by Bill Snyder

3 ways to regain control of Windows 10 updates

Nov 15, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsEnterprise ApplicationsOperating Systems

Windows 10 has a mind of its own when it comes to software updates. Here are three easy ways to take back control and ensure forced updates don't interrupt your workflow.

Forced or unexpected Windows software updates can be a massive pain.

Back in the days before Windows 10, I was writing in an airport lounge. Just as my flight was called and I started to shut down, I got the pushy, “Don’t turn off your PC” popup. Windows insisted on installing an update, even though it was a very awkward time for me. After that delightful experience, I changed my Windows settings so I had an option to delay future updates.

Unfortunately, that’s no longer an easy task in Windows 10. In fact, the user agreement you accepted (but likely never read) when you installed the OS specifies that you must accept updates when they’re available. And the popup prompts that walk you through updates don’t offer any way to skip or delay them.

Microsoft’s aim in making the updates mandatory is reasonable — updates often include important security fixes and other improvements — but being pushy about it feels like bullying and smacks of a company that doesn’t trust its users to act like adults. That’s a shame because I generally like Windows 10 and believe it gets more criticism than it deserves.

Thankfully, there is a way to regain some control over your updates.

Windows 10 ‘active hours’ and metered connections

Microsoft is aware that its update process annoys lots of users, and when it developed the anniversary update to Windows 10, it added a helpful feature that you might not know about. It’s called “active hours.” As the name implies, it lets you tell Windows when you usually use your computer, and it won’t restart your device to install updates during that time period.

Here’s how it works.

  • Click the Start button, select Settings > Update & security > Windows Update, and then select Change active hours.
  • Choose the start time and end time for active hours, and then select Save.

Other ways to get around Microsoft’s annoying updates also exist. Let’s say you enabled the feature detailed above, but you’re working outside your normal “active hours.” You can stop an upgrade when you get a notification that it is coming your way.  Go to Settings > Windows Update, click the Restart options link under Update settings, and then turn on the feature that lets you set a custom time and day to restart.

Windows 10 also won’t update your PC if you’re using a metered connection, or if you have a data cap. According to Microsoft, Windows can detect metered connections and won’t push big clumps of data down the chute until you’re on Wi-Fi. I’m sure you don’t like to be dishonest, but telling Windows 10 a fib is hardly a sin.

So you might want to tell Windows 10 you’re using a metered connection when you’re not. To do so, go to Start > Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Advanced options. Then flip the toggle under Set as metered connection to change your Wi-Fi connection to metered. When you want to download and install an update or patch, simply turn off the metered connection feature.

In no way am I suggesting that you should avoid Windows updates altogether. Generally, it’s a good idea to install them … but at your convenience, not Microsoft’s.