Working on Updates

The last thing you need when working to a deadline

Yes, you CAN stop Windows 10 from updating – but don’t do it lightly

You may want to stop Windows 10 from updating at an awkward moment (such as while you are in the middle of a project that must be completed against the clock), but be aware of two important things:

  • All other Windows updates will also be stopped – such as new file definitions for Windows Defender and updates to Microsoft Office. Update processes to programs other than those from Microsoft are not affected.
  • Window Update may just (magically) turn itself back on again some time in the future, despite your having turned it off (as detailed below).

So, how do we turn Windows Update off?

This is a two-step process:

  • Turn the Update Service off
  • Stop it from turning itself back on (hopefully)

This is achieved as follows:

  • Right-click on the “Start” button and left-click on either Windows PowerShell (Admin) or Command Prompt (Admin)
  • Type the following command, followed by the “Enter” key:
  • sc.exe config wuauserv start= disabled
  • Be careful to include the spaces in the above command – particularly the one after “start=”
Turning off Windows 10 Update Service

How to turn off Windows 10 Update Service

The above command stops Windows from starting the Update Service, but it will probably already be running (for this session), so we now need to stop it by typing in the following command, followed by “Enter”:

  • sc.exe stop wuauserv
  • Type “exit” (without the quotes) and the Enter key to close PowerShell or the Command Prompt

You can check that the Update Service will not now interrupt you by checking for updates. If the Update Service is turned off, then you should get an error message:

  • Click on the Start button
  • Start typing “Windows Update Settings” (without the quotes) and click on “Windows Update”
  • Click on “Check for updates”
  • You should now see “Error encountered”

Windows 10 Updates Turned Off

If Update is disabled, this is what you will see if you check for updates

To turn the Windows Update Service back on:

  • Right-click on the “Start” button and left-click on either Windows PowerShell (Admin) or Command Prompt (Admin)
  • Type the following commands, following each by “Enter”:
  • sc.exe config wuauserv start= auto
  • sc.exe start wuauserv
  • Again, be careful about the spaces
  • Type “exit” (without the quotes) and the Enter key to close PowerShell or the Command Prompt

If you now open up “Windows Update Settings” and check for updates, you should see it perform the check in the normal way:

  • Click on the Start button
  • Start typing “Windows Update Settings” (without the quotes) and click on “Windows Update”
  • Click on “Check for updates”

I can think of a few of my IT Support clients who will seize on this and think that it is an answer to a prayer, but I recommend using it very sparingly. Remember that it will prevent ALL updates from Microsoft – and that includes bug fixes and security patches. Sooner or later, I think you would encounter more problems by having the Windows Update Service permanently disabled than having it permanently enabled. Neverthless, I think that being able to turn it off for specific purposes is legitimate and useful.

Windows 10 is a bit dictatorial with its Updates, but we can make life a bit easier for ourselves

On/Off switchWith Windows 7, we had the option of turning off Windows Updates and it seems to many of my computer support clients that it is high-handed (at the very least) for Microsoft to insist we take updates in Windows 10. If you have Windows 10 Professional then you can defer updates for many weeks (in the hope that other people will have found all the bugs to save you the grief). However, most standard PCs and laptops don’t come with Windows Professional. They come with Windows Home.

There are two main reasons that people get so frustrated with Windows Home Updates:

  • It can insist on installing updates at the most inconvenient of times (and take a long time doing it)
  • It can break Windows

As far as the first is concerned, we can mitigate the problem by telling Windows the hours of the day during which we do not want uodates to get in our way. To do this:

  • Click on the Start button
  • Start typing the word “update” until you see the option “Windows Update Settings” appear in the menu
  • Click on “Windows Update Settings”
  • Click on “Change Active Hours”
  • Set the hours during which you most often use your computer

There are two things worth noting here:

  • You can only set “active” hours for a maximum of 18 hours out of 24.
  • A “restart” (reboot) can still happen during Active Hours if you don’t happen to be “active” on your computer at a time that Windows decides it wants to reboot in order to install new updates

Windows 10- Change Update HoursThe second of these limitations can be particularly exasperating. Suppose that you are working like the clappers to get some important work finished before a deadline. In order to keep you going while you work, you drink gallons of coffee.The inevitable happens and you have to go to the loo. “Aha, got you”, thinks Windows (a lot of people I know do actually anthropomorphise their computer and think that Windows is some kind of evil sprite inside it). So, while your back is turned it reboots the computer and then proceeds to take two hours (not unheard of) to install the update.

Windows 10 - UpdatingThe second main reason that people don’t like Window 10 Updates is that it can break Windows. So many people have at least heard of this happening to someone else that the process of a Windows Update is now seen by a lot of people as something to be feared. They would rather not get updates. They tend to take the rather simplistic view of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

The problem with this attitude is that we live in a time of constant change of technology. What worked yesterday (and what might have been safe yesterday) may not work (or be safe) today. I can’t see a time in the foreseeable future when technological development will have reached such a state of maturity that updates/patches/fixes won’t be needed.

For better or worse, I think that Microsoft may be right to force updates on us as the only feasible way forward.

Having said that, there is a way that we can stop Windows from updating. I don’t recommend turning off Windows Updates permanently using this method, but it could be useful in special circumstances (such as the example above regarding deadlines).

Anyway, for better or worse, I will tell you how to turn Windows Updates off (and on again) next time.

© 2011-2019 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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