In case you hadn’t noticed, Microsoft has had a tough time with patches this year. From a total lack of patches in February (except for a late IE patch), to yanked and reissued botched patches that followed, to a jumble of problems with Windows and Office patches—including seven admitted bugs in last month’s Office patches—Microsoft has proved itself adept at Jack-in-the-box patching. You don't have to join the legions of unpaid patch beta testers.
Don’t get me wrong. You need to patch eventually. But you don’t need to march to Microsoft’s tune. Many—dare I say most—advanced Windows users don’t let Microsoft’s poorly tested patches onto their machines until the initial screams of pain have subsided.
To be sure, your sainted Aunt Martha—the one who’s afraid to use Windows for anything but mahjong—should stay on Automatic Updates. And if you have ultrasensitive information, such as nuclear launch codes or transcripts of meetings with Russian lawyers, you shouldn’t rely on Automatic Update anyway. But if you’re a savvy Windows user, smart enough to be reading this, you’re advanced enough to keep the dogs at bay until we’re sure the major problems have passed.
Windows 10 patches a concern
I’m particularly concerned about the Windows 10 patches for this month. If you’re running the Creators Update, version 1703 (which hasn’t yet been declared good enough for business), you got a massive bunch of problematic bug fixes a few days ago, labeled KB 4022716. It’s likely that Microsoft will roll similar massive patches for earlier versions of Windows 10 out the Automatic Update chute this month—and it’s anyone’s guess if they’ll trigger the same amount of angst as the 1703 version.
Blocking Automatic Update is easy for Windows 7 and 8.1. It’s harder, but doable, for Windows 10—and the method varies depending on which version of Windows 10 you use. (Pro tip: If you have a Windows 10 machine that uses Wi-Fi to connect to the internet, all you have to do is set up a metered connection.) I have full details and step-by-step instructions in the Computerworld article Woody's Win10Tip: Block forced Windows updates.
Take a minute right now, and make sure Automatic Update is turned off. The machine you save may be your own.
I’ve set the MS-DEFCON level to 2, and opened the topic for discussion, on the AskWoody Lounge.