Taking a break from Windows Update

Now would be a great time for windows 7 and 8.1 users to run Windows Update. By "now" I mean before Microsoft releases the October 2016 bug fixes on the 11th.

Run it, and run it again, to make sure your computer has all the currently available fixes. Or, maybe, all but the telemetry/spying patch that Microsoft released on October 4th.

I say this because Microsoft is rolling out a new procedure for Windows Update, one that mimics the scheme used by Windows 10, and I don't trust them. Microsoft has shown themselves to be incompetent, both at deciding what to do (think Windows 10 rollout) and in implementing things (think Windows Update taking hours to run on Windows 7).

After installing the currently available bug fixes, I suggest turning off Windows Update.

On both Windows 7 and 8.1 the procedure is: Control Panel -> Windows Update -> Change Settings (on left) -> Never check for updates. My lack of trust in Microsoft extends to their "Recommended Updates" which I would also turn off by un-ticking the checkbox called "Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates".


The Defensive Computing approach is to be wary of any change in procedures. But this change especially scares me because the Windows 10 patch delivery system is already buggy.

Just a few days ago Fr. Robert Ballecer told Steve Gibson about his Windows 10 bug fix disaster.

I have active hours set on my machines so that it doesn't do any updates while I'm working. And evidently this last big update ignored that ... So this machine went into its update - no notification, no ability to cancel it, just a notice saying "Do not turn off your machine" - in the middle of a show. It delayed the show by 30 minutes because this had all the tools that I needed to get to, and there was no way to stop it. There was no way to cancel it. And if you turn off a Windows machine in the middle of an upgrade, it will bork it.
... But then I got home, and I thought, okay, maybe I messed up active hours. Maybe that was me. And so I checked, before I started that night's video editing, I checked my active hours, and they were still on. Like, okay, I'm good. And in the middle of the video edit it did the same thing. It dropped into the update screen. I'm looking at it, I'm screaming at it, going, "I didn't even save any of my work." I lost an hour and a half of work because Windows just decided now is a good time for it to update.

He wasn't alone in having Microsoft take control of what he thought was his computer. A couple days ago Bruce Berls wrote 

About a week ago, without any explanation and without any notice, many more Windows 10 computers began restarting to install the Anniversary Update, usually at an inconvenient time. Now I’m dealing almost daily with calls from annoyed clients who are waiting for the install to finish or dealing with little problems that it introduced ... Earlier this week I heard from an accountant who was stuck watching an update screen instead of preparing for a meeting with clients. Today I got a call from a business that was cut off from their list of scheduled appointments because their computer was stuck on an update screen.

There have been other recent reports of problems installing bug fixes on Windows 10. In some cases the download stalls, in other cases the installation after rebooting fails and in the worst case, the computer reboots over and over again.

Then too, once installed, recent bug fixes for Windows 10 have been creating problems rather than solving them. Writing about a double-printing bug, Woody Leonhard noted that "it took Microsoft five weeks to fix the bug it introduced in Windows 10, and another 10 days to tell customers about it." 

Does Microsoft know that they are no longer a monopoly?

And, I didn't even mention, that starting on the 11th, Windows 7/8.1 users can't back out individual bug fixes. 

As a Windows 7 user, I want no part of this, at least for now.

Windows 7/8.1 users have a choice to make: either skip Windows Update and be vulnerable to whatever bugs Microsoft will fix on October 11th, or, be vulnerable to either flaws in the new bug fixing scheme or problems introduced by the October patches. 

Personally, I trust Microsoft less than I am scared of bad guys hacking my Windows 7 computers.  

When will it be safe to go back in the water? Hard to say.

I used to wait about a week before installing Windows 7 patches. This time around, I'll bide my time until Halloween, at which time, I'll re-evaluate. 

On a related note, this would be a great time to make an image backup of any Windows system you care about.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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