all updates altogether for a time, you can click “Pause updates for 7 days.” For longer spans up to 35 days, click on “Advanced options” and look for the “Pause updates” setting.  Once the period has expired, or you have clicked “Resume” to terminate the pause, you will be required to allow Windows to download and install updates before the option will become available again.

You can always perform a manual update any time you like by clicking “Check for updates.”  Of course, if you have your system properly configured, and it’s booted and online outside of your scheduled active hours, that should never be necessary.  Windows will do all the work for you.

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