Woody's Win10Tip: Block forced Windows updates

You don't have to accept Windows 10 updates as soon as they roll out. Here's how to take control

Woody's Win10Tip: Block forced Windows updates
Stuart Seeger (CC BY 2.0)

One of the biggest complaints I hear about Windows 10 is its insistence on installing updates as soon as they roll off the assembly line. Many Win10 users -- particularly experienced users -- want to wait, to see if a particular patch causes problems, before applying it to their machine. I've advocated this approach for more than a decade.

Fortunately, Win10 offers several key tools that make the delay possible. Unfortunately, sorting through those tools isn't easy. That's where this tip comes in.

Those of you connected to domains with managed updates -- WSUS, SCCM, and the like -- have to rely on your admins to block, test, then dribble out patches. These steps aren't for you. This tip applies to machines that connect directly to Microsoft's Windows Update.

A historical note: I used to recommend a 1990s-style Microsoft program called wushowhide to block specific updates. You don't need it. Here's the easy way.

Step 1: Figure out what version of Windows you're running. See my earlier Win10Tip for instructions.

Step 2: If you're using a Wi-Fi connection, turn it to metered. (The "metered connection" setting tells Windows that you have to pay for your internet by the bit.) Windows won't automatically download any updates -- Windows updates, app updates, Office updates -- when you're on a metered connection. Other apps may or may not use a metered connection. OneDrive, for example, syncs even over a metered connection (at least the current version does).

Step 2A: Check for a Wi-Fi connection by clicking the Notification/Action Center icon in the lower-right corner of your screen, then click (or tap) Network. If you're on a Wi-Fi network (in other words, you aren't plugged into the internet with a cable), the Wi-Fi button in the lower-left corner will be lit up.

Step 2B: If you have a Wi-Fi connection, click Start > the Settings wheel > Network & Internet. On the left, click Wi-Fi.

Step 2C: If you're using Win10 1507 (original RTM version) or 1511 (Fall Update), click Advanced Options.

Step 2D: If you're using Win10 1607 (Anniversary Update), mutter at the Windows gods, and click Manage Known Networks. Then click on your current Wi-Fi connection and click Properties.

Step 2E: One way or the other, you get to a Metered connection slider like the one shown in the screenshot. Slide the setting On.

2016 11 02 metered connection

Step 2F: You're done. Microsoft won't push its updates onto your machine until you've gone through the same steps and turned Metered Connection off.

If you don't have a Wi-Fi connection -- you're connected to the internet with an Ethernet cable -- the method of blocking varies between Win10 Home and Win10 Pro.

Step 3: If you don't have Wi-Fi and you're running Win10 Pro, fire up the Group Policy editor.

Step 3A: In the Cortana search box type gpedit.msc, then press Enter. If you get bogus warnings about duplicate Namespaces, click OK. The Local Group Policy editor appears (see screenshot, which is from version 1607).

2016 11 02 group policy editor

Step 3B: If you're using Win10 Pro 1507 or 1511, on the left, under Computer Configuration, click Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update. On the right, double-click Configure Automatic Updates. At the top of the resulting settings box, choose Disabled, click OK, and close out of the Group Policy editor. Reboot and you're done.

Step 3C: If you're using Win10 Pro 1607, the Anniversary Update, you need to dive a little deeper. On the left, under Computer Configuration, click Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update. On the right, double-click Defer Windows Update. You end up with two entries.

Step 3D: Double-click on Select when Feature Updates are received. On the left, click Enabled. Make sure the upper drop-down box says "Current Branch" and roll the number up to 180 (see screenshot). Click OK. (This setting won't help block cumulative updates, but it'll keep you from getting moved up to the next version -- for 180 days, anyway.)

2016 11 02 feature updates

Step 3E: Back in the Defer Windows Updates box, double-click on Select when Quality Updates are received. At the top, click Enabled. Roll the date counter up to 30. (See screenshot.) Click OK. This is the setting that's supposed to prevent Windows from installing cumulative updates for up to 30 days.

2016 11 02 quality updates

If you're curious about the "Allow Telemetry" setting, AskVG has an interesting tutorial.

Step 3F: Close out the Group Policy editor and reboot. From that point on, cumulative updates should sit and stew for 30 days before they're installed. If you want to install a cumulative update before the 30 days have passed, go back into the Group Policy editor, change the setting to Not Configured, then reboot.

Step 4: If you don't have Wi-Fi, and you're using Win10 Home, you have two choices.

Step 4A: Change two registry settings, DeferFeatureUpdatesPeriodInDays and DeferQualityUpdatesPeriodInDays. Full instructions are on Eric "TweakHound" Vaughan's enormously useful TweakHound blog. Or...

Step 4B (recommended): Give up already. Life's too short to futz with all this stuff. Buy a Wi-Fi dongle, stick it in your computer, and use Wi-Fi for your internet connection. Yes, it's slower. Yes, it takes up a USB port. But think of all the hassle you'll save.

Warning: Microsoft is trying hard to force Win10 users to install updates as they're released. The game changed significantly -- and became much more difficult -- with the Anniversary Update. I can't guarantee that these hacks will work in future versions of Windows 10.

A blog within a blog, Woody's Win10Tips focus on useful techniques and tools. They're in the usual "Woody" style -- to the point, no bull, no marketing fluff. They (intentionally!) aren't long enough to discuss all of the nuances, but they point in the right direction. There's a full list of tips on the AskWoody.com site. Looking for a tip or tool? Have a tip about a tip? Email me: Win10Tips@AskWoody.com. Like what you see? Pick up a copy of my 986-page "Windows 10 All-in-One for Dummies 2nd Edition" at Amazon US or Powell's Bookstore.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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